The U.S. citizen detained by Venezuela on accusations of spying is a documentary filmmaker who had accreditation from the South American country’s electoral council to observe elections this month, his lawyer said today.
Timothy Tracy was arrested at Caracas’s Simon Bolivar airport April 24 as he was leaving the country and charged yesterday with conspiracy, use of false documents and delinquent association, according to a statement by the public prosecutor’s office.
Tensions have risen in Venezuela following a contested April 14 election in which the late Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, was declared winner by a 1.8 percentage-point margin. The government says opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski’s decision to not recognize Maduro’s victory sparked protests that left nine dead and dozens injured. Venezuela’s intelligence services believes Tracy was funding a group of students responsible for the violence, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said April 25.
“The documentaries he makes have nothing to do with state security,” Tracy’s lawyer, Gloria Stifano, said in comments broadcast on Globovision. “They are documentaries and individual and personal stories that aim to understand scientifically the psychological differences produced by division.”
Stifano said Tracy’s rights were being respected and diplomatic visits from the U.S. Embassy are being permitted. During filming, Tracy interviewed both opposition and pro-government politicians and groups, Stifano said.
“He was mixing with lots of people of different political leanings,” she said. “He wasn’t a kid who was in hiding, or evading anything. He went around publicly with a camera.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell on April 26 declined to comment on whether Tracy had any connection with any U.S. government agency saying the matter involved a private citizen while rejecting allegations that the U.S. is involved in any efforts to destabilize Venezuela.
Tracy worked as a producer on several documentaries and television series, including “Angry White Man,” “Madhouse” and “American Harmony,” according to the Internet Movie Database. He is also listed as acting the part of a White House staff member in the Geena Davis series about the first female president of the U.S., called “Commander in Chief,” according to IMDb.