American "gringo" filmmaker released from Venezuela prison|
Jun. 5, 2013 — Caracas, Venezuela
Published by USA Today
A U.S. filmmaker accused of spying and arrested by Venezuelan authorities was this morning released and expelled from the country.
Tim Tracy, 35, was arrested late April accused of espionage and fomenting post-election violence in which eight people died.
The country's Minister of Interior and Justice Miguel Rodríguez announced the release through Twitter. Tracy's lawyer said he boarded a flight from Caracas to Miami at 6.40 a.m. and was scheduled to fly on to Los Angeles.
"The gringo Timothy Hallet Tracy, captured committing espionage in our country, has been expelled from the national territory," he wrote, using the word "gringo," a pejorative term for Americans.
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said that he personally ordered the arrest of the Californian ten days after the country's snap presidential election following the death of Hugo Chávez. President Barack Obama described the allegations as "ridiculous" during a recent visit to Latin America.
Rodríguez said at the time of the arrest that Tracy had "training as an intelligence agent," though critics see the arrest as politically motivated as Maduro struggles to maintain the popularity of his predecessor amid a crumbling economy, one of the world's highest murder rates and regular shortages and power outages.
Friends and those who met Tracy expressed doubt about Venezuelan authorities' allegations.
"He seemed to be kind of a happy-go-lucky guy," said Juan Nagel, a blogger on Venezuela, who corresponded with him during his time in the country.
"I never got the feeling that he was anything other than a documentary filmmaker," he told USA TODAY. "I think Maduro is using him as a desperate distractionary measure."
Tracy's lawyer, Daniel Rosales, said that his client had been treated well by authorities during his incarceration. "He's animated," Rosales told USA TODAY. "All worked out well in the end."
While Tracy was held in the foreigners' section of El Rodeo prison, there were concerns for his well being due to the jail's notoriety. In June 2011, more than 5,000 troops spent a month trying to quell an uprising at the complex just outside Caracas. At least 20 people were killed, according to authorities.