Timothy Tracy, a U.S. filmmaker accused of espionage during this spring’s Venezuelan elections, was released this morning and left the country.
According to Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Tracy was accused of “trying to destabilize the country” and provoking post-election violence. When detained on April 24, federal officials also accused him of funneling money to student protesters that resulted in clashes that killed nine and wounded dozens more. Today, the election results are still heavily contested and landed in favor of Hugo Chavez protégé, Nicolas Maduro, who won by less than 2%.
The Interior Minister went on to say “[Tracy’s] actions clearly show training as an intelligence agent, there can be no doubt about it. He knows how to work in clandestine operations,” despite acquaintances of Tracy vouching for his authenticity as a documentarian.
Tracy was released today after charges were dropped due to lack of evidence for his alleged crimes.
Considering the circumstances under which he was apprehended, the sudden and deficient explanation of his release raise speculation. Is this a show of good faith by the Maduro government? Might it improve relations with the United States?
The answer is undoubtedly, no.
One one hand, arresting Tracy was a show of force in the face of civilian disobedience and unrest — a regrettable Latin American habit of squashing opposition, particularly when it is driven by the press. On the other hand, Tracy was not a journalist or citizen and received all the necessary permits to film before his arrival to Venezuela.
This ultimately implies that the release had more to do with ameliorating Venezuela’s image on the international stage as a legitimate and democratic state and less to do with appeasement to the United States.
Keeping Tracy would require Maduro to provide evidence of the crimes committed and follow it up with fair and impartial trial. Since the government can’t ostensibly offer either, and doesn’t want to put with international inquiry for its clearly dubious behavior, it is an easier path to walk to release him.
It’s a win for Tracy, who gets to go home, and a win for Maduro who will most likely maintain his presidency. It is a loss, however, for the countless Venezuelans clinging to the hope of fairness and freedom in the midst of a crumbling economy, world-topping murder rates and a declining oil industry.