Venezuela charges U.S. documentarian
Authorities also arrested an ex-general
CARACAS, Venezuela – An American filmmaker was formally charged late Saturday by Venezuelan officials who accuse him of paying right-wing groups to foment postelection unrest on behalf of U.S. intelligence.
The federal prosecutor’s office said Timothy Tracy, 35, of West Hollywood, California, was charged with crimes including conspiracy, association for criminal purposes and use of a false document.
On Thursday, President Nicolas Maduro said he had personally ordered Tracy’s arrest on suspicion of “creating violence in the cities of this country” in the wake of an April 14 presidential election narrowly won by the hand-picked successor to Hugo Chavez.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles contends the election was stolen from him by fraud, setting up postelection tensions and bitter accusations between Venezuela’s government and opposition.
Friends say Tracy is an innocent, self-funded documentary filmmaker with no political aims or government ties.
The U.S. government has also said Tracy is innocent but declined to comment on the specifics of his case.
Venezuela’s national prosecutor’s office said a judge had ordered Tracy held until further notice in a jail run by the national intelligence service in the capital, Caracas, because he presented a risk of flight.
The Georgetown University English graduate was a story consultant on the 2009 documentary “American Harmony,” about competitive barbershop quartet singing, and produced the recent Discovery Channel program “Under Siege,” about terrorism and smuggling across the U.S.-Canada border as well as the History Channel series “Madhouse,” on modified race-car drivers in North Carolina.
Separately, Venezuelan officials said Saturday that they have arrested a retired general who had become a fierce critic of the government, a detention the opposition called part of a hardening crackdown in the wake of the disputed election.
Retired Brig. Gen. Antonio Rivero gained fame for denouncing Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military in 2010 and became a prominent member of the opposition, participating in post-vote protests this month.
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