President Barack Obama dismissed as “ridiculous” Venezuela’s allegations that an American filmmaker in the country during last month’s elections was a US spy sent by Washington to stir up trouble.
His remarks came several days after Caracas lodged formal criminal charges against filmmaker Timothy Hallet Tracy, who says he was in Venezuela working on a documentary, but whom the government accuses of fomenting post-election unrest.
Media reports said Tracy, who is based in Hollywood, has been working on a documentary since last year. He was detained last month at an airport near Caracas as he tried to leave the country.
His attorney said last week that Tracy’s film project dealt with the deep political rifts in Venezuela, where voters during the squeaker presidential election three weeks ago elected socialist President Nicolas Maduro over opposition businessman Henrique Capriles.
Authorities in Caracas, however, allege that the American is linked to a protest movement known as “Operation Sovereignty,” in which demonstrators have pressed for more information about the health of late leftist leader Hugo Chavez prior to his death in March.
Like Chavez before him, his successor Maduro regularly accuses Washington of attempting to destabilize the oil-rich country.
Maduro last month accused two ex-US ambassadors of fomenting a plot to assassinate him before the April 14 election. A few weeks earlier, two US military attaches were expelled from the country, accused of conspiring against the government.
Meanwhile, Obama in an interview on Friday refused to be drawn on whether the United States would recognize Maduro as the winner of last month’s contested presidential vote.
The entire region, he said “has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition” following the controversial April 14 vote to replace Chavez.