Venezuelan Government, Mid-'Argo' Plot, Calls Obama 'Chief of the Devils'

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Accusations that an American documentary filmmaker was posing as a U.S. spy in Venezuela are "ridiculous," if you believe President Obama, who according to Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro is the "chief of the devils." Did you catch all of that? Here's the whole story. 

Tim Tracy is a 35-year-old documentary filmmaker from Michigan who was arrested at the Caracas airport on his way back to the U.S. on April 24, accused of attempting to incite a civil war and destabilize Venezuela's government. Venezuelan officials insist Tracy was involved with "acts of violence" after the April 14 presidential election, by way of financing student protestors. The New York Times spoke with those student protestors, and they had no idea what Venezuelan officials were talking about. Tracy was filming a documentary to show both sides of Venezuela's political divide — he had spoken to opposition voices and pro-Chavez/Maduro voices — and then he got taken into custody.

Which catches us up to this weekend. Tracy is still being held. President Obama visited Mexico and Costa Rica, and during an interview with Telemundo in San Jose, Obama called the charges "ridiculous" and connected the incident with a pattern of "rhetoric." The case will apparently be handled privately rather than government-to-government, because, well, the Obama administration is very, very far from seeing eye-to-eye with the new Venezuelan leadership.

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Indeed, Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro had stronger words over the weekend. He called the Obama the "chief of the devils" at a political rally, a line that reminded many of the crazy stuff his predecessor Hugo Chavez used to say. (The crowd chanted "Obama, fascist" back at Maduro.) 

But Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres took the cake in terms of crazy things said over the weekend. He claimed Venezuela has hard evidence against Tracy, without explaining what that evidence is. And judging from what he told reporters, one can reasonably suspect Torres merely saw Argo and grew suspicious of every American filmmaker. "When you want to do intelligence work in another country, all those big powers who do this type of spying, they often use the facade of a filmmaker, documentary maker, photographer or journalist," Torres told Venezuela's state television station. "Because with that facade, they can go anywhere, penetrate any place."

You may remember a movie called Argo won the Oscar for Best Picture last year. Ben Affleck directed and starred, and it was about an American spy who posed as a filmmaker to enter Iran. Affleck's character did so to save a bunch of American citizens who were in hiding because of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. 

We can't say definitively that's the case. But it sure sounds like it, right? Maybe the U.S. government should send an American spy posing as a filmmaker to rescue the American filmmaker accused of posing as a spy. 

[Inset via the Tracy family via the AP]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.