“The gringo who financed the violent groups has been captured,” Maduro said in comments carried on state television.
William Ostick, a State Department spokesman, said Friday that the American, Timothy Tracy, 35, who graduated from Georgetown University and lives in Los Angeles, does not work for the U.S. government. U.S. officials in Caracas have sought access to Tracy, who was arrested Wednesday, but the Venezuelan government had not responded to the request, Ostick said.
Tracy’s arrest comes in the midst of increasingly tense days in which Venezuelan officials have alleged that the opposition is burning down clinics and that a phalanx of foreign agents and mercenaries from Colombia, El Salvador and the United States is working to topple the new government. Tracy was accused of having provided financing and directions to university students looking to spark conflict, filming hundreds of videos as he carried out his plans.
Ostick said the United States “categorically rejects allegations of a U.S. government effort to destabilize Venezuela or harm anyone in Venezuela.”
“These allegations have not in any way been substantiated,” he said.
The U.S. government has called for a careful examination of the votes cast in the April 14 election, which electoral officials in Caracas said Maduro won by less than 2 percentage points.
Minutes after his victory was announced, Maduro said he would permit a recount, but the government backtracked the next day. The National Electoral Council has signaled that a partial audit of votes that it announced on April 18, the day before Maduro was inaugurated, would not reverse his victory.
That has further angered the opposition, which says it is organizing a march on May 1, a traditional date of protest in Latin America.
“These tensions result from an extremely close election, which is why we continue to believe that a recount or a review of irregularities would provide transparency and would help assure the Venezuelan people that their aspirations are being met,” Ostick said. “This is consistent with Venezuelan law, and with Venezuela’s international commitments.”
Carl Meacham, the director of the Americas program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Maduro has opted to harden his rhetoric in a way that will appeal to the more radical elements of Chavismo, the late leader’s movement.