Venezuela-U.S. relations took another hit over the weekend, after President Obama called “ridiculous” the notion of an American detained in the country as a spy and government heads lashed back, demanding the White House quit its meddling.
Venezuela is detaining Tim Tracy, 35, an American they say they’ve been tracking since 2012 and accuse of posing as a filmmaker to plot an uprising with anti-government factions. Mr. Obama scoffed at those claims — and Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres suggested the White House butt out, Reuters reported.
“When you want to do intelligence work in another country, all those big powers who do this type of spying, they often use the façade of a filmmaker, documentary-maker, photographer or journalist,” he said, Reuters reported. “Because with that façade, they can go anywhere, penetrate any place.”
Newly seated president Nicolas Maduro, meanwhile, is said to be infuriated by Mr. Obama’s comments.
In formal remarks issued over the week, Mr. Maduro — the deceased Hugo Chavez’s handpicked socialist successor — referred to Mr. Obama as “the grand chief of devils.”
This isn’t the first time Mr. Maduro suggested the United States back off its criticisms of Venezuela. Mr. Maduro was elected by the slimmest of margins, prompting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to publicly advocate a recount — and bringing down more fiery rhetoric from the Venezuela leader.