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U.S. Helmer Jailed in Venezuela Moved to Notorious Prison

Plight of Tim Tracy stirs voice of human rights community

U.S. documentary filmmaker Tim Tracy, arrested in Venezuela for alleged espionage last April, was transferred May 29 to the notorious El Rodeo II prison outside Caracas.

Tracy and 20 others were transferred from their cells within the government intelligence service building because of a severe bacterial outbreak. Tracy is slated to attend a hearing on June 11, which will determine whether his case will proceed to trial or he will be released.

Human rights director Patricia Andrade of Miami-based Venezuela Awareness Foundation said the El Rodeo II prison is virtually a death sentence for him.

“He’s a political prisoner and I don’t understand why the Venezuelan government is committing the horror, not error, of sending him there,” said Andrade. “ El Rodeo is for convicted prisoners and Tracy hasn’t even been tried yet, and he can’t even speak Spanish well.”

El Rodeo II was the site of a riot in 2011 where 25 people, including visitors, were killed during a shootout between two gangs within the prison complex.

“El Rodeo is an overcrowded jungle where hundreds of inmates have been killed over the years in riots, violence and attacks,” said Russell Dallen, managing partner of Caracas Capital Markets and publisher of Latin American Herald Tribune. “Sending him to this fifth circle of hell — and away from the headquarters of the (government’s) intelligence service — clearly is an acknowledgment that he was not a spy. Where are Sean Penn and Oliver Stone now?”

Tracy was arrested April 24 for allegedly funneling funds to student groups opposing the new government of President-elect Nicolas Maduro, who won the post-Chavez elections April 14 by a tiny margin. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles led accusations of electoral fraud as thousands took to the streets in protest, with seven reported killed amid the civil unrest. Tracy was picked up soon after, along with the videos he had been filming for a documentary he was making about the political situation in Venezuela.

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