Venezuela frees US spy

Venezuela: A U.S. filmmaker jailed for alleged espionage in Venezuela was expelled from the country and returned to the United States in a gesture that could signal a thaw in tense relations between the two countries.

The release of Timothy Tracy, 35, occurred just hours before the top diplomats of both countries agreed during a meeting in Guatemala to discuss restoring ambassador-level relations.

It was secured with the help of former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who has long worked to improve often strained U.S.-Venezuelan ties and was hired by Tracy’s family as an attorney in the case.

“He’s been informally advising us since pretty much the onset and we retained him last week,” Tracy’s sister, Tiffany Klaasen, said of Delahunt, a member of the U.S. delegation at the March funeral ofVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Both she and Delahunt also credited the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. government and friends had ridiculed the idea that Tracy was spying in Venezuela. His family said he had been making a documentary about the human costs of Venezuela’s deeply polarized society.

Following the early morning expulsion, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Guatemala and agreed, said Kerry, to “begin to change the dialogue between our countries and hopefully quickly move” to appoint ambassadors, which they have lacked in each other’s capitals since 2010.

Delahunt acknowledged the coincidence of Tracy’s release but said “no conditions” were set by Kerry for the meeting with Jaua.

He said he had intervened on Tracy’s behalf with officials in Venezuela, who he said did not include President Nicolas Maduro, but “I want to keep those discussions private.”

“On both sides there is a desire to have an improvement in the relationship based upon respect, and that’s what’s important,” Delahunt said.