Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden late Friday, giving a possible escape route to the fugitive whose revelations rocked the US government and security establishment.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also said his country would consider such a request by Mr. Snowden. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua made their offers during separate speeches in their home countries Friday afternoon.
“As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live (without) … persecution from the empire,” Maduro said, referring to the United States.
President Maduro continued: “I announced to the friendly governments of the world that we have decided to offer this international human right to protect this young man.”
He made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.
In his speech Venezuela’s Mr. Maduro described Mr. Snowden as a valiant rebel who deserves to be “protected by humanity” and praised the former security analyst for unmasking U.S. espionage efforts at home and abroad.
In Nicaragua, Ortega said he was willing to make the same offer “if circumstances allow it.” At the moment Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow received Snowden’s application for asylum and studying the request, writes NBC News.
“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies,” Ortega said.
Snowden is currently believed to hide in a closed area of the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after arriving there on June 23 from Hong Kong.
However it’s still unclear how Mr. Snowden could make it to either country with no direct commercial flights from Moscow to Caracas.
And a recent analysis of his possible routes to Ecuador, a country that last week extended an asylum offer to him providing he could get to Ecuadorean territory, showed that all of his connecting flight routes to that country ran through countries that have extradition treaties with the U.S.
Nonetheless, Mr. Snowden could board a plane from Moscow to Havana, and then go on to Caracas. Although Cuba has an extradition treaty with the U.S., it has largely been a dead letter, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Ecuador had been seen as the American’s best hope when he arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport from Hong Kong, but the leftist government in Quito has yet to consider his application.
Actually, according to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, Mr. Snowden applied for asylum to 21 nations, including Venezuela and Nicaragua. However, three of the countries – Brazil, India and Poland – have rejected his request outright.
Russia was one of the countries on Snowden’s original list, but he withdrew his request after President Vladimir Putin said Monday that he could only stay in Russia if he “stopped his work aimed at harming our US partners.”
Snowden has been scrambling to evade espionage charges after disclosing a vast US electronic surveillance program to collect phone and Internet data.