Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua - where will Snowden go?



Zee Media Bureau

Managua (Nicaragua): In a major relief to the fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden currently taken shelter in the Moscow airport, the presidents of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered to grant political asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden in their countries.

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Saturday said he would grant asylum, if asked, to fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, the third leftist Latin American leader in two days to make such an offer.

Declaring that Bolivia has "no fear" of the United States and its European allies, Morales said that he would be willing "to give asylum to the American, if he asks."

The offers, including on Friday from Venezuela and Nicaragua, raised hope he may finally be able to leave Russia, though it remains unclear how exactly Snowden could reach another nation from the transit zone of Russia's sprawling Sheremetyevo international airport.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had said his government is willing to give political asylum to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, offering a glimmer of hope for the fugitive holed up in Moscow's airport.

The Leftist leader said his country received an asylum application at its embassy in Moscow.

"We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua," Ortega said at a public event on late Friday.

In apparent limbo in Moscow, Snowden has applied for asylum in 27 countries as he tries to evade American justice for disclosing a vast US electronic surveillance program.

But his bids have been rebuffed by several European nations as well as Brazil and India.

The 30-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor has received more sympathetic words from Leftist governments in Latin America, with the leaders of Venezuela and Bolivia saying they would be willing to consider giving him sanctuary.

Ecuador had been seen as his best hope when he arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since June 23 from Hong Kong, but the Leftist government in Quito has yet to consider his application.

The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website that has been supporting Snowden's cause said he had recently applied to six additional countries that it refused to name.

President Nicolas Maduro -- whose Venezuelan government had long relished its role as an irritant to Washington under previous president Hugo Chavez -- offered "humanitarian asylum to the young Snowden ... to protect this young man from the persecution launched by the most powerful empire in the world."

Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega also declared that Managua "would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua."

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website aiding Snowden, revealed on Tuesday the name of 21 nations in which he applied for asylum, and it disclosed yesterday that he was seeking shelter in six more countries.

"They will not be named at this time due to attempted US interference," WikiLeaks wrote on its Tweeter feed.

Snowden's flight from justice has embarrassed the administration of US President Barack Obama and caused tensions this week between European and Latin American nations after an incident involving the Bolivian president's plane.

The small jet carrying President Evo Morales back to Bolivia from Russia was forced to divert to Austria late Tuesday after it was denied entry into the airspace of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal amid suspicions he was whisking Snowden away.

Leftist South American leaders rallied around Morales at a summit late Thursday in which they demanded an apology from the European nations.

The Bolivian leader, who suggested that the United States pressured Europeans to close their airspace to him, threatened to close the US embassy. Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro claimed that the CIA had ordered Europeans to divert the plane.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered to give "humanitarian asylum" to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who is waiting in a Moscow airport for a nation to give him sanctuary.

"As head of state of the Boliviarian republic of Venezuela, I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young Snowden ... To protect this young man from the persecution launched by the most powerful empire in the world," Maduro said yesterday at an independence day event.

Moments earlier in Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega said his government was willing to give asylum to the US fugitive, offering a glimmer of hope to Snowden, who has been in limbo at Moscow's international airport since June 23.

Snowden has applied for asylum in 27 countries as he tries to evade American justice for disclosing a vast US electronic surveillance program.

But his bids have been rebuffed by several European nations as well as Brazil and India. The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor, however, has received more sympathetic words from leftist governments in Latin America.

(With AFP Inputs)