Three Outraged Latin American Countries Offer Asylum To Snowden

Snowden's options for asylum have now co-opted the news cycle, with various Latin American countries jockeying for position. Where he lands remains unknown. Image @Truth-Out

Snowden’s options for asylum have now co-opted the news cycle, with various Latin American countries jockeying for position. Where he lands remains unknown. Image @Truth-Out

This week’s diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Latin America has worked out well — for whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The administration’s heavy-handed approach to searching for Snowden resulted in the grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Austria on Tuesday, under the rumor-fueled suspicion that the flight from Moscow also held Edward Snowden. The consequence of that action was a unified expression of outrage by Latin American countries. Three of them, whose leadership had been wavering on whether to offer asylum to America’s best-known fugitive, have now done just that.

In a speech in Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said:

“I announce to the friendly governments of the world that we have decided to use international humanitarian rights to protect Snowden from the persecution that the world’s most powerful empire has unleashed against a young person who has told the truth.”

Venezuela has close ties to Russia, where the whistleblower currently resides in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, and strained ones with the U.S.– so it’s not difficult to imagine that the two countries might cooperate to get Snowden to a new home. Russia has shown increasing impatience with the young man’s presence at the airport. A member of the Russian parliament, Alexander Babakov, made this comment to the Russian News Service:

“Given that Snowden’s U.S. passport was revoked and that he has no particular alternative, the proposal [from Maduro], especially from the mouth of the head of state, is sure to be accepted.”

On Saturday, Bolivian President Morales also made a speech in which he offered asylum as a protest against his treatment by America and its allies:

“I want to tell … the Europeans and Americans that last night I was thinking that as a fair protest, I want to say that now in fact we are going to give asylum to that American who is being persecuted by his fellow Americans.”

And lastly, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega made his offer. On Friday, he said:

“We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum, and it’s clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua.”

Condemnation of the humiliating actions taken against Evo Morales have come from other Latin American countries, specifically Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, and Uruguay. The region’s unity may help them resist pressure from the U.S. to hand over Snowden.

The media is currently undergoing much speculation about how Snowden will reach Latin America. Will Cuba grant use of its airspace and permission to land for refueling to a flight that is carrying him? How will Russia handle the fact that the U.S. has revoked Snowden’s American passport? Will one of the Latin American countries offer him new travel documents so that he can proceed?

All of those questions seem like moot points when the U.S. has managed to unify such a vast array of countries against its objective. Private jets can make the journey without refueling. Russia can easily grant passage to a stateless person–although they insist that, by remaining in the international zone of the airport, Snowden hasn’t crossed the border into their country . And new travel documents from the designated country are a snap.

The more interesting development is how Snowden has recently expanded his search for asylum. While he has started receiving positive responses, new inquiries are going out under a veil of secrecy. Ironically, WikiLeaks, which is facilitating the young man’s requests, has announced that other countries being queried won’t be announced “due to attempted US interference”. The final outcome of the quest may depend on who has the best hackers into secret information–the U.S. government or WikiLeaks.