Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has come through on an asylum offer to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, making the announcement on television during a the broadcast of a parade marking the country’s independence day.
On Friday Nicaragua also said that it would “gladly receive” Snowden, who is still holed up in a transit section of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since fleeing Hong Kong twelve days ago, and give him asylum, “if circumstances permit.”
“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,” Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said at a public event.
Maduro, who often employs the same boisterous rhetoric employed by his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, has said Venezuela will shield the whistleblower from prosecution by the US.
“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American, Edward Snowden, so that in the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez, he can come and live away from imperial North American persecution,” said Maduro.
Venezuela has offered Snowden asylum despite a US extradition request, demanding that the whistleblower be “arrested” if he “travels to” or “transits through” Venezuela and “be kept in custody” for “the purpose of extradition”.
The leader of Venezuela’s political opposition, Henrique Capriles Radonski, criticized the asylum offer extended by President Maduro, and took the opportunity to tie Maduro’s move to ongoing domestic politics.
According to Caprilles, the runner-up in the last presidential elections and governor of the state of Miranda, Venezuela’s president aimed to use the Snowden saga in a bid to “conceal the fact that he stole the elections,” asserting that the offer “does not grant him legitimacy, nor will it make people forget about the economic disaster, a growing sense of insecurity and scarcity.”
The two offers for political asylum from Central and South America come on the heels of an emergency UNASUR bloc meeting which was held Thursday in Cochabamba, Bolivia following an incident in which Bolivian president Evo Morales was denied entry into French airspace.
Morales’ plane was forced out of European airspace and to make an unexpected landing in Austria after a US diplomat lied about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden being onboard, local media reported.
The plane had departed from Moscow on July 2, but had to land in Vienna, Austria, and remain grounded for 12 hours as France, Spain and Portugal closed their airspace for transit over a suspicion it could have been carrying NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
When the plane landed in Vienna to refuel, US Ambassador to Austria William Eacho phoned officials from the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse reported. Eacho “claimed with great certainty that Edward Snowden was onboard” and referenced a “diplomatic note requesting Snowden’s extradition.”
The Thursday meeting of the Latin American bloc was attended by the leaders of Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Suriname and Bolivia with representatives of Brazil, Chile and Peru also in attendance.
Following the emergency summit, the bloc issued a statement which voiced support for Morales and expressed indignation at Tuesday’s moves by France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to obstruct the Bolivian head of state’s aircraft from free passage.
The incident “set a dangerous precedent of violating international laws” in the world, the statement said. “The European people have seen the cowardice and the weakness of their governments, which now look like colonies of the United States,” the Venezuelan president said of the episode.