UPDATED - The presidents of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have offered asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden if he can find a way out of Moscow, Russia, where he’s been holed up in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport for nearly two weeks.
The offer from Evo Morales of Bolivia on Saturday comes just days after the president’s plane leaving from Moscow was rerouted to Vienna after a false rumor that Snowden was aboard.
Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua each made separate offers to Snowden Friday after numerous countries rejected applications to provide sanctuary to the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked secret U.S. surveillance programs to the public.
In a televised event marking Venezuela’s independence day, Maduro offered Snowden humanitarian asylum so “he can come and live away from the imperial North American prosecution.”
The Venezuelan Foreign Minister said on Saturday that officials had yet to hear from Snowden about the asylum offer, and that he has until Monday to decide whether to accept it, reported NBC News.
Ortega made a similar offer during a speech in Managua, saying Nicaragua would be willing to grant asylum to the NSA leaker “if circumstances allow it.” He said the Nicaraguan embassy in Moscow is currently reviewing Snowden’s request. ”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.
A U.S. extradition request sent to Venezuela describes Snowden as a “flight risk” and calls for his arrest should he seek to travel to South America. The U.S. has formally charged Snowden with espionage for exposing the breadth of America’s once-secret national security policies in collecting the phone information and Internet metadata of its own citizens, which triggered weeks of a global manhunt for his capture.
The 30-year-old first fled Hawaii for Hong Kong, and then Hong Kong for Moscow. He was believed to be en route to Latin America, but has since been stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s airport with no way to enter Russia, and no valid U.S. passport for travel. Russian President Valdimir Putin has said Snowden will not be extradited.
WikiLeaks said on its website that it was helping Snowden in asking 21 countries for asylum. The possible asylum countries included China, Cuba, Venezuela, India, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Brazil, and a number of European countries. WikiLeaks said earlier Friday that Snowden had added six more countries to the list of places from which he was seeking asylum.
President Obama said the U.S. has no plans to engage in high-level “wheeling and dealing” or “scrambling jets” in order to capture Snowden. But the espionage charge against the former NSA contractor marks the seventh time the Obama administration has gone after someone who leaked classified information to the press—more than all previous administrations combined.
A number of lawmakers swiftly came out to publicly denounce Snowden as a traitor. However momentum is still gathering in Congress for the Obama administration to declassify the scope of the government’s surveillance powers.
Snowden’s father, Lonnie Snowden, acknowledged that his son broke the law, but maintains that he has not committed treason for leaking classified information.
“If folks want to classify him as a traitor, in fact he has betrayed his government,” Lonnie Snowden told NBC’s Michael Isikoff during a Today show interview last week. “But I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States.”
The Guardian reported that a member of Russia’s parliament said Sunday in a tweet that Venezuela could be Snowden’s last chance for asylum. If he does accept Maduro’s offer, he will have to find a way to travel to Caracas without a valid passport and without traveling through the airspace of America or its allies.