The presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua have extended a hand to Edward Snowden. In the wake of the grounding of Bolivian president Evo Morales’s plane, on which Snowden was rumored to be aboard, Latin America has banded together to express support for the American fugitive and defiance against the countries that are assisting the US manhunt.
Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro said, "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 [the United States].”
Maduro made this statement during a speech celebrating the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. He did not specify what conditions Venezuela would attach to Snowden’s asylum.
While this is the first semi-concrete offer of asylum, Maduro’s detractors have accused the president of grandstanding. Venezuela is undergoing severe economic strife, suffering one of the world’s highest rates of inflation and a shortage of many basic needs, including toilet paper.
“The asylum doesn't fix the economic disaster, the record inflation, an upcoming devaluation (of the currency), and the rising crime rate," Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles tweeted.
Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega has followed suit. When asked whether his country would also offer asylum, he replied that it would “if circumstances allow it.” "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.
Nicaragua has acknowledged that it is evaluating an asylum request submitted through its Moscow embassy.
Snowden, accused of leaking confidential US documents that have, among other things, revealed a massive spy program carried out by the NSA in Europe, is currently rumored to be living in a Moscow airport. To date, he has applied for asylum in 27 countries, though Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia are the only three to have suggested they would take him in.