Snowden offered asylum by Nicaragua, Venezuela

Snowden offered asylum by Nicaragua, Venezuela
Edward Snowden, who leaked details of top-secret US surveillance programmes, dropped out of sight in Hong Kong on Monday. Photo: REUTERS
Leaders of the two Latin American countries have described him as a ‘champion of human rights’
Published: 8:34 AM, July 6, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, July 8, 2013

MANAGUA (Nicaragua) — Nicaragua has received an asylum request from fugitive former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden and could accept the bid “if circumstances permit,” President Daniel Ortega said yesterday (June 5). Venezuela reportedly offered Snowden asylumn shortly after that as well.

“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,” Mr Ortega said during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital Managua.

Mr Ortega, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, did not elaborate on the conditions that would allow him to offer asylum to Snowden, who has been at the eye of a diplomatic storm since leaking high-level US intelligence data last month.

Options have been narrowing for Snowden - believed to be staying in a transit area at a Moscow airport - as he seeks a country to shelter him from US espionage charges.

A one-time Cold War adversary of the United States, Mr Ortega belongs to a bloc of leftist leaders in Latin America that have frequently taken up antagonistic positions with Washington.

Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, has benefited greatly from financial support from Venezuela, and Mr Ortega was a staunch ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Mr Chavez’s successor Mr Maduro voiced sympathy with Snowden and described him as a champion of human rights. That suggested Venezuela may help Snowden, who is stranded in Moscow after flying there from Hong Kong on June 23, to find a safe haven.

Snowden’s bid for Icelandic citizenship hit an impasse earlier yesterday when the country’s parliament voted not to debate it before the summer recess.

Afterwards, WikiLeaks announced that Snowden had applied to another six countries for asylum, adding to a list of more than a dozen countries which he has already asked for protection.

The anti-secrecy organisation, which has been supporting Snowden’s efforts to find a safe haven since his exit from Hong Kong 12 days ago, said on Twitter it could not reveal the names the countries due to “attempted US interference”. REUTERS