Washington : In defiance of the United States, two Latin American countries– Venezuela and Nicaragua – on Saturday offered asylum to CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden who blew the lid on the US secretive surveillance programme.
The US had warned countries against giving asylum to Snowden, arguing that he is wanted on charges of espionage and leaking classified information. India and a majority of the countries where Snowden sought asylum had refused to entertain him.
Such defiance by Venezuela and Nicaragua, The New York Times reported, appeared to be linked to an outrage in Latin America over the treatment of Bolivian President Evo Morales last week, whose plane was denied permission to fly over several European countries because of unfounded suspicions that Snowden was aboard.
Morales said on Saturday he would grant asylum to Snowden if requested.
“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (has) decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live (without) persecution from the empire,” President Nicolas Maduro told a military parade marking Venezuelas independence day.
Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega also made a similar offer, but did not elaborate further. “Its clear that if the circumstances permit it, we will gladly receive Snowden and will grant him asylum here,” he said. “We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the US was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies.”
Refusing to comment on the asylum offers by Nicaragua and Venezuela, the White House referred it to the Department of Justice, which handles all issues related to asylum. “He (Snowden) has been accused of leaking classified information, hes been charged with three felony counts and should be returned to the US,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said early this week.
Earlier, WikiLeaks said on micro-blogging site Twitter that the 30-year-old former NSA contractor has sought asylum from six more countries. It said all these asylum requests have been submitted to the embassies in Moscow. It refused to reveal the countries names.
It was not clear how Snowden would react to Maduros offer or reach Venezuela. There are no direct flights between Moscow and Caracas, and the usual route involves changing planes in Havana.
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