Venezuela, Nicaragua Offer Edward Snowden Asylum, Anna Chapman Offers Marriage
Two nations that seem to enjoy being thorns in the side of the United States have offered Edward Snowden asylum:
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela said Friday that he would offer asylum to the fugitive intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden, who has been stranded in a Moscow airport searching for a safe haven.
“I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden,” Mr. Maduro said during a televised appearance at a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.
Mr. Maduro said he had decided to act “to protect this young man from the persecution unleashed by the world’s most powerful empire.”
It was not immediately clear, however, how Mr. Snowden could reach Venezuela or if Mr. Maduro was willing to help transport him.
Also on Friday, Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, said he was open to taking in Mr. Snowden. “It is clear that if the circumstances permit we will take in Mr. Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum in Nicaragua,” Mr. Ortega said in Managua.
Mr. Snowden has sought asylum from more than two dozen nations. Most countries have declined.
The offers from Venezuela and Nicaragua appeared to be linked to outrage in Latin America over the treatment last week of President Evo Morales of Bolivia, whose plane was denied permission to fly over several European countries because of what Bolivian officials said were unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was aboard. Mr. Morales was on his way home from a meeting in Moscow.
Mr. Maduro had previously voiced sympathy for Mr. Snowden. He frequently bashes the United States, depicting it as an imperialist bully in Latin America. But at the same time he has shown a desire to improve relations with the United States, directing his foreign minister to start talks with Washington aimed at smoothing the rocky relationship with the top buyer of his country’s all-important oil exports.
Earlier on Friday, WikiLeaks said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Snowden, who is wanted by the United States on charges of revealing classified government information, “has applied to another six countries for asylum,” following up on similar applications to about 20 nations last week.
Supporters of Mr. Snowden clearly blame the refusals on pressure from the United States, and, as a result, WikiLeaks said it would not reveal the latest countries in which he is seeking shelter. “They will not be named at this time due to attempted US interference,” the group wrote on Twitter.
As noted, there’s no surprise in these offers. Venezuela has been an issue for the U.S. since Hugo Chavez came to power, and his successor Maduro seems to be intent for the moment on continuing with that anti-American rhetoric. Nicaragua would seem to be a slightly different story. While Daniel Ortega was once stridently and vocally anti-American back during the days of the Cold War and, while he hasn’t changed that much since then, he’s largely faded into the background. This offer of asylum was likely a tempting opportunity to stick his thumb into the eye of an old adversary.
So, with Ecuador and seemingly everywhere else off the table, Snowden would appear to have two alternatives in Latin America. As it turns out, though, getting there won’t be easy:
[H]ow could Snowden get Latin America from Moscow, where he traveled after originally hiding out in Hong Kong?
The only “safe” commercial flight across the Atlantic — one that would avoid U.S. extradition treaties — is to Cuba. Cuba has an extradition treaty from 1904, but the Castro government could chose to ignore it.
From Havana, Snowden could connect to Caracas, Venezuela, or Managua, Nicaragua.
If he could get a valid travel document from either country in time, Snowden could take Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. flight to Cuba. There are two connecting flights to Caracas on Sunday.
Getting to Managua commercially is more difficult. There’s only one non-stop flight from Cuba and it leaves Saturday morning, so Snowden would have to cool his heels in Cuba for an entire week if he left Moscow on the next flight.
The other question is: Will Cuba let Snowden transit there? U.S. officials have told ABC News they believe the Cubans want nothing to do with Snowden. As evidence, they pointed to the fact that Snowden failed to board previous flights to Cuba, when safe haven in Ecuador appeared to be an option.
There is also the private-flight option. Reports last week quoted the cost of a private plane to Ecuador to be more than $200,000 on one of the few private jets that could make the trip without refueling. Similar flights to Venezuela or Nicaragua would presumably be only a bit less.
But even if he does get on either of those flights, there is also the question of air space — especially after the incident involving the Bolivian president’s plane. Would European countries or the United States deny a plane carrying Snowden to fly over their territory or force it down?
Fortunately for Snowden, if he can’t get out of Russia he’s got another option:
Remember Anna Chapman? She’s the ex-Russian spy who looks more like a supermodel. It appears Chapman has eyes for NSA leaker Edward Snowden
According to Yahoo News, Chapman tweeted yesterday: “Snowden, will you marry me?!” And she didn’t stop there. Later she tweeted: “@nsa will you look after our children?”
It may not be serious, but given the choice between Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the lovely Ms. Chapman, the choice seems obvious.
Update: Bolivia has also extended an offer of asylum to Snowden.