The leaders of Nicaragua and Venezuela have said they are willing to grant asylum to Edward Snowden. The US intelligence whistleblower has applied to 27 countries, while he waits in apparent limbo in a Moscow airport.
Speaking on Friday, Nicaragua's leftist leader Daniel Ortega confirmed that his country had received an asylum application at its embassy in Moscow, and said his government would be willing to grant asylum to Snowden under the right circumstances.
"We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum in Nicaragua," President Ortega told a public event.
It was a pledge repeated by Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro.
"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," Maduro said, referring to the United States.
Snowden has applied to 27 countries for asylum as he tries to evade charges brought against him by his native United States, for disclosing the existence of PRISM, a vast electronic surveillance program. Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy website which says it is helping Snowden, has named 21 of the countries, but will not reveal the other six "due to attempted US inteference," it said on Twitter.
The 21 countries are: Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.
Several European nations have rejected his requests, as well as Brazil and India. It had been thought Ecuador was Snowden's best hope as he arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after leaving Hong Kong, but his application is still to be considered.
It follows tensions this week between European and Latin American nations after an incident involving the plane of Bolivia's president, Evo Morales. Morales was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Austria while returning home from Moscow, amid suspicions he was harboring Snowden.
Morales said the Austria stop happened because France, Italy, Portugal and Spain refused to let his plane through their airspace.
A bloc of South American nations held an emergency meeting in in Bolivia late Thursday, demanding an apology from the European nations. Morales has threatened to close the US embassy in La Paz, pictured above.
jr/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)