Snowden′s next move remains unclear | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 25.06.2013
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Snowden's next move remains unclear

Like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Edward Snowden has applied for political asylum in Ecuador. But it will likely take weeks for the country to decide. Meanwhile, Russia and China are facing criticism from the US.

What the world knows thus far about Edward Snowden's life since he checked out of his Hong Kong hotel on June 10 is the stuff of a thriller movie. American authorities have appealed to all countries to arrest the whistleblower, but Snowden has yet to be detained.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed that the 30-year-old IT expert remains in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport, near Moscow. He did not embark, as planned, on a flight to Cuba. If he aims to arrive in Latin America by another route, it might be advantageous for the tempo of his journey to slow down. While Snowden has written a personal letter to Ecuador's President Rafael Correa asking for political asylum, authorities in the South American country want to take their time issuing a response.

"In the case of Julian Assange, it took two months. Perhaps it will take a little longer this time, perhaps a little less," said Jorge Jurado, Ecuador's ambassador to Germany, in an interview with DW in Berlin.

In any case, the ambassador added, the principles contained in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights will serve as the basis for the decision and "not the interests of groups or other countries."

Ambassador Jorge Jurado (c) Embajada del Ecuador

Ambassador Jurado does not expect Ecuador to reach a fast decision on Snowden

However, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino sounded a bit more reserved at a recent press conference on the issue. Spanish press agencies quote him as saying that his country will also consider objections from the US regarding Snowden's asylum application.

Questionable media laws in Ecuador

In August 2012, Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum. The Australian activist has since resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Now the small South American country faces intervening in American efforts to arrest the man involved in one of the largest leaks of classified data in decades.

"Among Ecuador's population, there is a widespread view that the US government is willing to throw overboard all of its principles, which it likes to declare as universal, as soon as its own security is at stake. As such, there's much sympathy when it comes to protecting people like Assange and Snowden, who are being sought," said Jonas Wolff, an expert on Latin America with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt. The government, Wolff added, takes the same view.

Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales pictured talking together (c) EPA/Miraflores

From left: Hugo Chavez, Rafael Correa and Evo Morales

In May 2013, left-wing President Rafael Correa began his third term in office. Along with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, Correa represents Latin America's shift to the left. And Correa has no qualms about criticizing the United States.

Along with other socialist presidents in Latin America, Rafael Correa has quarreled with private media outlets, setting out tough policies on media. His critics are currently highlighting such moves.

"It is indeed ironic that Correa's government, which itself has problems with press freedom and private media, is positioning itself internationally as the guardian and custodian of wanted informants and journalists," said Jonas Wolff of the arguments put forward by Correa's critics.

In mid-June, Ecuador passed a controversial media law that includes a section dealing with "character assassination by the media," which critics said marked the end of investigative journalism.

Harsh words for Russia, China

While it remains unclear whether Edward Snowden will be able to take refuge in Ecuador, his stopping points of Russia and China have already drawn sharp words from US officials. Secretary of State John Kerry warned the two countries there would be consequences if they were aware of Snowden's travel plans and blocked his extradition. But Klaus Segbers, an expert with the Institute for East European Studies, does not believe that Snowden's case will have significant consequences for the Russian-American relationship.

A man reads the front pages of newspapers a day after Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was reelected (c) RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images

Critics say Ecuador has much work to do on press freedom

"The USA and Russia have a whole series of political issues on which they do not agree. That's just one part of the puzzle," Segbers said in reference to disputes between the two countries on the Syrian conflict and on arms issues.

It's unlikely, the political scientist added, that Snowden will remain in Russia for very long and further test the already strained relationship between the two countries.

"I think that the Russian government would also be less than pleased to house this uninvited guest and that it has an interest in quickly handing him on to someone else."

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