Venezuela awaits Snowden’s response to asylum offer
(CNN) — Venezuela says it has extended an offer of asylum to Edward Snowden, but it has not heard back from him.
The nation has not had any communication with Snowden and is waiting to see whether he accepts its offer, Foreign Affairs Minister Elias Jaua told state television Saturday.
“We would also secondly have to get in touch with the government from the Russian Federation where he is, since he is there — and obviously not in Venezuelan territory — to see their thoughts on it,” Jaua said.
Venezuela is one of three left-leaning Latin American nations that, to varying degrees, have said they’d welcome the U.S. intelligence leaker. The others are Bolivia, which has offered asylum, and Nicaragua, which said it would consider it.
Snowden remains a man without a country two weeks after arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Relief for Russia
Wanted by the United States, he had faced a string of rejections to asylum requests to numerous countries. The Latin American countries were the first to respond in the positive.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who became part of the saga when his presidential plane was denied permission to enter the airspace of several European countries amid a rumor about Snowden, said his country is “willing to give asylum.”
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would grant Snowden asylum in his country “if the circumstances permit.”
The asylum offers could provide Snowden a chance to evade U.S. authorities, though it is unclear how he would get to Venezuela or the other countries.
In his asylum request to Nicaragua, Snowden argued that he had exposed serious violations of the U.S. Constitution when he revealed details about U.S. surveillance programs. He compared his case to Ecuador’s granting of asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arguing that there is already an “international precedent for providing asylum to figures in my circumstances.” And he said the ongoing trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning shows what could happen to him if he returns to the United States.
“It is unlikely I would receive a fair trial and proper treatment prior to that trial, and face the possibility of life in prison and even death,” he wrote, according to a copy of the letter published by Nicaraguan state media on Sunday.
Snowden’s exit from Russia would provide relief to authorities there, who appeared weary of the American’s presence at the airport.
Alexei Pushkov, head of the lower Russian legislative body, the Duma, recommended Snowden leave the airport, where he has been holed up since June 23, when he arrived from Hong Kong.
“Sanctuary for Snowden in Venezuela would be the best solution,” Pushkov tweeted Saturday. “He can’t live in at Sheremetyevo.”
No help from Iceland
Meanwhile, an Icelandic lawmaker said Snowden would not get citizenship there, as he had requested, because parliament declined to vote on an asylum proposal before ending its current session.
Birgitta Jonsdottir was among a handful of lawmakers who put forward a bill Thursday urging parliament to process Snowden’s request. She said Friday that the speaker of the house refused to put the bill on the agenda and the majority in parliament declined to allow a voice vote on it.
“So it is with great grief I have to announce that Snowden will not be getting any form of shelter in Iceland because the current government doesn’t even have enough spine for the parliament to discuss Snowden’s request,” Jonsdottir wrote on her blog.
She praised Snowden, who has acknowledged leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs and faces espionage charges in the United States. Besides Iceland, he has applied for asylum in 20 other countries.
Bolivia’s ‘fair protest’
Bolivia’s position on asylum follows outrage by its president over his sidetracked trip from Russia last week.
Several European countries refused to allow Morales’ plane through their airspace Tuesday because of suspicions Snowden was aboard. With no clear path home available, the flight crew made an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria, where authorities confirmed Snowden was not a passenger.
Bolivia’s asylum offer is a “fair protest” to the incident, which involved Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, Morales said. Spain has said it did not restrict its airspace during that flight.
‘Message to the Americans’
He put the blame squarely on the United States for the incident.
“Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us,” Morales told supporters at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz, where he arrived late Wednesday. “European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans.”
Morales said officials should analyze whether to shut the U.S. Embassy in his country.
“Without the United States,” he said, “we are better politically and democratically.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa joined Morales in criticizing the United States’ role in the situation. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro blamed the CIA for pressuring the European governments to refuse to grant the plane passage.
By Mariano Castillo
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet, Melissa Gray and Ed Payne contributed to this report.