In the latest turn of political drama over Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker currently trapped in a Moscow airport, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro confirmed in public that Venezuela is ready to offer asylum to Snowden. On Friday, during a military parade held on Venezuela’s Independence Day, Maduro said, “In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden … He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world.”
Significantly, last year the U.S. imports of Venezuelan oil fell to the lowest in the last thirty years, while at the same time Venezuela has started importing US-made gasoline to make up for local shortage. The economic imbalance was created following a large refinery in the Virgin Islands being closed down. The refinery was co-owned by the state run Petroleos de Venezuela.
While during the time of Hugo Chavez, almost every month there had been threats of Venezuela shutting off its crude supply to the U.S. – over the last five years the scene has changed with 20 percent of domestic oil consumption in Venezuela currently being from U.S. imports.
So, Venezuela might need a bargaining chip. Just a thought.
Maduro worked up his rhetoric asking, “Who is the guilty one? A young man … who denounces war plans, or the U.S. government which launches bombs and arms the terrorist Syrian opposition against the people and legitimate President Bashar al-Assad?”
Venezuela’s leader of opposition, Henrique Capriles was quick to pick up the lead and tweeted, “Nicolas, you can’t use asylum to cover up that you stole the election. That doesn’t give you legitimacy, nor make the people forget.” Capriles referred to the narrowly won election which made the former bus driver President of Venezuela.
There has been no reaction yet from Wikileaks or Snowden on accepting Venezuela’s offer, though Venezuela is among the countries to which Snowden made a request for asylum.
Snowden’s earlier bid for asylum at Ecuador fell through as the President of Ecuador welled over with good sense upon one phone call from Biden. Ecuador’s President went ahead to say it was a mistake made by the Ecuadorean Ambassador in London to provide Snowden with Ecuadorean travel papers thus allowing him to leave Hong Kong.
Ecuador and many other countries played safe by saying Snowden has to reach their territory in order to consider his application for asylum. After Snowden withdraw his application for asylum to Russia, because he was not ready to agree to Russia’s terms, Russia has made it clear it is growing uncomfortable with Snowden’s presence. Even though hints were dropped from the Russian government that foreign diplomatic vehicles would be considered foreign territory, no one seems keen to pick up the cues.
However, things turned a bit rough after this week when European countries including France, Spain and Portugal denied the Bolivian President’s plane the permission to land and refuel, and he had to land in Austria upon allowing his plane to be searched. It seems that the European nations reacted on an intelligence tip that Snowden was on board. This led the South American leftist countries to come together in protest, and gave Maduro the support he required to offer asylum to Snowden.