CARACAS: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to United States (US) intelligence leaker Edward Snowden late Friday, giving a possible escape route to the fugitive whose revelations rocked the US government and security establishment.
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega also gave the 30-year-old computer expert another glimmer of hope, saying that “if circumstances permit”, his government would be willing to shelter the man who has been in limbo in a Moscow airport since June 23.
How Snowden, whose passport has been revoked, could travel to either country remains unclear.
Snowden has been scrambling to evade espionage charges after disclosing a vast US electronic surveillance program to collect phone and Internet data.
WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website aiding Snowden, revealed on Tuesday a list of 21 nations where he applied for asylum, including Venezuela and Nicaragua.
On Friday, it said he was seeking shelter in six more countries, writing on Twitter the countries “will not be named at this time due to attempted US interference.”
Several European countries, along with India and Brazil, have already turned down the requests, but leftist Latin American leaders have voiced sympathy for the bespectacled fugitive.
“As head of state of the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela, I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young Snowden … to protect this young man from the persecution launched by the most powerful empire in the world,” Maduro said at an independence day event.
“I announced to the friendly governments of the world that we have decided to offer this international human right to protect this young man,” said Maduro, who had previously suggested he would consider offering Snowden asylum.