Why Are Latin American Countries Saying Yes to Snowden?

PHOTO: PHOTO: Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, in Hong Kong, June 9, 2013.

The Guardian via Getty Images

The presidents of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have publicly expressed interest in granting asylum to former CIA analyst Edward Snowden who is wanted by the United States on charges of revealing classified government information.

On Friday, WikiLeaks, the organization that publishes private, and often top secret, information from anonymous sources, announced in a post on Twitter that Snowden "applied to another six countries for asylum." The tweet came after an earlier announcement that claimed Snowden had made similar applications to 21 nations last week.

Out of a total of at least 27 asylum requests only three countries said yes. They all happen to be Latin American countries.

"We have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the American Edward Snowden to protect him from the persecution being unleashed by the world's most powerful empire,'' said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in a speech at a parade commemorating Venezuela's July 5 independence day.

"He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world," Maduro went on to say.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also said his country would receive Snowden if "circumstances permit."

"We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum, and it's clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua," Ortega said during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital Managua, according to Reuters.

On Saturday, Bolivian President Evo Morales became the latest Latin American leader to say Snowden is welcomed in his country.

Morales said his asylum announcement is a sign of protest against the U.S. and European nations because they rerouted his plane home from Moscow because of suspicion Snowden on board.

Speaking about Snowden, Morales said, "I want to tell Europeans and North Americans that as just protest, we will now give asylum to the North American pursued by his countrymen. We do not have any fear," the president said in Spanish at a public appearance on Saturday.

The plane incident changed the Latin American nations' position on Snowden, Gregory Weeks, director of Latin American studies at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte told Bloomberg.com.

"Now Maduro feels he has a chance to establish himself as a leader who responds when U.S. imperialism exerts itself over the region," Weeks said. "For Maduro, the best case scenario would be if Snowden never comes. That way he can say that he is fighting the U.S. without actually having to do it."

León Krauze, a frequent contributor to ABC News/Univision and news anchor at Los Angeles' Univision station KMEX, says the Latin American presidents' announcements are "politically convenient and go with a deep rooted tradition in Latin America."

"Obviously, granting asylum for Snowden is a symbolic gesture and a way of playing on the anti-American tradition from Latin America's left," says Krauze.

"To antagonize the United States is quite useful as a political tool in Latin America in particular; it's rooted in understandable resentment and political pragmatism," Krauze went on to say. "Fidel Castro has used it for fifty-plus years, Chavez used it quite effectively, as well." Krauze said.

"Obviously the governments of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have this ideologic coincidence of being anti-American, at least in rhetoric, and it is almost part of their mission," Krauze said.

According to WikiLeaks, asylum requests were made to a number of countries including Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, the Swiss Confederation and Venezuela.

Unless Snowden can travel to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua on a private flight that reportedly would cost upwards of $200,000, he will have to make a connection in Cuba, involving yet another Latin American country.

U.S. officials told ABC News last week they believe the Cubans want nothing to do with Snowden. As evidence, they pointed to the fact that Snowden failed to board previous flights to Cuba, when safe haven in Ecuador appeared to be an option.

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