Update, July 6, 12:30 p.m.: Bolivian President Evo Morales joined leaders of Venezuela and Nicaragua on Saturday, saying Edward Snowden is welcome in his country. Morales noted that he has not yet received a formal asylum petition from Snowden.
Original story, July 5: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ended the international guessing game and became the first to offer Edward Snowden asylum with a sharply political statement Friday.
Saying he was acting “in the name of America’s dignity,” Maduro announced the decision on TV as Venezuela celebrated its independence day. He said asylum would be granted on humanitarian grounds so that Snowden can live without fear of prosecution from the United States—or, as he called it, “the empire.” “He has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the U.S. spying on the whole world,” he added. “Who is the terrorist? Who is the global delinquent?”
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua also said that country would grant asylum “if circumstances allow it,” without elaborating on what those circumstances might be.
Snowden has remained out of sight since he left Hong Kong for Russia, where he is apparently holed up somewhere inside Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport. The 30-year-old former NSA contractor has applied for asylum in around 20 countries, Russia not among them.
It’s unclear how Snowden might travel if he accepts the offer, Reuters noted, especially after a flight carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted over Europe because officials suspected Snowden was aboard. What exactly happened in that incident also remains unclear, but it has inflamed diplomatic tensions.
This post has been updated with the latest information.