Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro on Friday said his country would offer asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, giving the former government contractor a path out of the Russian airport where he has been holed up for days.
“As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live [without] … persecution from the empire,” Maduro said during a public speech late Friday.
At the same time, Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega said he too would extend an offer of asylum to Snowden “if circumstances allow it.”
“We have the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the who world, and especially its European allies,” he said.
Neither Maduro nor Ortega outlined specific conditions that Snowden, who leaked secrets about U.S. Internet and phone surveillance programs, would have to meet to live in their respective countries.
Snowden has been marooned in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and until Friday, few countries had expressed any interest in housing the ex-CIA official.
The new offers came after Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was rerouted to Europe this week over fears that Snowden was aboard his plane.
The Obama administration is expected to swiftly condemn the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan actions, as Snowden this week accused the White House of using “political aggression” to track him down.
“The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon,” Snowden said. “Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
And WikiLeaks, the anti-government-secrecy group aiding Snowden, said late Friday that the former government contractor had applied for asylum in six more countries. The group declined to identify where the requests were made.