International News

Venezuela Might Be Edward Snowden's Last Asylum Hope After Brazil Rejects Request

While stuck in limbo at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, NSA leaker Edward Snowden has requested political asylum from 21 countries. With Brazil officially rejecting his request earlier this morning, nine of those nations have now said no.

Snowden's last hope might be the Chavista government in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro just happens to be in Moscow at the moment and has praised Snowden for telling "a great truth to prevent wars."

Snowden's latest rejection came early this morning from Brazil, where the foreign minister released a terse statement announcing he'd find no shelter there.

The former NSA contractor has been staying in the Moscow airport's international zone since fleeing Hong Kong last month after leaking details of PRISM, an online intelligence program that gathered widespread Internet data from American citizens. The U.S. government has charged Snowden with espionage.

His wide appeal for asylum from those charges has mostly been met with failure. India and Brazil both rejected his requests outright, while Finland, Austria, Ireland, Poland, and Spain have all said he'd have to travel to their country first before asking for asylum. (Switzerland has also said he'd at least have to make it to their embassy before making a request.)

Ecuador, which granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and seemed a likely destination for Snowden, has now backpedaled away from the whistleblower after helping him travel to Russia from Hong Kong. And Russia has apparently said his asylum would depend upon his cooperation with the American government.

Which all means that Venezuela -- long an antagonist of American foreign policy -- might be his last best hope for safety from American charges.

Maduro has praised Snowden, telling Interfax: "He did not kill anyone and did not plant a bomb. What he did was tell a great truth in an effort to prevent wars. He deserves protection under international and humanitarian law."

But Maduro added that he has yet to receive a formal request from Snowden and declined to say whether he'd accept.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink