How the West Enabled Snowden’s Bid for Latin American Asylum

  • Share
  • Read Later
Juan Karita / AP

Demonstrator launch firecrackers outside the U.S. embassy to protest the denial of permission for Bolivia's President Evo Morales to enter the airspace of some European countries, in La Paz, Bolivia, on July 8, 2013.

Let’s say, as Bolivian President Evo Morales insists, that the U.S. did urge European officials to deny Morales their air space on his flight home from Moscow last week because fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden was rumored (falsely) to be onboard. If that’s true — and we may never know, since U.S. officials aren’t commenting — did the Obama Administration just make it easier for Snowden to win political asylum in Latin America?

Up until that July 2 incident, it wasn’t at all certain that the Latin American left, which includes Morales, would follow through on its threats to grant asylum to Snowden, who is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges after he exposed secret NSA communications surveillance at home and abroad. Socialist Venezuela—which confirmed July 9 that it had received Snowden’s asylum request—and the rest of the region’s anti-U.S. bloc seemed to be waiting for a stronger pretext for giving Snowden refuge, and preferably their favorite kind of pretext, an act of U.S.-backed imperialismo. That’s exactly the gift that Spain, Portugal, France and Italy provided by forcing Morales’ plane to land in Vienna for inspection.

(MORE: Putin to Offer Snowden Asylum, but With a Catch)

Suddenly, South America’s leftist presidents, whose hemispheric influence had been waning of late, found their mojo again. They rushed breathlessly to Bolivia to greet Morales, who shouted, “United we will defeat American imperialism!” while calling for the closure of the U.S. embassy there. By Friday evening, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, in need of a political boost after just barely winning a special April election to succeed his mentor, the late Hugo Chávez, formally offered the “young American” Snowden asylum from “persecution from the empire.” Bolivia said it too was willing to give refuge to the 30-year-old Snowden, who has been holed up in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23. Nicaragua said it would also consider it, as has Ecuador.

Bottom line: Snowden may well now elude U.S. authorities after he seemed to be cornered in Sheremetyevo’s transit lounge. “If the U.S. was involved in diverting Evo’s plane, it was a bit of old-style cold-war maneuvering that backfired,” says Ariel Armony, director of the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American Studies. “But even if it wasn’t [involved], the global perception is that those four European countries wouldn’t have decided to do this of their own volition. Either way, it puts the U.S. at risk of failing to get Snowden in the end.”

Perhaps most baffling is the fact that the U.S. and Europe had already seen something like this play out last summer. It was then that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who had released thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables, showed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London. He hoped to avoid extradition not just to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges, but possibly to the U.S. as well. Leftist and anti-U.S. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa hemmed and hawed about giving Assange asylum — until British authorities made the blunder of reminding Correa that U.K. law revokes an embassy’s diplomatic immunity if it’s judged to be harboring a fugitive.

(MORE: Snowden and Putin: U.S. Whistle-Blower’s Fate Is in Russian President’s Hands)

That was all Correa needed to hear: He accused the Brits of practicing imperialista gunboat diplomacy in the service of Washington. Feeling global opinion shift in his favor, Correa used what he called London’s threat to storm his embassy as justification for going ahead and granting Assange asylum as the only honorable thing for Ecuador to do. (Assange, however, is still holed up in the embassy building.)

What the Brits failed to remember then, and what the U.S. and its European allies seemed clueless about last week, was the centuries of often ugly foreign intervention that Latin American countries have experienced. The Latin American left exploits that resentment at every opportunity — and it will certainly get stoked when world powers so much as appear to be pushing around the President of South America’s poorest nation (its first indigenous head of state to boot) on the flimsy basis of a rumor that he’s ferrying a U.S. fugitive at 40,000 feet.

Even so, John Maisto, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and Nicaragua, says he doesn’t believe the Venezuela-led bloc was necessarily waiting for an excuse to offer Snowden sanctuary and kick the “empire” in the shins. “I don’t think they needed a pretext,” says Maisto, now chairman of the Washington-based American Committees on Foreign Relations board of advisers. “For them, this is about thwarting the national interests of the U.S., which has a real, justified and important interest in getting Snowden.” Without or without Morales’ flight diversion, he adds, one of those anti-yanqui allies was probably bound to invite Snowden in.

(MORE: What Snowden Needs Now Is a Good Lawyer)

But did the Morales episode make that easier to do? Before Snowden leaked the NSA surveillance details to the media last month, for example, Venezuela and the U.S. had begun a post-Chávez process of rapprochement. If Venezuela had come forward before July 2 and given Snowden asylum as a poke in the Obama Administration’s eye, Maduro may well have looked diplomatically churlish. After July 2, he seemed to decide that the Morales fiasco gave him an out — in other words, international political cover for jilting the new outreach between Caracas and Washington.

And he could do so amid a sudden air of moral support from the rest of Latin America. Even as Morales was fuming on the tarmac in Vienna last week, new Snowden media leaks revealed a massive NSA surveillance operation in more U.S.-friendly Brazil, prompting its Foreign Minister to voice “deep concern” and Brasília to launch an investigation. (The U.S. insists the program is standard intelligence-gathering practiced by all nations.)

Yet if Snowden does go to Venezuela — and that may depend on whether communist Cuba’s leader, Raúl Castro, who is involved in his own fledgling detente with the U.S. right now, lets Snowden stop in Havana enroute to Caracas — he’ll face the irony of receiving asylum from a government that’s hardly a champion of his own free speech and open information values. Under Chávez and now Maduro, in fact, Venezuela is better known for tough anti-defamation laws, including criminal prosecution for insulting officials like the President. Ditto for Assange: Correa just pushed through a measure that essentially makes him Ecuador’s media censor.

That’s just one more reason to ask whether what happened last week in the skies over Europe was the height of folly.

MORE: On the Run to Moscow, Edward Snowden Keeps Americans Guessing

201 comments
Bayu Morita
Bayu Morita

Good : ) hi I am bayu male jakarta indonesia 239eb55d pin blackberry, please add my fb : )

Iso Soum
Iso Soum

god love son cause next jesus on cros

Amazon Panda
Amazon Panda

... IT'S a freaking ad article .... what with these comments ?

allison.aa
allison.aa

The headline should read, "How the USA enabled Snowden's bid . . ." Is there any misstep which our Keystone Cops have failed to make? If so, they're no doubt working on them.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Contrary to the opinion of the nation's political establishment, most Americans see NSA leaker Edward Snowden as a whistle-blower rather than a traitor.

The results of a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that 55 percent of American voters regard Snowden as more of a whistle-blower, while 34 percent see him as more of a traitor.


The Quinnipiac survey of 2,014 registered voters was conducted June 28th through July 8th and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.
Read more: http://english.ruvr.ru/news/2013_07_10/Most-Americans-dont-see-Snowden-as-traitor-poll-2597/

ThisAngryAmerican
ThisAngryAmerican

Mr Padgett, anyone has ever employed some one to work for them would know this is a classic case of thef and employment fraud. Not espionage. This guy is just a high school drop out who got lucky until now. How else to explain all his mistakes and wind up in Moscow. Snowden is not a spy for a foreign government, there fore he can not be charged with espionage. Snowden is just a criminal, that's all. Fact, he stole from his employer. Fact, he broke his employment contract. Fact, he caused economic damage to his employer. Nothing he did suggest he a spy or engaging in espionage. Giving this high school drop out the status of a spy is like giving Obama the Nobel Prize for what he's capable of doing for peace. That didn't worked out as plan did it? The only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a kill list. Fact.

t4earnest
t4earnest

@TIME like that will stop the government remember Noriega? If they want you they will get you.

Francisco García Gómez de Mercado
Francisco García Gómez de Mercado

The presidential plane should have been allowed free passage. International conventions shall be enforced. Spain and other European countries acted ridiculously. I don't like Morales but I'm sorry.

Ahmed Mahran
Ahmed Mahran

Police and army forces kill peaceful demonstrators in front of the Republican Guard during dawn prayers

Vijay Banga
Vijay Banga

US reacts too fast and too aggressively which lands it in trouble always

Ricky Ric
Ricky Ric

Mömm¥_3ltöñ Jöhñ shöûld löv thîs_îñ4. :>

RobertParent
RobertParent

ok Tim... Has any US citizen even read one sentence of the disclosures?  probably not.  Why?  Isnt info a good thing to have when making an informed decision?

Why can the rest of the world access the disclosures... that are already published... but we cant because our gov does not want us to read them? 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

"South American presidents finding their 'mojo???'"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Get real, Tim Padgett. 

South America (as a whole) is doing far, far worse economically, politically, and socially than the U.S..  The mojo of theirs you imagine is microscopic compared to America's.

cgpb
cgpb

@ParamjitGarewal. Good analysis. Sadly,Democrats have never been good with foreign policy, but Obama's admin is deficient on everything.

Sue Kurrle
Sue Kurrle

<3 Saving Lives by Gifting Medicine (Generic or Original) Does Indeed Supply Necessary Tools for a Future! Success doesn't have a goofy LV design dept. byw~Weird and oddly jealous commentary Alex BelyarchiK! I Really Love this Story of True Vision! Thank You Time and Warby Parker. ;)

GCL1
GCL1

Muslims and Latin America nations have figured it out "America and Americans can never be reasoned with rationally. The best way to deal with the Americans is through firearms, bombs, and explosives. You have to hit Americans hard and hit them in such a manner that their vital interests and national spirit are permanently damaged. Violence, aggression, and terrorism are the only languages that make an impact on the dull, self-satisfied American mind."

Hseen Hseen
Hseen Hseen

The Syrian citizen debunked, using the national media (such as Syrian TV Channel and Al-Akhbaria, also known as Syrian News Channel) that broadcasts daily the evident truth, the claims the aforementioned channels fabricated. It is important to note that the Syrian channels mentioned have had their reporters and photographers exposed to assassination operations by the terrorist groups.

jaelleofcanaan
jaelleofcanaan

Tim Padget parrots this LAUGHABLE and ludicrous idiocy about Assange and Snowden going to countries with less than stellar free speech laws. As if there are any countries out there with better free speech laws willing to give them asylum. And newsflash to Padgett: the Bush & Obama administrations have made investigative journalism in the US more and more of a crime. Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has written about how it has nearly come to a halt under Obama.

Padgett's snide, sneering condescension toward Latin America's bipartisan defiance and totally legitimate historical anger at US imperial history in the region is not something to be laughed at. Obviously Padgett thinks we Latin Americans are just childish whining little children to be lectured to.

Rama alassad
Rama alassad

KEEP IN YOUR MIND AND DON’T FORGET THE HISTORY! In #Syria 2011: millions of #Syrian people in all Syrian cities go in rallies to support President #Assad and Syrian Arab Army (#SAA), US and its allies said” this President lost his legality! And he must leave”! In #Egypt 2013: millions of #Egyptian people in all Egyptian cities go in rallies against President #Mursi, asking him to leave! #US and its allies said “the opposite should make a dialogue with #Mursi and they have to give him another chance”! Remember: DECISIONS ARE ALWAYS COME FROM THE WILL OF NATIONAL PEOPLE. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=591394377571558&set=a.542763392434657.1073741828.542411202469876&type=1&relevant_count=1

Bob Millar
Bob Millar

100 years of negotiations and treaties. It's in all the books. :)

Rama alassad
Rama alassad

The terrorists of #FSA and Jabhat al nusra (#AlQaeda in #Syria) are laying siege to the government controlled side of #Aleppo blocking food from entering, 2 million people being starved out! Don't worry Aleppo, please stay strong, FSA rats are out of Homs and Damascus now, very soon they will also clean Aleppo, Raqqa, the areas near the borders, and the rest of beautiful Syria, be sure that #SAA is coming. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=596166110427718&set=a.542763392434657.1073741828.542411202469876&type=1&relevant_count=1

Rama alassad
Rama alassad

President Assad Driving Himself in Damas (before the crises) President Assad and the First Lady attending an opera event in Damascus, plus a brief from an interview with the Syrian first Lady Asma`a al-Assad. was filmed before the crisis, the main narrator in Arabic but the interview is in English - Bashar Al-Asad President Assad Driving Himself in Damas (before the crises) President Assad and the First Lady attending an opera event in Damascus, plus a brief from an interview with the Syrian first Lady Asma`a al-Assad. was filmed before the crisis, the main narrator in Arabic but the interview is in English - Bashar Al-Asad

Rama alassad
Rama alassad

To McCain: If You Don't Know Whom You're Taking Photos With, How Do You Know Whom You're Arming? During a televised interview on Fox News, Arizona Senator John McCain was confronted by John Roberts who asked him what Kentucky Senator Rand Paul asked: "If you don't know whom you're taking photos with, how do you know whom your giving weapons to?" in reference to the fact that McCain met with the notorious kidnappers of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims. As expected, McCain answered with a typical lie that members of the "Free Syrian Army" (FSA) are brave and fighting for democracy, not that their commanders have openly stated their desire to implement Sharia, not that they have units called the "Osama bin Laden" brigade, etc Source: Fox News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTF8GdZ4R28

Bob Millar
Bob Millar

And accept the consequences, as Dr. King explained. King did not flee arrest or flee the country.

Rama alassad
Rama alassad

l FSA Mortar Attack on Damascus's Christian Quarter Kills Civilians & Misses Patriarch John X Published on Jul 3, 2013 by: Arabi Souri June 27, 2013 a bombing targeted Christian dominated Bab Touma neighborhood in Damascus minutes after Patriarch John X (Yazigi) of Antioch and All the East passed nearby. Footage caught on CCTV shows it was a mortar shell that killed civilians who were passing by. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n9SBzY0XF4

Rama alassad
Rama alassad

FSA Mortar Attack on Damascus's Christian Quarter Kills Civilians & Misses Patriarch John X Published on Jul 3, 2013 by: Arabi Souri June 27, 2013 a bombing targeted Christian dominated Bab Touma neighborhood in Damascus minutes after Patriarch John X (Yazigi) of Antioch and All the East passed nearby. Footage caught on CCTV shows it was a mortar shell that killed civilians who were passing by.

Henry Jaworski
Henry Jaworski

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”- Martin Luther King Jr.

GCL1
GCL1

@mrbomb13

Uh-huh! Yep, good luck going down THAT road with THAT narrative in the US! Man, you dumb American clowns are such gluttons for punishment, aren't you? Even when you're getting your ass handed to you in a humiliating public beatdown, you STILL don't get it, do you? LOL!

http://nbclatino.com/2013/06/13/the-new-normal-asians-hispanics-will-soon-outnumber-current-white-majority/

http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/news/hispanics-new-majority-population

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-05-17/local/35458407_1_minority-babies-census-bureau-demographers-whites

http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/15/news/economy/minority-majority/index.html

wandmdave
wandmdave

@cgpb @ParamjitGarewalExactly! Bush would have bombed the airport in Moscow long ago and been done with it.

RobertParent
RobertParent

@jaelleofcanaan You are right.  If the US is so free why cant the citizens read the released documents?   they are published already...everyone else can read them...but his news source cant even print a one sentence quote of those documents.  I think the gov is afraid of an informed public.

GCL1
GCL1

@jaelleofcanaan 

You said it. Much of the US and most Americans are stuck in a narrative rut from several years, if not decades past. While the rest of the world has moved on, the Americans content themselves with an obsolescent and long superseded geopolitical dialectic, and expect the rest of the world to conform to their political anachronisms.

AnnaStephen
AnnaStephen

@Rama alassad as Amber explained I'm surprised that a single mom able to make $5185 in one month on the internet. www.Green37.ℂℴℳ

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@GCL1 @mrbomb13 

First, thank you for your reply, and for the collection of articles.

Unfortunately, none of your articles are relevant to my original posting.  That is because each one of them deals with minorities in the U.S. being forecasted to outnumber Whites by 2043.  Yet, nothing in my posting touches on that issue.  Instead, my post deals with the political, economic, and social situation in South America - not North America.

GCL1
GCL1

@wandmdave @ParamjitGarewal

"Bush would have bombed the airport in Moscow long ago and been done with it."

Are you really this f*ing stupid, you daft American c^nt? No wonder retard American c^nts like you get your ass kicked the world over. Russia can reduce the US and your retard @ss to smoke in under 30 seconds.

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/icbm/


GCL1
GCL1

@RobertParent @GCL1 

If the clowns at the NSA ask nice, they can have my IP and my coordinates too - hell. I'll even let 'em have my penis size! Let the dumb Americans take it and stick it where the sun don't shine! (Iceland, maybe?)