MOSCOW, July 6 (RIA Novosti) – Former CIA employee Edward Snowden’s options appeared to be broadening Saturday as Bolivia became the third country to say that it would be prepared to offer political asylum to the fugitive intelligence expert believed to be hiding in a Russian airport, according to media reports.
Nicaragua and Venezuela have already said that they would be willing to provide a refuge to Snowden, who is wanted by the US for leaking details of secret state surveillance programmes.
“I just want to say to the Europeans and Americans: we are going to give asylum if that American [Snowden] who is haunted by his countrymen asks us for it. We have no fear,” Bolivian president Evo Morales said Saturday, The Financial Times newspaper reported.
Snowden has submitted more than 20 requests for asylum. Most have been rejected, or countries have told the former National Security Agency contractor that he must be present on their soil to submit such an application.
Earlier on Saturday Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced that Caracas would be willing to grant Snowdon asylum. "In the name of America's dignity ... I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden," Maduro said during a military parade marking Venezuela's independence day, Reuters reported.
On Friday Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega said his country would “receive Snowden with pleasure,” according to Sky News.
The solidarity being shown by the countries in Southern and Central America in offering Snowden asylum follows a diplomatic furore last week when a plane carrying Bolivia's Morales back to La Paz from a conference in Moscow was forced down in Vienna over suspicions that Snowden was hiding on board. Morales later described the incident as a “provocation toward a continent,” Reuters reported.
There was no official reaction from Russia, but Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Alexei Pushkov said on Twitter on Saturday that if Snowden received asylum in Venezuela it would be "the best outcome."
Snowden arrived in Russia on a flight to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23. The United States has revoked Snowden’s passport, and he is now believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
Russia was one of the countries to which Snowden submitted an asylum application, but he withdrew his request after President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Snowden would only be able to stay if he “stopped his work aimed at harming our US partners.”
Updated with comments from Pushkov