Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro had offered asylum to the former US intelligence contractor on Friday and it was just a matter of getting him out of Russia with no one noticing.
The timing of the announcement coincided with Venezuelan independence day celebrations. Nothing says “independence” better than offering humanitarian asylum to someone who needs to escape “persecution of American imperialism”.
On 14 June, 2013, US federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government
property. Snowden is believed to have asked 27 countries for asylum, most of whom had turned down his request since he outed himself as the NSA whistleblower responsible for leaking information about US government spy programmes.
Russia’s head of international affairs, Alexei Pushkov, tweeted: “Venezuela is waiting for an answer from Snowden. This, perhaps, is his last chance to receive political asylum”.
So far, Venezuela claims to have not heard from Snowden yet, who is reportedly still in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.
AP reports the only way for Snowden to get to South America is if Venezuela provides him with travel documents, adding that the only direct commercial flight is from Moscow to Havana, Cuba. This could prove problematic for Snowden, as the flight would have to pass over European and US territories – which grounded Bolivian president Evo Morales last week.
Bolivia and Nicaragua have also said Snowden may seek asylum in their countries.
A “press release” is doing the rounds on social media that claims Snowden is in Venezuela now, as confirmed to Al Jazeera, but it appears to be a hoax.