December 11, 2017

Former contractor has received several offers of asylum

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Latin American leaders have expressed support for whistleblower

News of the meeting between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden fits a pattern of Latin American leaders lending a sympathetic ear after he divulged the details of secret US surveillance programmes.

Their response was similar to that which was extended to Julian Assange after the Wikileaks website went live, and included offers of political asylum and rhetoric against the US programmes that Snowden blew the whistle on.

While he was holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport in the northern in June of 2013, Bolivian President Evo Morales, angered that some European countries banned his plane from their airspace due to false rumours that Snowden was on board, said that “I want to tell ... the Europeans and Americans that last night I was thinking that as a fair protest, I want to say that now in fact we are going to give asylum to that American who is being persecuted by his fellow Americans.” Morales had been travelling from Moscow to La Paz.

The plane eventually made an emergency landing in Vienna, and fellow Latin American leaders were outraged by the incident, calling it a violation of national sovereignty and a slap in the face for the region. Several South American presidents, including Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner travelled to the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to show their support.

“What happened to Evo was terrible,” Fernández de Kirchner said.

“In South America, when we make a mistake we acknowledge it and we apologize,” she told the crowd at the gathering in Cochabamba. “I hope that for once in their lives they do the same.” European had claimed that the rerouting was due to “technical flaws.”

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro also offered refuge for Snowden, as did Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. At the time of the events, Assange was himself holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, claiming that prosecution in Sweden for alleged sexual misconduct charges was politically motivated.

While Snowden ended up staying in Russia after authorities granted him a temporary permit, Assange urged the former contractor to consider onward travel.

“I would strongly advise him to go to Latin America,” Assange told CNN at the time. “Latin America has shown in the past 10 years that it is really pushing forward in human rights. There’s a long tradition of asylum.”

Many of the Latin American countries, however, conditioned their support for a Snowden asylum request on it being made on their own soil — improbable after Snowden’s passport was revoked by US authorities and none made an effort to actually bring Snowden to the region.

Argentina and Brazil, regional leaders in their own right, were more cautious about offering Snowden asylum in the immediate aftermath of the revelations. Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, while expressing his dismay with the news of the intelligence activity in July 2013, underlined that the country had not offered Snowden asylum.

And while she did not move to grant the whistleblower legal protection, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff addressed Snowden’s revelations head on and cancelled a state visit to Washington in protest, called for reform of the rules governing the internet and lashed out during a speech at the United Nations General assembly at what she considered to a direct violation of Brazilian sovereignty and a violation of international law. Documents leaked by Snowden indicated that the NSA had collected Rousseff’s emails, phone call data and text messages.

— Herald staff

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