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Venezuela grants asylum to NSA leaker Snowden


CARACAS, Venezuela– President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that his country is offering sanctuary to Edward Snowden, the young American intelligence contractor whose disclosure of a secret U.S. surveillance program triggered a worldwide manhunt by the Obama administration.

“I announce to the friendly governments of the world that we have decided to use international humanitarian rights to protect Snowden from the persecution that the world’s most powerful empire has unleashed against a young person who has told the truth,” Maduro said in a speech in Caracas.

Speaking at a military parade to commemorate Venezuela’s 202nd anniversary of independence, Maduro said he was offering asylum so that the National Security Agency leaker could live “in the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez free of imperial North American persecution.”

The president was referring to the 19th-century independence hero, Simon Bolivar, and Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, who ruled for 14 years until he died from cancer in March.

Maduro did not say how Snowden, marooned in the vast transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport since landing there from Hong Kong on June 23, would get to Caracas. But Venezuela has close diplomatic ties with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, and his government has long shown it will go to often extraordinary lengths to counter U.S. influence.

In his speech, Maduro praised Snowden, asking, “Who violated international law?

“Ask ourselves, is it a young person who rebelled and said the truth about United States espionage toward the world, or a government like the one from the United States?” Maduro said.

On Friday, Nicaragua, said it was willing to offer asylum to Snowden “if circumstances allow it,” as President Daniel Ortega put it.

But it has been Venezuela, which has ample oil-fueled coffers and a deep antipathy toward Washington, that has been most forceful in praising Snowden’s actions.