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Bolivia latest country to offer asylum to Snowden

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
July 7, 2013 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
Former intelligence worker <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/10/politics/edward-snowden-profile/index.html'>Edward Snowden</a> revealed himself as the source of documents outlining a massive effort by the NSA to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually all Americans. He says he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," he said. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over the leaks. Former intelligence worker Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of documents outlining a massive effort by the NSA to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually all Americans. He says he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," he said. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over the leaks.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bolivia's president says he is willing to grant Snowden asylum
  • Venezuelan state media reports Venezuela has already offered asylum
  • The U.S. intelligence leaker has been holed up at the Moscow airport

(CNN) -- Two weeks after arriving at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport and essentially becoming a man without a country, Edward Snowden finally has some options.

A trio of left-leaning Latin American nations to varying degrees say they would welcome the U.S. intelligence leaker in their country. Venezuela and Bolivia have offered asylum to Snowden and Nicaragua is willing to consider it.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who became part of the saga when his presidential plane was denied permission to enter the airspace of several European countries amid a rumor about Snowden, said his country is "willing to give asylum." A day earlier, Venezuelan state media reported that President Nicolas Maduro had offered Snowden asylum.

The reports came shortly after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would grant Snowden asylum in his country "if the circumstances permit."

Wanted by the United States, Snowden had faced a string of rejections to asylum bids he placed to numerous countries. The Latin American countries were the first to respond in the positive.

The asylum offers could provide Snowden a chance to evade U.S. authorities, though it is unclear how he would get to Venezuela or the other countries.

Snowden's exit from Russia, however, would provide relief to authorities there, who appeared to grow weary of the American's presence at the airport.

Alexei Pushkov, head of the lower Russian legislative body DUMA, recommended Snowden leave the airport, where he has been holed up since June 23, when he arrived from Hong Kong.

"Sanctuary for Snowden in Venezuela would be the best solution," Pushkov tweeted Saturday. "He can't live in at Sheremetyevo."

Venezuela's foreign minister said Saturday that it has had no contact with Snowden since its asylum offer Friday, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, an Icelandic lawmaker said Snowden would not get citizenship there, as he had requested, because Iceland's parliament refused to vote on an asylum proposal before ending its current session.

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Birgitta Jonsdottir was among a handful of lawmakers who put forward a bill Thursday urging Parliament to process Snowden's request. She said Friday that the speaker of the house refused to put the bill on the agenda and the majority in parliament refused to allow a voice vote on it.

"So it is with great grief I have to announce that Snowden will not be getting any form of shelter in Iceland because the current government doesn't even have enough spine for the Parliament to discuss Snowden's request," Jonsdottir wrote on her blog.

She praised Snowden, who has acknowledged leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs and faces espionage charges in the United States. Besides Iceland, he has applied for asylum in 20 other countries.

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"I and many others regard him as a hero and have deep respect for him for he has taken great personal risk in order to inform the rest of us about how those in power have lost control of their powerlust and violated their own constitutions against their own citizens," Jonsdottir wrote.

"Mr. Snowden your courage has been noted and there are millions of people from all backgrounds who honor the risks you have taken for us and we will stand tall with you."

'Unbowed' Snowden seeks new havens

Bolivia's position on asylum follows outrage expressed by its president over his sidetracked trip from Russia to Bolivia this week.

Several European countries refused to allow Morales' plane through their airspace Tuesday because of suspicions Snowden was aboard. With no clear path home available, the flight crew made an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria, where authorities confirmed Snowden was not a passenger.

Bolivia's asylum offer is a "fair protest" to the incident, which involved Portugal, Italy, France and Spain, Morales said. Spain has said it did not restrict its airspace during that flight.

He put the blame squarely on the United States for the incident.

"Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us," Morales told supporters at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz, where he arrived late Wednesday. "European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans."

Morales said officials should analyze whether to shut the U.S. Embassy in his country.

"Without the United States," he said, "we are better politically and democratically."

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa joined Morales in criticizing the United States' role in the situation, and Venezuela's Maduro blamed the CIA for pressuring the European governments to refuse to grant the plane passage.

Snowden's asylum options dwindle

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet, Melissa Gray and Ed Payne contributed to this report.

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