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Venezuela, Bolivia offer asylum to U.S. intel leaker Snowden

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Melissa Gray, CNN
updated 11:57 AM EDT, Sat July 6, 2013
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
  • Bolivian president offers asylum to Edward Snowden
  • Head of Russia's DUMA says Snowden moving to Venezuela is best solution
  • Nicaragua's president says he would also grant asylum, circumstances permitting
  • Bolivia's president criticizes the U.S. over a plane incident involving Snowden

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered asylum to Edward Snowden, the state-run AVN news agency reported Friday, without offering details.

And Bolivia "is willing to give asylum" to the U.S. intelligence leaker, President Evo Morales said Saturday, according to a government statement.

The reports came shortly after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would grant Snowden asylum in his country "if the circumstances permit." Ortega didn't elaborate on his announcement, made during a speech in Managua, except to say his country is "open and respectful to the right of asylum."

"It's clear that that if the circumstances permit it we will gladly receive Snowden and will grant him asylum here in Nicaragua," Ortega said.

Alexei Pushkov, head of the lower Russian legislative body DUMA, recommended Snowden leave Moscow's Sheremetyevo International 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."

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.

Opinion: Some suggestions for Snowden

"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

France and Italy on Thursday turned down Snowden's requests for asylum.

Another country that has seemed supportive of Snowden's quest for a new home is Bolivia, whose president has expressed anger at the United States over an incident involving the presidential plane and a rumor about Snowden.

Several European countries refused to allow President Evo 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 Ed Payne contributed to this report.

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