NSA contractor-turned-surveillance-whistleblower Edward Snowden has been offered asylum in three Latin American countries.
Support for Snowden among a coalition of left-leaning governments in Latin America has hardened after a high-profile incident last week when an aircraft carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was obliged to make an unscheduled stop in Vienna after France, Portugal and Spain denied the flight permission to fly through their respective airspaces.
The European countries were acting on suspicions that Snowden might have hitched a ride on the Bolivian president's private jet, which was returning from an energy conference in Moscow.
Bolivian officials denounced the search of the presidential jet as an infringement on Bolivia's sovereignty and even compared it to an abduction or a hijacking, in statements preceding an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) on July 4 to discuss the issue.
Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia all said they would grant asylum to Snowden. Venezuela remains Snowden's most likely prospect since Ecuador cooled on his application. A bid to grant him Icelandic citizenship received a knockback from politicians in Iceland last week.
Even if one of these Spanish-speaking South American countries come through then Snowden is still left with the tricky business of reaching Latin America without traveling through the airspace of either the US or one of its allies.
As if his asylum worries weren't enough, Snowden received an unsolicited marriage proposal from former spy Anna Chapman last week. However, Russian authorities appear to be keen to see him on his way after he turned down an offer from Russian president Vladimir Putin for asylum, on the grounds that it came with the condition that he abandon any plans to leak further material on the US's extensive and controversial eavesdropping programmes.
Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said: "Asylum for Snowden in Venezuela would be the best solution," in a social media update, The Guardian reports.
The whistleblower travelled from Hong Kong to Moscow on 23 June and has since been in legal limbo without a valid passport or travel document. US authorities cancelled Snowden's passport shortly before his departure from Hong Kong at around the same time an extradition request was filed. Snowden faces charges of espionage and theft of government property in the US.
Snowden is supposedly stranded in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where he's mysteriously escaped anyone spotting him for more than two weeks. Some suspect he's actually in an FSB safe house, while the Daily Mail (never a fan of asylum seekers) speculates that Snowden is actually staying in a nearby luxury hotel. ®