Biden’s call finally took place at 9:30 am on Friday, June 28, as planned. The telephone call lasted half an hour and according to Correa had a “cordial” tone. The Ecuadorian president said that Biden had asked him to refuse the request for political asylum made by Snowden from Moscow, informed the Ecuadorian leader himself during a broadcast of his television program on Saturday, June 29.
In response, Correa told Biden that Ecuador could not process the request for political asylum as Snowden was not officially in Ecuadorian territory. Correa added that if he were to contemplate the asylum, the first opinion he would seek would be that of the United States. For some observers, this statement was, in practice, a way of denying political asylum to Snowden in advance.
Snowden’s safe-conduct was a mistake
After denying, on several occasions, that Ecuador had given Snowden a safe-conduct, President Correa finally admitted that the issuance of this document was a “mistake.” He stated it in an interview with the AP news agency on Sunday the 30th.
Correa admitted that Snowden received a safe-conduct from Ecuador, although he asserted that it was not authorized by him. The purpose of the document, according to Correa, was to provide him with a travel document in case his U.S. passport was suspended, which finally did happen.
“I didn’t know that Snowden was on his way to Ecuador. He was in Hong Kong, I don’t know why he went to Russia, and given his despair because they were going to take his passport away and capture him, our consul (in London) makes a grave mistake and gives him a safe-conduct with no validity, without the government’s knowledge and without authorization,” said the president.
Correa said that Narváez, the consul in London responsible for issuing the safe-conduct, “must assume this serious responsibility because he was not authorized to do that.”
Ecuador wanted to send a plane for Snowden
The AP also revealed that Ecuadorian diplomats with direct knowledge of the case said that Correa administration officials made detailed plans to protect Snowden and get him to travel to Ecuadorian territory, but that the plans failed due to the position of Vladimir Putin’s government on the issue.
The officials stated to AP that Russian authorities caused the failure of Ecuador’s efforts to approve Snowden’s request for political asylum.
The Ecuadorian officials told AP that the government of Quito asked Moscow to allow Snowden to travel on a commercial flight to meet with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño in Vietnam or Singapore, where the minister was on an official tour. The proposal was not approved by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The Russians also opposed allowing Ecuador to send an airplane to pick up Snowden and take him from Moscow to Quito, AP stated.
In the end, the Snowden case seems to boil down to this: Rafael Correa’s government, which at first jubilantly announced that it would consider Snowden’s asylum, retreated after a phone call with the Vice President of the United States. Meanwhile, the consul in London was left holding sole responsibility for the safe-conduct that Snowden evidently received in Hong Kong, according to his own statement in a letter to Correa. The former NSA contractor remains in limbo, and now his case depends on the Russians’ potential interest in granting him political asylum.
The biggest loser in this operation turned out to be the person who until one week ago seemed to be in control of the case: Julian Assange. The Wikileaks founder not only failed to gain asylum for Snowden, but also complicated his relationship with the Ecuadorian government, a government that has protected him for a very long time, according to press reports.
In statements made this Monday, President Correa said that he was upset by Assange’s actions in the Snowden case, and reprimanded him by telling him: “Do not refer to situations pertaining to our country.”
In the end, it seems that Assange did not achieve Snowden’s political asylum in Ecuador and has complicated his.