Venezuela Divided Over Snowden Asylum Request

PHOTO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Edward Snowden has reportedly been holed up in a Moscow airport since June 23rd. The former CIA analyst who is on the run from U.S. authorities submitted asylum requests to at least 27 nations though only three have expressed interest in granting him protections: Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

As of Tuesday, Snowden had not formally accepted any offers, but all eyes were on Venezuela after a prominent Russian official mistakenly tweeted that he had accepted Venezuela’s asylum request.

Snowden-related news is currently the top story across Venezuela’s leading national newspapers. The country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, has continued to speak publicly about the issue since last week, when the Bolivian president’s plane was grounded after U.S. officials suspected Snowden was aboard that aircraft.

"Several countries in Latin America decided--for dignity and as a clear message to imperialism--that we are not afraid, that the children of Bolivar do not fear the empire, to grant political asylum to the young man Edward Snowden," Maduro said in a public speech on Tuesday.

Maduro had tough words when he addressed the incident in which the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from Russia was redirected and grounded in Austria. Maduro said the action endangered the life of the Bolivian president.

“We asked ourselves: What could have happened as a consequence of this abusive and racist behavior on the part of the European governments?” Madura said. “Would we now be mourning Evo Morales’ death?”

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost a bid for president to Maduro, accused him of showing more interest in Snowden's asylum request than important issues facing Venezuelans.

“I would like to know if Maduro stopped to think about the consequences this conflict can bring to our people,” Capriles said in his weekly television program, according to the Spanish publication “What if the United States decided not to buy more oil? They are so irresponsible to further endanger the economic situation."

A new Pew Research Center poll showed that Venezuelans want to avoid worsening ties with the United States. The poll found 44 percent of Venezuelans prefer to have a closer relationship with their northern neighbor than existed during the presidency of Hugo Chavez.