Havana backs Snowden asylum offers from allies

FRIEND OR FOE::Brazil expressed concern over a report that the US has collected data on billions of telephone and e-mail conversations in the nation


Tue, Jul 09, 2013 - Page 7

Cuban President Raul Castro threw his support behind other leftist Latin American governments willing to give asylum to US National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden, calling him a man persecuted for his ideals.

However, Castro made no reference as to whether Cuba itself would offer him refuge or safe passage, a key issue since Snowden’s simplest route to Latin America might be one of five direct flights that Russian carrier Aeroflot operates to Havana each week. From there Snowden could fly to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua, all possible destinations for him.

It is not clear whether, despite Castro’s speech on Sunday, the country wants to risk torpedoing mildly improved relations with the US by letting Snowden transit through the island.

“We support the sovereign right of .... Venezuela and all states in the region to grant asylum to those persecuted for their ideals or their struggles for democratic rights,” he said in the address to Cuba’s national assembly.

The 82-year-old Cuban leader said his country was aware of the kind of secretive NSA programs Snowden revealed. He said that as a longtime enemy of Washington, the Caribbean nation has been “one of the most harassed and spied-upon nations on the planet.”

Castro also brought up the case of Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro militant wanted in both Venezuela and Cuba for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane that killed 73. Posada Carriles has been living in the US since 2005. Multiple legal efforts to deport him have failed.

Snowden has been out of sight in the transit area of Moscow’s main airport since he suddenly appeared there on a plane from Hong Kong two weeks ago.

Over the weekend, both Venezuela and Bolivia made asylum offers to Snowden, and Nicaragua has said it is also considering his request.

The case continued to have ramifications across Latin America, as Brazil on Sunday said it was worried by a report that the US has collected data on billions of telephone and e-mail conversations in the country.

The O Globo newspaper reported that information released by Snowden shows that the number of telephone and e-mail messages logged by the NSA in Brazil in January alone was not far behind the 2.3 billion reportedly collected in the US.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, speaking from the city of Paraty where he was attending Brazil’s top literary festival, expressed “deep concern at the report that electronic and telephone communications of Brazilian citizens are being the object of espionage by organs of American intelligence.

“The Brazilian government has asked for clarifications” through the US embassy in Brazil and Brazil’s embassy in Washington, he said.

Patriota also said Brazil would ask the UN for measures “to impede abuses and protect the privacy” of Internet users, laying down rules for governments “to guarantee cybernetic security that protects the rights of citizens and preserves the sovereignty of all countries.”