Venezuelan President Visiting Russia Could Take Snowden With Him

July 2, 2013
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro/Reuters/Enrique De La Osa

The new Venezuelan President is on his first visit to Europe. The most important stop of that trip is Moscow, where on July 1-2 he will, among other things, might try to be part of the developments around Edward Snowden, a former NSA agent, who is now somewhere in the Russian capital.

The Venezuelan leader arrival had been scheduled long before Edward Snowden leaked what he knew and arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong. But the other day Nicolas Maduro, who decided to copy that flamboyant style of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, made a statement in which he made it clear that Venezuela is ready to accept Mr. Snowden.

“The issue of granting political asylum to Edward Snowden by Venezuela will be discussed during a meeting of the two presidents. However the final decision on a possibility to grant Mr. Snowden political asylum and on a mode of transportation whereby he would be able to leave for Caracas will be taken by Nicolas Maduro,” that’s how a source in the Russian Presidential Administration described the situation.

So far the main destination for Snowden’s “evacuation” has been Ecuador, via Cuba. The ex CIA agent booked a flight from Hong Kong to Havana via Moscow. Reporters spotted an Ecuadorean Embassy vehicle at Sheremetevo airport. However a hasty departure didn’t happen. The Ecuadorean side started to backtrack.

Suddenly Ecuador became very cautious. The authorities announced that Snowden’s request for political asylum would be handled according to the established procedures, which could take a couple of months. Even Julian Assange who is protected by Ecuador, is at their embassy in London, not in South America.

That’s why Venezuela is the most likely if not the only option for Snowden, argues Mikhail Belyat, an expert on Latin America.

Foreign dignitaries visiting Russian land mostly at Vnukovo airport. But there are exceptions. Even the Russian President’s “Air Force One” would sometimes take off from Sheremetevo, especially leaving for Africa of South America. The runway at Sheremetevo is longer which allows for easier takeoff for jets heavily loaded with fuel for traveling non-stop at long distances. That’s why experts don’t rule out that Mr. Maduro will be leaving from Sheremetevo and will take Snowden with him.

“Of course, there is a certain protocol, but the Venezuelan leader, just like his predecessor, is known for his extravagant behavior and actions, including when it comes to foreign policy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Maduro takes Snowden with him,” says Mikhail Belyat.

Indeed, even on overseas visits the late Hugo Chavez would make sudden changes to his itinerary. Once visiting Moscow the Comandante suddenly wanted to see the “Battle of Stalingrad” Memorial and the very next morning was off to Volgograd to his host’s surprise.

The Embassy of Venezuela informed “Izvestia” that during his visit President Maduro will meet with Vladimir Putin, participate in the summit of gas exporters, attend horse races and take part in an official ceremony of naming one of the Russian capital’s streets after Hugo Chavez. The Embassy flatly refused to comment on whether the two leaders might discuss the situation around Snowden.