Edward Snowden was supposedly one step closer to taking refuge in Venezuela on Wednesday and ending his state of limbo in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, but hours later confusion reined.
It all started with senior Russian politician Aleksey Pushkov saying that Edward Snowden had reportedly accepted an offer of asylum from Venezuela.
Pushkov, the chair of Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, was than contradicted by Wikileaks claiming Snowden had not yet come to a decision on the matter.
The report and denial ignited a flurry of intrigue and speculation on social media networks.
With Caracas’ support for the American fugitive, it amounts to a “public relations” campaign designed to antagonise Washington further, dragging relations to a new low, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ Alejandro Sanchez.
“[Maduro is attempting to show he is] the true heir of Chavez, and he is not afraid of Washington’s potential wrath for accepting Snowden,” he said.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro could play up to anti-US rhetoric and wheel out the whistleblower as a trophy prize – not wanting to miss an opportune photo opportunity with Snowden.
Overall, Venezuela has nothing to gain and a lot to lose in providing a place of sanctuary for NSA leaker Edward Snowden, according to the US-based Latin American expert.
“If Venezuela’s economy continues to take a turn for the worse and Maduro is forced to revisit his relationship with the US, in order to re-structure his country’s debt with the international community and commercial relations, Washington could then demand for Snowden to be extradited back to the US as part of the negotiations to improve bilateral relations.”
Currently, America is Venezuela’s biggest consumer of oil exports. Sanchez explained that oil is “the cornerstone of exports and the economy” a whole. At risk is 900,000 barrels of crude exported to the States every day. Any oil-based sanctions could precipitate a worsening economic outlook, giving leverage to Washington to issue a wish list.
In the face of a showdown with Washington, it opens the door for renegotiation, and high on the list will be repatriating US citizen Timothy Hallet, arrested and accused of being a spy.
“The 'earnings' from giving Snowden asylum are mostly symbolic,” Sanchez said, referring to the drawbacks from being seen as a protector of last resort to Snowden.