Despite rumors to the contrary, Edward Snowden has not been given documents allowing him to leave the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport . His attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, did meet with Snowden today ; but when he spoke to the press he said that Snowden is not yet allowed to leave the premises, as his application for asylum is still pending. Snowden has been in the transit zone of the airport since arriving there on June 23 in a flight from Hong Kong only to find out that the US had revoked his passport, and therefore he could not leave the airport.
Snowden is wanted by the US government for leaking to the media information on NSA surveillance programs. Since the information was leaked, several countries have questioned the US government about what surveillance it is conducting on foreign soil. In addition the US Congress is considering defunding the surveillance programs in question, although the White House, and the NSA have been lobbying to keep the surveillance going. The US has repeatedly asked Russia to turn Snowden over; however, Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the US, and FBI agents stationed at the US embassy have no authority to make arrests on Russian soil. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to turn Snowden over to the US, he also has expressed a desire for Snowden to leave Russia soon, and said that allowing Snowden would have to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” in order to stay in Russia.
The determination of whether Snowden’s application for temporary asylum will be approved could take several months. If granted, temporary asylum would allow him to stay in Russia for at least a year, as well as to travel abroad. It is unclear what Snowden’s plans are. He has been offered asylum by Bolivia, and Venezuela. Nicaragua’s government has said that they would give him asylum “if circumstances permit.” Snowden’s Russian lawyer has stated that for now Snowden plans to settle in Russia.
If Snowden did decide to travel to Latin America, he would have to avoid any countries that honor US arrest warrants, which have been issued to countries he might travel through. The difficulty of making the trip was underscored by an incident earlier this month in which it was rumored that Snowden was aboard the presidential plane of Evo Morales, of Bolivia, and the plane was denied permission to land in several European countries. This caused outrage throughout Latin America, as well as strained trade relations between the US and Bolivia.
By Milton Ruiz