domingo, 7 de julio de 2013

Interview to El Universal VE: Maduro seeks to consolidate leadership with asylum offer to Snowden

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's offer of asylum to former US intelligence agent Edward Snowden should not lead to retaliation from the US, but it is likely to delay the restoration of bilateral relations, analysts pointed out, adding that Maduro's proposal will bring political gains nationally and internationally.

Legally, Venezuela is entitled to grant asylum to Snowden. The controversy around the move is rather political, said Pedro Nikken, former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The expert added that "the Venezuelan Government may shelter him, in a very controversial move, because there are common crimes (brought against him), that are closely related to political issues. I do not think the issue is legal, but it is a matter of politics and principles."

Nikken also rejected the fact that Venezuela offered to grant asylum to Snowden, who revealed a spy network of the US Government, "while in Venezuela the government spies on everybody."

"The fundamental political issue is that Snowden has become an uncomfortable case, because he represents the US is a State exerting pressure, with intelligence networks, spying, and delving into the life and behavior of its citizens and the allied countries. Within the framework of the US democratic discourse, that is very uncomfortable," said expert in political sciences and international security researcher Víctor Mijares.

Mijares rules any US retaliation against Venezuela for offering asylum to the former spy. "I doubt that, taking into account (Barack) Obama's policy, there will be reprisals against Venezuela. He (Obama) does not want to retaliate, especially not against Latin American States. He tries not to resemble his predecessor (George W. Bush) and introduces himself within the framework of a good neighbor policy," Mijares noted.

However, Mijares conceded that the case could actually slow down the efforts to bring Caracas-Washington relations back to normal, "but we have to wait and see how important the case continues to be for the United States."

Internationalist Giovanna De Michele highlighted the domestic impact of Maduro's asylum offer. "Maduro is criticized because he does not look strong. When he spoke of an improved relationship with the US, Chavismo disliked the move," she said.

She pointed out that it is convenient for the Venezuelan government to give asylum to Snowden "because it gives the government a Hugo Chávez-style image of strength, autonomy, irreverence against the status quo. That will yield political dividends, both in and out of Venezuela."

In the event that Snowden decided to come to Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia, identification documents should be issued for the former agent to leave Sheremetyevo Airport, in Moscow.

Once his identity documents have been issued, the government granting asylum would send a plane to Moscow, possibly a military aircraft, to move the US citizen. Then, a flight path has to be established and the overflight of the relevant nations has to be authorized previously, lawyers explained.

Snowden's departure would give some respite to Russia; otherwise, this case would harm Moscow's relations with Washington. Further, the G20 Summit would be tarnished by the absence of Barack Obama, who would not attend the meeting if the former agent stays in Russia.