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Jul-17-2013 10:49printcomments

Venezuela Raises Profile by Offering Edward Snowden Asylum

President Maduro has stated publicly that Venezuela will provide asylum to Mr Snowden for humanitarian reasons.

Venezuelan President Maduro
Venezuelan President Maduro photo:

(CARACAS World Review) - THE SPY novels of author John Le Carre are nothing compared with the antics involving former US National Security Agency worker Edward Snowden - who has been leaking secrets - and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Courtesy: Bolivia's President Evo
Morales has offered Edward Snowden
asylum in Latin America (photo: dpa)

Mr Snowden, 30, known as ‘the leaker’, divulged top secret work of the NSA in mass surveillance operations with the British government and in spying missions on European governments in a series of exposes in June 2013. He was charged with espionage and theft of government property by the US.

He has asked more than 20 countries to offer him political asylum so he can avoid prosecution in America as he remains in limbo in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport. He ended up at the airport as he was trying to flee extradition to America.

Mr Maduro, the chosen successor to Hugo Chavez (1999-2013), became president on April 19, 2013, and is about to reach the symbolic 100 days in power. He is grasping frantically for some measure of respect on the international stage.

President Maduro has stated publicly that Venezuela will provide asylum to Mr Snowden for humanitarian reasons.

Venezuela and Bolivia are the only two countries to make such an offer. Nicaragua is also considering the mass requests made by Mr Snowden.

President Maduro’s grand gesture is but one of his many efforts in June to make a mark in international affairs.

He attended a meeting of the world’s natural gas producers in Moscow, to reassert Venezuela’s role as the founding father of OPEC, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven reserves of petroleum.

But Venezuela’s distinction in the oil industry is imperilled by its government policies which have seen no investment, domestically or internationally, in its petroleum industry in the past five years.

Production by the national petroleum company, PDVSA, has been flat or trending slightly down for the past few years and exports have declined by more than 10 per cent in the past year.

President Maduro also raised his international profile by ordering the release from prison of Judge Lourdes Afiuni. She was arrested and thrown into jail by the courts in 2009, under political pressure from President Chavez, because she decided cases against the government.

These moves are intended to win public relations benefits on the international stage.

Venezuelan foreign minister, Elias Jaua, spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry to propose putting bilateral relations between the two countries back on a normal footing after years of anti-US rhetoric from President Chavez.

But what impact will the Edward Snowden asylum issue have on the new initiative at restoring US-Venezuelan relations and where does that leave President Maduro?

The most likely scenario is that he will continue to stumble and mumble his way to the end of his six-year term.

The opposition, led by Henrique Capriles, who lost the last presidential election, has little to offer unless it succeeds in winning several of the state and local elections between now and the end of President Maduro’s term in 2019.

The president’s ability to govern over the next few years will depend on two factors. The first is the support he gets from his Cuban friends and from the Venezuelan military. So long as both remain firm, he should be able to deal effectively with the two inside rivals for power, Diosdado Cabello, the head of the congress, and foreign minister Mr Jaua. The jockeying for power is constant and could get nasty.

The second is the government’s ability to convert the PDVSA windfall into economic and political gain.

If the price of oil falls it will have a huge impact on government spending. Review - July 9th 2013



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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.