Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that he was prepared to grant former NSA contractor Edward Snowden asylum “so that he can live (without) … persecution from the empire,” the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, Reuters quoted the Venezuelan leader as saying he was extending the offer “in the name of America’s dignity.”
Obviously, Venezuela can grant asylum to anyone it chooses, just as the United States has granted asylum to hundreds of Venezuelans in recent years. But it seems to me that what Maduro is really after is less protecting Snowden from persecution and more trying to annoy the United States while invoking the fiery rhetoric of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
After all, it's interesting that Maduro chose to make the announcement on Venezuela's independence day, guaranteeing him lots of international headlines and providing yet another opportunity to remind Chavez's supporters that he remains loyal to the populist leader's ideals.
Moreover, it's the kind of tactic that Maduro has employed before. For example, Maduro chose to announce Chavez's death from an undisclosed form of cancer while simultaneously suggesting that the Venezuelan leader's illness was induced by enemies of the state, who may have poisoned the president, and vowed to investigate the cause of Chavez’s cancer. And since narrowly winning office in April, Maduro has accused the United States of plotting to kill him.
Whether Maduro follows through with his offer to grant Snowden refuge in Venezuela remains to be seen. Stay tuned.