Edward Snowden requested political asylum of 20 or more countries across the globe to avoid facing espionage charges in the United States. Though he is now seeking temporary asylum from Russia, where he has been stranded in the Moscow airport, only a few nations, all in Latin America, have been openly receptive to his pleas.
No one should be surprised that Washington’s Latin neighbors are displaying such sympathy for Snowden. The U.S. history of abuse and insult still weighs heavy across the region. Latin American nations cannot resist the impulse to bring discomfort to their northern neighbor — which has regularly intervened to prop up repressive military regimes or rig elections, even as it touted its own democratic principles. Washington used its power to exploit the wealth of many other countries, while championing free markets. Fortunately, most of this is now history.
But bitterness and mistrust have clearly not disappeared — in part because abuses and insults continue. Every Latin American nation chafes at Washington’s punitive, and counterproductive, Cuba policy. The U.S. immigration debate is deeply offensive to Mexicans and Central Americans, and reminds them of past offenses. Washington’s drug policies are another source of antagonism.
No, it should not be a surprise that the Western Hemisphere is now home to a cluster of hostile U.S. adversaries, and even capitals friendly to Washington are often sympathetic to their views.
To be sure, only three of the region’s 20 countries – Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua — said they would offer Snowden refuge (and one rather ambiguously). But several others voiced support for efforts to shield him from U.S. prosecution. Snowden, however, still might have been left without a single asylum offer, had Washington not pressed its European allies to close their airspace to Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane — and thereby force his grounding in Vienna. Morales, on his way home from a meeting in Moscow, was suspected of carrying Snowden to safety.