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Raul Castro backs asylum offers for Snowden

Raul Castro backs asylum offers for Snowden

Havana: Raul Castro stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Latin American countries that have expressed a willingness to take in NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but made no apparent reference to whether Cuba would be willing to offer him refuge or safe passage.

Venezuela and Bolivia both made asylum offers to Snowden over the weekend, and Nicaragua has said it is also considering his request.

“We support the sovereign right of .... Venezuela and all states in the region to grant asylum to those persecuted for their ideals or their struggles for democratic rights,” Mr. Castro said on Sunday in a speech to Cuba’s national assembly, according to state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

The foreign media was not given access to the session.

Mr. Snowden has been out of sight in the transit area of Moscow’s main airport since he suddenly appeared there on a plane from Hong Kong two weeks ago.

His simplest route to Latin America would be on one of five direct flights that Russian carrier Aeroflot operates to Havana each week. However those flights normally pass through US airspace, raising the possibility it could be grounded.

It is also not clear, despite Mr. Castro’s speech, whether Cuba wants to risk torpedoing mildly improved relations with the United States by letting Mr. Snowden transit through the island.

Mr. Snowden had been booked on an Aeroflot flight two weeks ago, but did not board the plane.

Mr. Castro also voiced support for Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose presidential plane was diverted to Austria recently after taking off from Moscow.

Mr. Morales has accused the United States of pressuring European governments to deny his plane permission to enter their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden might have been onboard.

Mr. Castro said on Sunday the case “shows that we live in a world in which the powerful think they can violate international law, endanger the sovereignty of states and trample the rights of citizens.”

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