When Edward Snowden chose Hong Kong as the place to reveal his identity, it confused some observers. After all, the Guardian source who prompted a scandal over the National Security Administration’s surveillance tactics was in a territory that has had an extradition treaty with the United States since 1998. Hong Kong has sent dozens of Americans back to the United States, according to Reuters.
Latin America, Snowden appears to have concluded, makes more sense.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that Snowden is still in Russia though his whereabouts have yet to be confirmed. WikiLeaks says it is helping Snowden seek political asylum in Ecuador. Several news outlets reported that Snowden was headed to the Andean country, from Moscow via Havana, but journalists got stuck next to an empty seat when they boarded the plane. Others posited Venezuela as another option.
There’s several reasons why left-leaning Latin American countries might take an interest in giving Snowden a new home. While the United States and Latin America tend to get along these days, the North American colossus has had a rocky relationship with its southern neighbors.
The United States invaded several Latin American countries throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whether over unpaid debts, to colonize an island or to start a new naval base/future torture prison. The onset of the Cold War only strained the relationship further, with the U.S. government helping to overthrow a series of democratically elected governments from Guatemala to Argentina.
With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government pressed the newly re-democratized region to accept a spate of painful economic reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund. Those reforms slashed social spending and privatized state-owned companies across the Americas, leading to more resentment.
“The fact that Latin America has become the favored refuge for a United States citizen accused of treason and espionage is an eye-popping reminder of how fully the continent has emerged from Washington's shadow,” Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times reporter and author of “Bitter Fruit: The Story fo the American Coup in Guatemala,” writes for The Guardian.
The places that Snowden is reportedly considering traveling to or through -- Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba -- are all governed by leftists that routinely criticize U.S. foreign policy as imperialist.
Check out 13 reasons why Snowden might be looking toward Latin America for refuge in the slideshow above.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin statement concerning Edward Snowden's whereabouts.