Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, Bolivian President Evo Morales
The president of Bolivia joined a group of South American countries that have indicated they would offer asylum to fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is believed to be hiding inside the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport as the United States continues efforts to have him extradited.
Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said Friday they would grant safe haven to the former National Security Agency contractor.
Evo Morales of Bolivia made his offer Saturday, three days after a plane carrying the leftist leader over Europe was rerouted amid reports that Snowden was aboard, setting off a diplomatic storm that heightened tensions between the U.S. and the South American nation.
Venezuela "decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden" so he can live without "persecution from the empire," Maduro said, referring to the United States. He extended the invitation to Snowden during a speech Friday commemorating the anniversary of Venezuela's independence, according to the Associated Press.
Nicaragua has "the sovereign right to help a person who felt remorse after finding out how the United States was using technology to spy on the whole world, and especially its European allies," Ortega said Friday, according to Reuters.
Snowden has pursued asylum in over two dozen nations, according to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which has said via posts on Twitter that it has been in contact with Snowden throughout his transcontinental sojourn.
It was not immediately clear Saturday how Snowden could travel to South America.
U.S. officials revoked Snowden's passport in June, essentially stranding him in Moscow. Russian leaders reportedly withdrew Snowden's request for asylum there.
Meanwhile, the British newspaper The Guardian published Saturday what it said is a copy of an advance extradition request the U.S. sent to Venezuela. NBC News could not independently confirm the veracity of the request.
The seven-page request, dated July 3, charges that Snowden "unlawfully released classified information and documents to international media outlets," including The Guardian and The Washington Post.
"The United States seeks Snowden's provisional arrest should Snowden seek travel to or transit through Venezuela," the request states. "Snowden is a flight risk because of the substantial charges he is facing and his current and active attempts to remain a fugitive."
The request states that Snowden is charged with unauthorized disclosure of national defense information, unauthorized disclosure of classified communication intelligence, and theft of government property, adding that each offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
It calls on Venezuela to arrest and detain Snowden and seize all items in his possession should he arrive in the South American country. Included at the close of the request are two passport numbers -- one revoked, one "previously reported as lost or stolen" -- as well as two photographs of Snowden taken on unknown dates.
Venezuela is among 109 countries that have a bilateral extradition treaty with the U.S., according to the State Department. The treaty was signed in January 1922 and entered into force in April 1923.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published July 6 2013, 10:00 AM