Revelations of extensive NSA spying on several Latin American countries have further weakened U.S. relations with neighbors south of the border. Colombia, Mexico and Argentina are demanding answers, Peruvian president Ollanta Humala condemned the spying, and the Brazilian Senate has called on U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon to testify about the U.S. surveillance of millions of Brazilian citizens.
As we have noted, an Organization of American States resolution passed on Tuesday – with the U.S. and Canada dissenting – further demonstrates Washington’s current political isolation in the hemisphere. The resolution expressed “solidarity” with Bolivia and its president, Evo Morales and “firmly call[s] on the Governments of France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain to provide the necessary explanations of the events that took place” related to President Morales’ plane being denied airspace and forced to land in Austria, whereupon it was searched, apparently due to bad U.S. intelligence that Edward Snowden was on board. (CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot touches on theories of a “dry run”/rehearsal response to Snowden leaving Russia here.)
The targeting of President Morales’ plane is all the more egregious considering the U.S. government’s ongoing refusal to extradite Bolivia’s former president Gonzalo (“Goni”) Sánchez de Lozada for serious human rights crimes related to the shooting of protesters in 2003. Goni lives comfortably just outside Washington, D.C. in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and as a member emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue is close to Washington foreign policy circles. The worst allegations that pundits have leveled at Snowden are that his leaks could endanger Americans – allegations for which there is no evidence. The case against Goni, however, is serious: he is believed to be responsible for ordering the military to attack protesters, resulting in the shooting deaths of over 67 and injury to over 400.
This weekend, Bolivia offered political asylum to Snowden, joined by Venezuela and Nicaragua. The Obama administration, which has had already rocky relationships with these governments, warned that "We've made very clear that [Snowden] has been charged with a felony or with felonies and, as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than travel that would result in him returning to the United States." But again, the U.S. is in no position to complain about Venezuela offering asylum to a whistle-blower. The U.S. continues to shelter Luis Posada Carriles, a convicted (and admitted) murderer and terrorist believed by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to be responsible for blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 people, including the entire Cuban fencing team. Posada surfaced in the U.S. in 2005; he was tried on immigration charges several years later, but was acquitted and has been allowed to stay in the U.S. since. Posada Carriles escaped from a Venezuelan prison in 1985, after which “he worked covertly for the United States government again,” as the New York Times reported. This covert activity included involvement with U.S.-backed contra death squads in Nicaragua, and Nicaragua is also interested in seeing Posada Carriles held accountable for those crimes.
Ecuador’s government – who, contrary to media reports, has not yet decided on whether or not it would offer Snowden asylum, also seeks to get fugitives who are living in the U.S. – a fact that President Correa says he reminded Vice President Biden of when the two talked at the end of June. According to The Guardian:
Correa, in a weekly television address, praised Biden for being more courteous than US senators who have threatened economic penalties if Ecuador doesn't cooperate.
At the same time, Correa rebuked the Obama administration for hypocrisy, invoking the case of two bankers, brothers Roberto and William Isaias, whom Ecuador is seeking to extradite from the US.
"Let's be consistent," Correa said. "Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here."
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño described the Isaias brothers as “corrupt bankers [who] caused a very grave financial crisis” in an interview with Democracy Now Tuesday. Ecuador wants to hold responsible bankers who caused a financial crash and cost Ecuadorean taxpayers over $8 billion. The Isaias brothers made the right choice, apparently, in seeking refuge in the U.S.
ABC’s Dana Hughes asked State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki about what some see as a double-standard during a recent State Department press briefing:
…how in general does the United States respond to human rights activists or other leaders who say that the case of Snowden asking for political asylum is really no different than anyone else that’s asking for political asylum who feels that they’ve been charged in their home country with crimes that are politically motivated?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would caution against making a sweeping statement. There are different circumstances. As you know, the U.S., just as other countries, considers requests. I would point you to other countries for their consideration. And we don’t even typically get into specific requests and talking about them from here.
Indeed there are different circumstances; the crimes for which fugitives such as Posada Carriles and Goni are wanted are very serious. Edward Snowden, on the other hand, has revealed unconstitutional wrongdoing that abuses the rights of millions of people around the world, and is seen by most people in Latin America and – according to a new poll, most people in the U.S. -- as a whistle-blower who has made important revelations about U.S. surveillance overreach.