In his speech, he praised Snowden, asking, “Who violated international law?
“Ask ourselves: Is it a young person who rebelled and said the truth about United States espionage toward the world, or a government like the one from the United States?”
In his speech Friday and in previous comments, Maduro has characterized Snowden as a hero who has opened the door to U.S. war plans. Maduro has not explained the reference, but on Friday, he added that the “United States has launched bombs and armed the terrorist opposition in Syria against the people of Syria and against the legitimate president, Bashar al-Assad.”
“Who is the terrorist?” Maduro asked. “Who is the world criminal?”
Maduro’s comments have played well in some countries in Latin America, where there is indignation that Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane was apparently not allowed to cross the airspace of some European countries Tuesday because of the belief that Snowden was hiding aboard.
Morales, Maduro and several other leaders said the United States was responsible, a claim American officials neither admitted nor denied.
The scrape led to an emergency meeting of the Unasur group of nations Tuesday in Bolivia in which Morales and the leaders of Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay issued strongly worded statements against the United States and European countries accused of having blocked the flight path of Morales’s plane.
The only obvious route to Venezuela by commercial flight that would avoid a country friendly to the United States is by Aeroflot though Havana. Flights leave Moscow for Cuba Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. But that flight would have to pass over Europe, and after France, Spain and Italy denied overflight rights to Bolivia’s presidential plane earlier in the week, it is not clear whether there could be interference with an Aeroflot flight if it was known that Snowden was aboard.
Russian authorities have said that Snowden must have proper travel documents in order to board a flight, which he has lacked ever since his American passport was revoked. But they have also said, in public at least, that they are eager to see him go.
On Friday, another country close to Venezuela and hostile to the Obama administration, Nicaragua, said it was willing to offer asylum to Snowden “if circumstances allow it,” as President Daniel Ortega put it.
But Venezuela, which has ample oil-fueled coffers and a deep antipathy toward Washington, has been most forceful in praising Snowden’s actions.
Indeed, on Tuesday in Moscow, where he was attending an energy conference, Maduro spoke frequently about Snowden, saying his revelations showed how “the imperialist elite of the United States want to control the world, that they spy on friends and foes, that they spy on the whole world.”
While he was in Moscow, Maduro attended a ceremony renaming a street after Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan president. Igor Sechin, who as the head of the state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft and one of the most powerful men in the Kremlin’s inner circle had gone to Caracas as President Vladimir Putin’s representative at Chavez’s funeral, made an emotional appearance at the renaming.
Forero reported from Bogota, Colombia; Englund reported from Moscow.