By Sunday afternoon, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, said via his Twitter account that his government had received an asylum request from Snowden. Ecuador’s embassy in London is already hosting Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that published reams of classified U.S. documents.
WikiLeaks, which is also assisting Snowden, said in a brief statement that Snowden “is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purpose of asylum.” WikiLeaks said that once in Ecuador, Snowden’s request for political asylum would be processed.
The Ecuadoran government of President Rafael Correa, a populist who expelled the U.S. ambassador from Quito in 2011, did not confirm the WikiLeaks account. But his administration, which has sought a greater role for the small country on the international stage, has reveled in the attention it has received since Assange holed up in its London embassy.
“Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a year,” Patiño said in a Thursday tweet. “We will not faint in this fight for liberty.”
Analysts who closely follow the region said it would make sense for the former contractor to the National Security Agency to wind up in Venezuela or Ecuador. Both countries are led by self-styled leftist leaders who are publicly hostile to the Obama administration and position themselves to oppose U.S. policies in this region and beyond.
“Their foreign policy is based on being the anti-United States, and so this is consistent with that posture,” said Carl Meacham, director of the Americas program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They try, at every stop, to point out the problems they have with U.S. foreign policy.”
In Venezuela, the new president, Nicolás Maduro, a former foreign minister, has suggested that the United States had a hand in the death of Hugo Chávez, who led the country for 14 years and frequently accused Washington of hatching assassination plots against him. Chávez died in March after a long battle with cancer. Chávez, like Correa, expelled the U.S. ambassador from Venezuela.
“The different elite groups that represent the United States government and its imperial policies will have to recognize that in Venezuela there’s a revolution,” Maduro said earlier this month. “They will have to accept our system, as they had to with Vietnam and other countries.”
Ecuador’s relations with Washington have also been strained, with Correa frequently critical of American policies in Latin America and eager to form alliances with U.S. adversaries such as Iran. Still, Ecuador has an ambassador in Washington, and the United States last year appointed Adam E. Namm as ambassador in Quito.