Snowden's choice: Pick his asylum destination

Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered Snowden a home. Where should a young hacker start afresh?

Published July 8, 2013 4:12PM (EDT)

Edward Snowden's layover from hell in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport could be coming to an end. Russia appears to be wearying of its fugitive guest and the Guardian reports that three nations, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia, have offered him asylum. Which Latin American nation is the best destination for the young hacker.

Once Snowden decides where to live, he'll have to figure out a way to get there. Last week, Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane was grounded in Austria to see if Snowden was aboard. The possibility of capturing Snowden on his journey all but eliminates his ability to fly commercial to Latin America. He'll probably need a private plane, and a lot of gas.

Let's compare his choices:


Freedom House freedom score: 5, partly free. (To put these in context, Finland gets a 1 while North Korea receives 7.)

Connectivity: 40 percent of the population has Internet access

Things to do: Pay homage to another liberator at the birthplace of Simón Bolívar in Caracas.

Flip-off factor: High. The U.S. and Venezuela have testy relations. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez kicked out the American ambassador in 2010 and the U.S. responded in kind.  After Chavez died earlier this year, current Venezualan President Nicolas Maduro kicked out two American diplomats for "attempting to destabilise the country."


Freedom House freedom score: Bolivia scores a slightly better 3, though this instance of a journalist being set on fire might give Snowden pause.

Connectivity: 30 percent of the population has Internet access

Things to do: Start a business. Bolivia has the world's largest supply of lithium, a metal that's a crucial component of smartphones, electric cars and other high-tech machinery. Before it can cash in, the landlocked country faces numerous technical problems including processing and transporting the material. It needs foreign technology to process the metal.

Flip-off factor: High. Relations have never been warm between the U.S. and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who heads the country's Movement for Socialism party. The U.S. hasn't had an ambassador in Bolivia since the last one was expelled in 2008. Last week, after Morales' plane was intentionally grounded, he threatened to shutter the U.S. embassy in Bolivia.  "Without the U.S., we are better politically, democratically," Morales said.


Freedom House freedom score: Partly free, 4.5. Daniel Ortega (remember him?) and his Sandinista party have "near complete dominance over most of the country’s institutions."

Connectivity: 10.6 percent of the population has Internet access

Things to do: Relax at Playa Pie de Gigante. Lonely Planet calls it a "glorious white crescent of sand snuggled into the wildly forested mountains." It's known for lobster, rum and surfing, perfect for someone used to living in Hawaii.

Flip-off factor: Low. That thing with the Contras happened during the Reagan administration.


By Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Asylum Bolivia Edward Snowden Nicaragua Russia Venezuela