If Snowden Takes Asylum In Venezuela, It Would Be A Staggering Act Of Hypocrisy

Edward Snowden

In a scathing speech over the weekend, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered of asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, joining Nicaragua on a list of countries ready to face the United States’ wrath.

We don’t know if Snowden will end up in Venezuela, but for the sake of his credibility, let’s hope not — it would be a staggeringly hypocritical move.

Former President Hugo Chavez, who ruled the country from 1999 until his death earlier this year, created the kind of big brother police state that most American’s will never have to endure.

For a taste of that, check out an article over at Boing Boing by Isabel Lara, a D.C. resident with duel U.S.-Venezuela citizenship. Lara describes how a 2009 phone call to her mother, Maruja Tarre, was broadcast on state television because her mother was a critic of the Chavez government. The phone call was aired under the title “Anger, Grief and Frustration in Opposition Provoked by Failure of Anti Chavez Demonstration.”

Lara’s experience isn’t unique. According to a Reuters report from last month, “opposition lawmakers, retired military officers, journalists, and even Capriles’ father have previously appeared in secret recordings aired by the government.”

“When my American friends heard about this they were shocked,” Lara writes for Boing Boing. “Isn’t it illegal to wiretap a private citizen’s phone in Venezuela? […] Of course it is, but the government does it and doesn’t even try to hide it. The recordings are made available on government websites.”

To some in Venezuela who have put up with such intrusions in privacy, the idea that Snowden might consider asylum in Venezuela is offensive. Here’s how Francisco Torro of the popular anti-Chavez blog Caracas Chronicles described it over the weekend:

This, Edward, is the Real Deal: a proper police state utterly beyond the reach of the law, determined to hang on to its own power whatever it takes, totally dismissive in the political rights of those who oppose it, and so utterly incapable of self-insight that its Foreign Minister was recently heard discussing your case and bragging about his own political spying operation in the same press conference! 

I can’t wait, Edward, for you to get here. Because nothing shines a light of the immense fatuousness of your Freedom Agenda-cum-#FirstWorldProblem like an evening spent watching VTV.

The article was accompanied by a series of angry tweets, including one that read “Snowden embodies the failure of first world intellectuals to grasp what a real police state loo[k]s like these days.”

It’s not clear if Snowden would accept Venezuela’s offer, and there may be issues with getting there even if he did. Given Snowden’s inability to move beyond the transit area at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo-2 airport, however, he may well considering walking into the arms of a government that goes totally against his uncompromising view on privacy.

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