Latin America's Offer to Edward Snowden is Revolutionary — Here's Why

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro committed a revolutionary act when he offered asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the words of one British novelist speak volumes about its global impact.

George Orwell, the writer best known for penning the renowned dystopian novel 1984, made an ominous declaration before his death that reveals the frightening reality of government-sponsored surveillance and deception.

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” he said.

While Orwell made no mention of a particular government's deceit, his words are pertinent to recent revelations of national and international surveillance conducted by the most powerful republic in the world. 

American federal prosecutors are on the hunt for National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden for disclosing facts about top-secret mass surveillance programs around the world. From leaking information about internet reconnaissance in the United States to revealing telephone tapping programs in Europe, Snowden released information about the NSA that has left him branded as a criminal and an advocate of treason in the minds of millions of Americans. 

As a result, Snowden is pursuing asylum in a region of the world that has long served as a battleground for international political ideologies — Latin America. The governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua have offered Snowden asylum in their countries, and the governments of Ecuador and Cuba have openly supported Snowden’s campaign to expose surveillance programs instituted by the United States.

American prosecutors are now pulling an iron curtain across Latin America, effectively dividing the region into two camps: one side brazenly welcoming Snowden with open arms, and another hoping to avoid the political and economic sanctions imposed by the United States. Consequently, many corporate media outlets have portrayed the Latin American countries that have publicly backed Snowden (all of which are governed by socialist administrations) as accomplices to a crime. The same countries have also received castigation from ultra-nationalists and conservatives.

It doesn't stop at talk. Bolivian President Evo Morales was rerouted to Vienna on a flight from Moscow last week because American and European officials believed Snowden was on the plane. Organization of American States officials later realized that the whistleblower was not on the flight. And President Rafael Correa of Ecuador recently received a calm but firm phone call from Joe Biden, in which the American vice president asked the South American nation to comply with Washington’s requests, or face the threat of economic and political sanctions.

For many who advocate for the exposure of truth, the Latin American countries that have defied the White House’s orders are seen as courageous, their unbridled support for Snowden a revolutionary act.

Although Orwell’s thoughts on universal deceit and surveillance were expressed during the rise of fascism and Stalinism in the 20th century, his ideas can certainly be applied to the case of Snowden and Latin America today. In our current epoch of universal deceit initiated by the NSA and American prosecutors, the act of Latin American solidarity with Snowden is absolutely revolutionary.

While some countries that have served as key military allies and trading partners of the United States (like Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, and Honduras) have merely asked for further probing into allegations of international espionage, the cohort of leftist Latin American countries remains staunch in its public backing of Snowden’s asylum.

Snowden is currently in Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin offered him temporary respite. He is expected to accept the asylum in Venezuela that was offered last week by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela (who succeeded former President Hugo Chávez after the latter's death in March). "Latin America is telling this young man that you are being persecuted by the empire; come here," Maduro said. The revolution has begun.

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Ramiro S. Fúnez

Ramiro is a Honduran-American political journalist, activist and foreign policy analyst earning his Master's degree in Politics at New York University. He graduated from St. John's University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. Some of his previous political journalism experience includes work produced for the World Policy Institute, Americas Quarterly, North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), NY1 News, New York Daily News, El Diario La Prensa, Queens Chronicle, Queens Courier, Queens Tribune and several other media. Ramiro was born and raised in New York City and enjoys writing about and analyzing international politics and foreign affairs.

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