Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his government has received an asylum application from US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and the fugitive must now decide if he wants to fly to Caracas.
We have received the asylum request letter, Maduro said on Monday from the presidential palace. He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here.
Over the weekend, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia all offered political asylum to Snowden, who has spent more than two weeks stranded at Moscow's international airport while waiting for a country to give him sanctuary.
We told this young man, 'you are being persecuted by the empire, come here,' Maduro said Monday, referring to the United States.
Snowden apparently applied to 21 countries for asylum, but most of them have since declined to accept his request.
Asked if there had been additional communication from Snowden, such as a telephone call, the president replied in the negative. Not yet, but I would like to [speak with him], he said.
Maduro recalled that alongside Venezuela, other Latin American nations, such as Nicaragua and Bolivia, had made known their desire to welcome the computer expert. It would be a political, collective, humanitarian asylum, he commented.
The president's words come hours after the United States once more warned that diplomatic links would be strained with any country who gave Snowden refuge.
Any country that grants Snowden asylum would be creating serious difficulties in our bilateral relationships,” said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the State Department in Washington.