If all he wants is a conversation, he could have had one without slouching to Latin America, where speech is free only at the whim of power. For a man with an agenda, Snowden has no follow-up plan, and this makes him vulnerable to the unsavory politics and hot air south of the border. President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, the first leader to extend his hand to Snowden, is a charisma-challenged Hugo Chavez wannabe, and he would like an American fugitive to underline his carping at the United States.
Bolivia extended a hand more out of pique with Washington than sympathy for Snowden. President Evo Morales was humiligringoated when his presidential jet, rumored to have Snowden aboard, was forced to land in Austria when no European country would allow him flyover permission. But avenging a humiliation isn't worth jeopardizing the $2.4 billion trade it has with the United States.
Nicaragua, like Venezuela, relishes sniping at the United States for its "imperialism," but enjoys preferences in trade valued at nearly $4 billion. Brazil and Argentina use the Snowden saga for their own anti-American purposes. Latin Americans have always complained about the heavy tread of the gringos. "So far from God, so close to the United States."
The Europeans, perhaps because they can watch the Snowden saga from the sidelines, can afford to be bemused if they're careful about it. French President Francois Hollande, whose popularity is in the pits, enjoyed the cheap diversion of denouncing America's surveillance. German protesters illuminated the American embassy with projected graffiti that read, "United Stasi of America," recalling the iniquitous Cold War security machine in East Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, reminded everyone that the United States supplied "significant information" to protect Germany from terrorist attacks.
Snowden insists he doesn't want to live in a surveillance state. But no matter how he eventually leaves Russia, whether by stilts, mail, jet, Bumble Boat, or cow (apologies to Dr. Seuss), he's not likely to get his wish. What he is likely to get is a long and uncomfortable time in an alien place to reflect on his deeds.
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