Ecuador Decries US ‘Blackmail’ Over Snowden

Ecuador has pulled out of a trade pact with the United States, claiming it had become an instrument of  “blackmail” for Washington as Quito considers whistleblower Edward Snowden‘s asylum request.

Snowden, whose custody the U.S. is seeking on espionage charges after he leaked classified information on a widespread secret surveillance program, is believed to be currently hiding at the Moscow airport, where he arrived from Hong Kong on Sunday.

But despite voicing support for the former National Security Agency contractor, Ecuador is yet to consider his asylum application.

“Would he be allowed to arrive on Ecuadorean territory? This is something that, in principle, we haven’t considered,”  President Rafael Correa told a news conference on Thursday.

“We would probably examine it, but for now he is in Russia,” he said, adding that Ecuador’s ambassador to Russia met Snowden just once on Monday in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and that no further contact had been made.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose anti-secrecy website has assisted Snowden, said on Monday that Quito had given Snowden a “refugee document of passage” that would allow him to travel here.

“You request asylum when you are on a country’s territory. Snowden is not on Ecuadorean territory, so technically we cannot even process the asylum request,” Correa said.

The United States has revoked Snowden’s passport, after he revealed a widespread surveillance program in early June. The 30-year-old computer specialist has been staying in the transit area of the Moscow airport – which means he has not technically entered Russia, according to that country.

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