Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told the Associated Press Sunday that helping leaker Edward Snowden secure passage from Hong Kong was a mistake.
Correa said that the Ecuadorian consul in London made a “serious error” when he issued a letter of safe passage to Snowden, allowing him to leave Hong Kong for Russia even though his American passport had been annulled by the U.S. government. The consul did not consult with the Ecuadorean government before issuing the document.
Correa said that Snowden’s fate is solely in the hands of Russia, Snowden’s temporary home while he’s stuck in legal limbo in the Moscow airport.
“This is the decision of Russian authorities. He doesn’t have a passport. I don’t know the Russian laws, I don’t know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can’t. At this moment he’s under the care of the Russian authorities. If he arrives at an Ecuadorean Embassy we’ll analyze his request for asylum.”
Snowden has petitioned nearly two dozen countries for asylum, including Ecuador, which has housed Wikileaks head Julian Assange in its London embassy for over a year. Correa stated that Snowden’s petition could not be legally considered until he presented it at an Ecuadorian embassy or in Ecuador itself. Correa asserted that his government would not help Snowden reach Ecuadorean territory to present his application.
“The right of asylum request is one thing but helping someone travel from one country to another — Ecuador has never done this,” Correa told The Guardian.
Correa’s firm rhetoric has tempered expectations held by many observers that his government would eventually grant Snowden asylum, given the country’s relationship with Assange. The surprising turn came after Correa spoke to Vice President Joe Biden by phone Friday. “I told him that we would analyze his opinion, which is very important to us,” Correa said.
Snowden has been stranded in the Moscow airport since he arrived June 23 on a flight from Hong Kong. The Kremlin has flirted with the possibility of granting him asylum, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that could only happen if Snowden agreed to stop leaking classified information.