Cuba's Raul Castro backs asylum offers for Snowden


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HAVANA (AP) - Raul Castro stood shoulder-to-shoulder Sunday with Latin American countries willing to take in NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but made no reference to whether Cuba itself would offer him refuge or safe passage.

Venezuela and Bolivia both made asylum offers to Snowden over the weekend, and Nicaragua has said it is also considering his request.

"We support the sovereign right of .... Venezuela and all states in the region to grant asylum to those persecuted for their ideals or their struggles for democratic rights," Castro said in a speech to Cuba's national assembly.

The foreign media was not given access to the session, but the speech was broadcast on state-run television several hours after it took place.

Snowden has been out of sight in the transit area of Moscow's main airport since he suddenly appeared there on a plane from Hong Kong two weeks ago.

His simplest route to Latin America would be on one of five direct flights that Russian carrier Aeroflot operates to Havana each week. However those flights normally pass through U.S. airspace, raising the possibility they could be intercepted.

It is also not clear, despite Castro's speech, whether Cuba wants to risk torpedoing mildly improved relations with the United States by letting Snowden transit through the island.

Snowden had been booked on an Aeroflot flight two weeks ago, but did not board the plane.

Castro also voiced support for Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose presidential plane was diverted to Austria recently after taking off from Moscow.

Morales has accused the United States of pressuring European governments to deny his plane permission to enter their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden might have been onboard.

Castro said the case "shows that we live in a world in which the powerful think they can violate international law, endanger the sovereignty of states and trample the rights of citizens."

In his speech, the 82-year-old Cuban leader said his country was aware of the kind of secretive NSA programs Snowden revealed. He said that as a longtime enemy of Washington, the Caribbean nation has been "one of the most harassed and spied-upon nations on the planet."

The Cuban leader also brought up the case of Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-Castro militant wanted in both Venezuela and Cuba for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane that killed 73.

Posada Carriles has been living in the United States since 2005. Multiple legal efforts to deport him have failed.

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Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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