Funny, I had just been thinking about Snowden and Latin America when Twitter lit up with Nicolás Maduro's announcement he would give Edward Snowden asylum. You can see the speech here.
As I've written before, I don't think this will help Maduro politically. He has more to lose than gain. Stephen Kinzer obviously disagrees, as I was just writing this:
I am again rather baffled by a Stephen Kinzer op-ed on Latin America. He had just baffled me less than two weeks ago. He is intent on proclaiming that Latin Americans--not just leaders, but the people themselves--believe Edward Snowden is a hero.
But there's more this time. He further argues that when Evo Morales plane was diverted, that was the same as the Platt Amendment.
That is a reference to the Platt Amendment of 1901, which recognized Cuba as an independent country but required that it enter into no treaty and incur no foreign debts without permission from Washington, and also that it recognize the right of the United States to intervene in Cuba at will.
The Platt Amendment was abrogated in 1934, but in the eyes of many Latin Americans, it still seems to define Washington's understanding of their continent. That view was immeasurably strengthened this week.
This makes no sense. Latin Americans pay little to no attention to the Platt Amendmen outside Cuba. He mentions "Plattismo" as a way of thinking, but this reference is confined to Cuba. Latin American leaders are angry, as they deserve to be, but they aren't making comparisons to the Platt Amendment.
The whole plane incident was terrible, and a sign of complete disrespect. But it does not make Snowden a hero.
It has even, ironically, made Snowden a Latin American hero. Any president who offers him asylum will bathe in a wave of continent-wide admiration.
Whoever welcomes Snowden will instantly join the revered pantheon of rebels who dared to defy what José Martí called "the eagle with larcenous claws".
There is not a shred of evidence to suggest this is true. The more reasonable argument is that Latin Americans don't care very much about Edward Snowden. If Julian Assange isn't a hero, why would Snowden be? Assange actually had documents related directly to U.S. policy in Latin America.
Obviously Maduro agrees with Kinzer's logic. Perhaps he figures a symbolic tweak to the U.S. will get him some credibility with Chavistas (and for now this is just symbolic because Snowden cannot do anything without leaving the Moscow airport!). At this point even Rafael Correa is dubious of Snowden, so I am not sure what else there is to gain.