Snowden’s choice: Cuba or Zimbabwe?

By Stewart Stogel

NEW YORK – Admitted NSA documents leaker Edward Snowden is believed to have fewer than six countries still considering his campaign for asylum, among them Cuba and Zimbabwe.

With Russia and China all but closing their doors, WND has learned that Snowden apparently is now concentrating his efforts on Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The Venezuela effort appears to have stumbled when newly elected president Nicolas Maduro, who was visiting Moscow on unrelated issues, and was transiting through the same airport where Snowden is believed to be hiding, left without him.

WND has learned that the Obama administration was prepared to exert financial pressure on CITGO, a U.S. energy refiner and marketer owned by Venezuela, if Caracas gave Snowden sanctuary.

Diplomatic sources at the United Nations in New York believe the options open for Snowden are rapidly dwindling.

The most likely “safe havens” at this point would appear to Cuba and Zimbabwe, sources said.

Cuba’s U.N. mission has refused official comment, but the Castro government has a long record of accepting U.S. fugitives.

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One of the most prominent was U.S. financier Robert Vesco.

In 1982, Vesco fled the U.S. amid highly publicized charges of tax evasion and commodities trading fraud.

Vesco was reported to have bribed Cuban President Fidel Castro for sanctuary. Eventually, apparently when his cash dried up, Vesco was arrested and tried on local smuggling charges.

In the early 1990s the American fugitive was sentenced to 13 years in a Cuban prison. Vesco remained in Havana until his death in November 2007.

The Zimbabwe alternative also appears to remain, sources said.

Zimbabwe’s U.N. mission had no official comment, but diplomats say there have been approaches made to the government by “friends of Snowden.”

President Robert Mugabe, a long-time critic of Washington, has seen his government reel under economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States for countless accusations of human rights abuses.

Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has seen uncontrollable inflation decimate its currency and its economy. Widespread starvation is commonplace, say U.N. officials.

But Mugabe, fighting international pressure to step aside after more than 32 years in power, in essence has defied the international community and declared himself a de-facto “president for life.”

If Mugabe decides to help Snowden, diplomats say, there is little more to be done in the way of punishment than what already has been done.

The only nation with more sanctions imposed is North Korea, which has shown little interest is assisting Snowden,.

Diplomats at the U.N. believe that Beijing pressured Pyongyang to steer clear of the Snowden controversy.

Iran, which at one time was also a possible option, is now believed to have closed its doors with the surprise presidential election victory of Hassan Rouhani,, a political moderate who is expected to engage in efforts “improve” relations with Washington.

U.S. officials still want Snowden returned to the U.S. to face charges.

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