Venezuela and Snowden: In search of human rights

Edward Snowden (centre) with Sarah Harrison (left) of WikiLeaks. Photograph: Tanya Lokshina/Human Rights Watch

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

-Edward Snowden, Friday July 12, 15:00 UTC

What follows is a translation of an article by Juan Carlos Monedero, originally published in Público, 6th July.

Venezuela and Snowden: in search of human rights

There once was a time where the citizens of Europe, after having defeated fascism on their own soil through much pain, said to the world that human rights were the thread of dignity that maintained a flame of hope. It was time, true enough, of colonialism too, of economic expansion, of use and abuse of the resources of others, but also of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, of the struggle against the dictatorships of Somoza, Pinochet and Videla, of the condemnation of Israel at the United Nations for its criminal behaviour in Palestine, of criticising walls that robbed peoples of their freedom, of frontal opposition to a genocidal Cambodia, to the political and economic disasters in Africa, and also of a clear reproach to the United States, which had a democratic discourse but a practice distant indeed from those ideals. A United States that, once, was also able to denounce Watergate and oppose a government that was committing a genocide in Vietnam.

A time where freedom of expression belonged to peoples and not to media corporations, a time where there were brave magistrates who would confront Executives because Constitutions said that basic rights and freedoms were the preamble to life in common. It was a time when Europe was a continent open for asylum, where any democrat in the world knew they were going to find a friendly hand, a decent government, a committed civil organisation. Where abuses by government would encounter a brake, were decent people risking everything knew they would find support, where heroism was recognised because that was what democracy demanded. But Europe sold that legacy off. Latin America has taken up the mantle.

The guarantee of human rights is today in Latin America, in Venezuela, taking in Edward Snowden, who, with the good faith recognised by the United Nations, has denounced the spying practices of the United States government. In Ecuador, which gives asylum to Julian Assange, who is responsible for making democracy more transparent thanks to the publications of Wikileaks. In Bolivia, which expels North American spies and mercenaries in the name of sovereignty. In stricken Nicaragua, which still dares to do what bigger countries do not dare. In UNASUR, which denounces the pirate behaviour of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain on preventing the passage of the plane of the President of Bolivia.

It’s not a mere question of governments. It’s a matter, above all, of peoples. If the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela today grants asylum to Snowden it’s because it has a people behind it that has decided to make dignity its flag. Something, it seems, that we have forgotten in Europe. A Europe that obeys the United States instead of defending the person who tells it that the global gendarme is also a big spy that has no friends. Venezuela, a small Caribbean country, telling the world that human rights are a priority. Those who wonder about the legacy of Hugo Chávez in that country ought to think about that. Those in Europe who feel each day that our rulers are trampling over our constitutions ought to think about that.

To all those persecuted by oppression, dictatorship, authoritarianism, the governments of democratic Europe signified the opportunity to protect dignity. Dignity, which today despite everything, and alone, social movements across the world continue to defend. With the sole help of Latin American governments. However still believes in the human being and her rights ought to thank them for their commitment. The courage of Venezuela, at a moment when the United States is prepared to send to Guantanamo or kill with its invisible murderous aircraft whomever contradicts it, advances arguments in favour of dignity. It is the optimistic part of a world in the shadows of pessimism. The lightning flash in the night that illuminates our solitude. Latin America truly is a new continent.

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