Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich tells Newsmax that Venezuela’s offer of asylum for NSA leaker Edward Snowden is an attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to flex his “false manhood” and be more like his predecessor — the late dictator Hugo Chavez.
“Venezuela has nothing to gain. Maduro has a lot to gain,” Reich said in an exclusive interview on Friday. “Maduro gains that macho bravado that he has lacked so far. He’s really been a laughing stock in Venezuela because of things like his statement that Chavez came to him as a little bird and spoke to him. People have been making fun of that for months. He’s just not taken seriously. What better show of false manhood than to stand up to the great American empire — stand up to the Americans. This is what he’s doing.”
Reich, who was appointed ambassador by President Reagan and served from 1986 to 1989, also said that there are significant logistical hurdles that stand between the 30-year-old Snowden and his offer of asylum not only in Venezuela, but also Nicaragua, where President Daniel Ortega has made a similar offer.
Snowden has been stuck in the Moscow airport without a valid U.S. passport since Hong Kong authorities allowed him to leave late last month just days after the U.S. government charged him with espionage.
“In Ortega’s case it’s a freebie because he knows that Snowden is probably not going to go there. In addition to the fact Nicaragua is a much smaller country, the fact is there are no direct flights from Moscow,” Reich, a frequent Newsmax contributor explained.
“For Ortega, this is a sort of a clever way of appearing to be tough without running the danger that Snowden is going to ever knock on his door.”
And Reich noted said Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Maduro earlier this week at a meeting of natural-gas producing nations in Russia, bolstering the likelihood that Snowden will try to make his way to Caracas — perhaps on a commercial or a military flight.
That too could prove difficult if past history is any indication.
In the mid 1980s, Reich said, the U.S. intercepted a commercial flight originating from Cairo on intelligence that one of the accused Achille Lauro hijackers was aboard.
“But that was Ronald Reagan. I almost feel like saying ‘enough said,’” Reich lamented. “I hate to say it but we don’t have Ronald Reagan in the White House at this time and I think our adversaries know that.”
Even Bolivian President Evo Morales was not spared from the long reach of the U.S. when returning from the same meeting that Maduro attended in Russia with Putin.
“His airplane on the way back to Bolivia was diverted to Austria because several European countries refused to allow over flight — France, Italy and Spain among others,” said Reich. “The Austrians forced it to land and it was on the ground for 12 hours because they had been told — obviously erroneously that Snowden was on board.”
Knowing that, Reich said, commercial airlines might not want to risk having Snowden aboard their aircraft.
“What airline is going to sell this guy a ticket knowing there’s a relatively good chance that what happened to the official airplane of the president of Bolivia? As lunatic as he may be he is a head of state.”
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