Ecuador leader cools to Edward Snowden

President Rafael Correa appeared to suggest the NSA leaker is unlikely to end up in Ecuador.
Martin Mejia/Associated Press
President Rafael Correa appeared to suggest the NSA leaker is unlikely to end up in Ecuador.

PORTOVIEJO, Ecuador — Edward Snowden is ‘‘under the care of the Russian authorities’’ and can’t leave Moscow’s international airport without their consent, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said Sunday in an interview suggesting the diminishing possibility that the National Security Agency leaker will end up in Ecuador.

Correa portrayed Russia as the master of Snowden’s fate and said Ecuador is awaiting an asylum request from Snowden before deciding its next moves.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has distanced himself from the case since Snowden arrived in Moscow last week, insisting that the 30-year-old former NSA contractor remains in the transit zone of the capital’s Sheremetyevo Airport and that as long as he has not legally entered Russia, he is out of the Kremlin’s control.


At the same time, the Kremlin said Sunday that it will take public opinion and the views of human rights activists into account when considering Snowden’s case, a move that could lay the groundwork for him to seek asylum in Russia.

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‘‘This is the decision of Russian authorities,’’ Correa said during a visit to this Pacific coast city. ‘‘He doesn’t have a passport. I don’t know the Russian laws, I don’t know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can’t. . . . If he arrives at an Ecuadorean Embassy we’ll analyze his request for asylum.’’

Last week, several members of Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights spoke out in support of Snowden, saying he deserved to receive political asylum in the country of his choice and should not be handed over to the United States.

Correa said he had no idea Snowden’s intended destination was Ecuador when he fled Hong Kong for Russia last week. He said the Ecuadoran consul in London committed ‘‘a serious error’’ by not consulting officials in Ecuador’s capital when the consul issued a letter of safe passage for Snowden.

Analysts familiar with the workings of the Ecuadoran government said they believed Correa’s administration at first intended to host Snowden, then started backtracking last week when the possible consequences became clearer.


‘‘I think the government started to realize the dimensions of what it was getting itself into, how it was managing things and the consequences that this could bring,’’ said Santiago Basabe, an analyst and professor of political sciences at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in the Ecuadoran capital, Quito.

Correa said Snowden must assume responsibility if he broke US laws but added the broader legitimacy of Snowden’s action must be taken into consideration. He said Ecuador would still consider an asylum request, but only if Snowden makes it to Ecuador or an Ecuadoran Embassy to apply.

While not closing the door to Snowden, Correa appeared to be sending the message that it is unlikely Snowden will end up in Ecuador. He repeatedly emphasized the importance of the US legal process and praised Vice President Joe Biden for what he described as a courteous half-hour call about the Snowden case on Friday.

He said Biden had asked him to send Snowden back to the United States immediately because he faces criminal charges, is a fugitive from justice, and has had his passport revoked.