President Evo Morales says he's furious about what happened last week with his presidential jet, which had to land in Austria after European countries allegedly closed their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was aboard. Now Morales says he's willing to give Snowden asylum as a "fair protest" of the incident.
• Morales has long slammed what he calls U.S. imperialism, kicking out the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. ambassador, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Accepting Snowden would fall in line with the Bolivian president's argument that his country would be better off without any U.S. interference. And in terms of its relationship with the United States, Bolivia has little goodwill left to lose.
• The United States' trade ties with Bolivia are weaker than its links with other countries in the region. "Bolivia's a country that I think has the least real economic interest with the United States," Shifter said.
• Still, there's some economic connection. Exports and imports between the United States and Bolivia totaled more than $2.4 billion last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
• Despite Morales' fierce criticism of European countries and the United States after the plane incident, Shifter said, it's unclear whether he really wants Snowden to come to Bolivia.
President Daniel Ortega says his country will grant asylum to Snowden "if circumstances permit." Was that a way to sound supportive, but give himself a way out? It's unclear.
• Like Maduro and Morales, Ortega is a vocal critic of the United States, and his allegations of U.S. imperialism play well with his supporters.
• Business is big for Ortega's government, and it's about to get a lot bigger. Chinese investors and Nicaraguan leaders have just signed a deal to build a $40 billion canal through the country. Does that mean Nicaragua is now looking East but not West when it comes to business? Quite the opposite, Shifter said. "I think the canal project is another factor that makes them even more interested in staying on the good side of the United States," he said.
• That's not all. Exports and imports between the United States and Nicaragua totaled more than $3.8 billion last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And Nicaragua gets trade preferences from the United States. As concerns about Snowden from business leaders mount, they won't fall on deaf ears with Ortega, Shifter said. "Ortega has good relations with the business community in Nicaragua. He's somebody that I think also has a pragmatic streak in him," Shifter said. "Rhetorically, at times, he's confrontational, but behind the scenes, he's making deals."
Snowden set his sights on Ecuador with his first asylum request after leaving Hong Kong on June 23. President Rafael Correa railed against the United States in fiery speeches over the issue earlier this month. But the government has said it's still weighing the request, but can't act until Snowden's in Ecuadorian territory. Some speculate that the delay in getting a clear response from Ecuador is what inspired Snowden to apply for asylum in dozens more countries.
• Ecuador granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last year, and has touted the decision as a clear sign that the South American nation is a defender of human rights. Giving Snowden asylum would give officials another platform to make that case.
• Defiant authorities in Ecuador said last month that they wouldn't bow to U.S. pressure in Snowden's case, vowing to reject trade benefits so U.S. officials couldn't manipulate them.