Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Monday his government had received an asylum application from US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and the fugitive must now decide if he wants to fly to Caracas.
"We have received the asylum request letter," Maduro told reporters from the presidential palace. "He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here."
Over the weekend, the leftist leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia all offered asylum to Snowden, who has spent more than two weeks stranded at Moscow's international airport while waiting for a country to give him sanctuary.
"We told this young man, 'you are being persecuted by the empire, come here,'" Maduro said Monday, referring to the United States.
Snowden has applied for asylum in 27 countries but the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor has only gotten a sympathetic ear from leftist Latin American leaders. Several European nations rejected his bid.
Flying out of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport could be problematic, however, as the US government revoked Snowden's passport, leaving him without a travel document.
Cuba, a key transit point from Russia on the way to Latin America, backed this weekend the asylum offers made by Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, though President Raul Castro did no indicate whether his country would itself offer refuge to Snowden.
The only flight for which Snowden was known to have been checked-in -- a 12-hour Aeroflot flight to Havana -- left on June 24 without the fugitive on board.
Even if he boards a plane, his trip could face obstacles: Even Bolivia's President Evo Morales was forced to divert his plane last week when some European nations denied him their airspace over suspicions that Snowden was on board.