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The economics of Edward Snowden's asylum countries

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, revealed details of top-secret surveillance conducted by the United States' National Security Agency regarding telecom data.

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who is accused of leaking documents detailing an NSA surveillance program, is likely headed to Latin America, where several countries have offered him asylum. So what is the economic situation in each of these countries?

Stephen Keppel, who covers economics for Univision, joins Marketplace's Mark Garrison to discuss.

Venezuela

GDP: $402.1 billion
Unemployment rate: 8%
Population below poverty line: 31.6%

Keppel's take: "The Venezuelan economy is a mess. Growth is near zero. There is still some instability after the election. Inflation is near 30 percent. It would be tough."

Bolivia

GDP: $54.36 billion
Unemployment rate: 5.5%
Population below poverty line: 49.6%

Keppel's take: "Bolivia is a much smaller economy [than Venezuela]. It's still one of the poorest countries in Latin America, however, it's had pretty steady and stable growth. This is mainly because it still has a pretty booming oil and mining industry. Aside from that, there's not a whole lot else, so I don't know what type of job prospects Snowden would have."

Nicaragua

GDP: $20.04 billion
Unemployment rate: 7.4%
Population below poverty line: 42.5%

Keppel's take: "Nicaragua is another poor country, one of the poorest in the region. However, we are seeing growth around 4 percent. It's a little bit less authoritarian perhaps than Venezuela. So there is a few opportunities in Venezuela for perhaps a little bit more of a laid back lifestyle. It's got some really nice property. It's inexpensive. A lot of the Americans that were going to Costa Rica [to retire] are spilling over into Nicaragua."

Final Score: Based on economics and quality of life, Keppel ranks Snowden's options (1) Nicaragua, (2) Bolivia, and (3) Venezuela.

Source: CIA World Factbook.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.
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