Cuba not safe for Snowden - analysts

Havana - Cuba would not be a safe place for US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, according to analysts, who say Havana does not want to strain relations with Washington as political pragmatism gains ground on the island.

"Cuba has no national or political interest in receiving Snowden. And given his libertarian stance, Snowden is unlikely to want to associate his cause with Cuba," says Cuban-American expert Arturo Lopez Levy from Denver University.

The former intelligence contractor, who exposed details of US online spying activities, has been reportedly trapped in Moscow with no valid travel document after the US cancelled his passport on Saturday.

Snowden is believed to be at a Moscow airport, from where he had been expected to fly to Ecuador via Cuba. But he did not board the plane to Havana.

Snowden may have received the message that Cuba could arrest and even return him to the US, Anya Landau French wrote in The Havana Note blog, which covers US-Cuba relations.

For decades, Cuba was a safe haven for dozens of fugitives wanted in the US and elsewhere.

They include Joanne Chesimard, a Black Panther activist convicted of killing a police officer in New Jersey in 1973.

Chesimard, who the FBI recently included on its list of most-wanted terrorists, is believed to have been living in Cuba since 1984.

Cuba has also given refuge to members of Spain's Basque separatist group ETA.

The island is currently home to more than 70 fugitives, according to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a US congresswoman of Cuban origin who is known as a fierce critic of President Raul Castro's regime.

US-Cuban relations have also been strained by the case of Alan Gross, a US government subcontractor who was convicted of spying and sentenced in 2011 to 15 years in prison.

But now, with Raul Castro introducing timid economic reforms, a greater political pragmatism is seen as gaining ground.

Economic reform

A recent reform made it easier for Cubans to travel abroad.

And Cuba is discussing migration-related questions with the United States, where hundreds of thousands of Cubans have sought exile over the decades.

Cuba is on the US black list of states protecting terrorists, and the two countries have no extradition treaty.

But that did not hamper swift co-operation in early April, when it took Havana just 48 hours to repatriate a US couple, which had abducted its own children after losing custody over them and fled to Cuba.

The case reflects an interest in Havana in not straining relations with Washington, even if Cuba still does not want to make "unilateral and definitive concessions" without receiving anything in return, Lopez Levy told dpa.

The analyst said: "If Cuba cannot receive tangible benefits from other players, such as Moscow or Beijing in this case, it would prefer to keep Snowden as far away as possible."