Latin American leaders have expressed their outrage over the diversion of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Europe apparently on suspicion that US whistleblower Edward Snowden was in the flight.
The Bolivian government said on Wednesday it would file a complaint to the United Nations after several European countries closed their airspace to a plane carrying Morales.
“As a government, we are filing complaints worldwide,” said Vice President and acting head of state Alvaro Garcia, on Wednesday.
The Bolivian plane, which was taking Morales home from an energy conference in Moscow, was stranded at Vienna airport for several hours after Portugal, France, Spain and Italy refused to allow it to fly through their airspace according to Bolivian authorities.
“We’re talking about the president on an official trip after an official summit being kidnapped,” Bolivia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, told reporters in Geneva.
As fury spread over the actions of the European states, about 100 protesters demonstrated outside the French embassy in the Bolivian capital, La Paz , throwing stones and burning the French flag.
Heads of state in the South American bloc, Unasur, strenuously rejected the diversion of the flight and demanded an explanation for the “unfriendly and unjustifiable acts”, with Argentine President Cristina Kirchner calling the incident “very humiliating”.
In a statement from Peru’s government, which holds the rotating presidency of the group, the leaders expressed their outrage and indignation after Morales’ plane was not permitted to land in Portugal and France on Tuesday.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua described the incident as “an attack against President Morales’s life”.
Kidnapping its president
The Latin American country accused Austria of “kidnapping” its president, after authorities searched his plane during a stop-over in Vienna on suspicion he was taking Snowden, the former US spy agency contractor, wanted by Washington on espionage charges.
A senior Bolivian diplomat said the Austrians had acted at the bidding of the US, which has been trying to get its hands on Snowden since he revealed details of its secret surveillance programmes last month.
The search found that Snowden was not onboard and the plane eventually left Vienna about noon on Wednesday, just hours after Morales said his country would consider giving him political asylum.
The 30-year-old Snowden is believed to be still in the transit area of a Moscow airport, as his asylum options dwindle after a number of countries in Latin America, Asia and Europe denied his request on Tuesday, despite Venezuela’s call for the world to protect him.