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Latin American leaders furious over Austria’s decision to “kidnap” Evo Morales

July 3, 2013

Leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean railed against European governments’ decisions to deny the airplane of Bolivian President Evo Morales into their airspace over concerns that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden might have been on board.

Morales’ airplane was eventually routed to Vienna, Austria. Bolivia said the unscheduled stop amounted to kidnapping the South American leader.

On Tuesday, Morales was preparing to leave Russia after an energy summit when he told reporters that he would support Snowden’s asylum application.

Hours later, France, Portugal and Spain all denied the plane permission to fly into their airspace allegedly under the suspicion that Morales’ diplomatic team secreted Snowden on board in an attempt to grant him asylum in the Andean country, the Christian Science Monitor reported. 

Running low on fuel, the plane was granted permission to land in Austria, according to several sources, where Austrian authorities searched the plane. Snowden was not on board.

Bolivia said Austria’s treatment amounted to the “kidnapping” of Morales, Reuters reported, cited by The New York Times.

The Bolivian leader’s plane eventually took off today en route to Bolivia at 11:30 a.m. local time after spending 13 hours on the tarmac, said Peter Kleeman, an airport spokesman, The New York Times reported.

Leaders from across the region expressed their furor over Europe’s actions, many blaming meddling from the United States for the unplanned stop.

Nicaragua’s Sandinista government condemned France and Portugal’s “criminal actions,” and the country’s First Lady Rosario Murillo interrupted a television broadcast Tuesday evening to denounce the “criminal attempt” against Morales, arguing that the unplanned stopped put the leader’s life at risk, according to the Nicaragua Dispatch.  

Cuba gave a statement saying that Europe’s treatment of Morales “offended all Latin America and the Caribbean,” according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

“They must be out of their minds,” tweeted Argentine President Christina Fernández de Kirchner, “Head of State and his plane have total immunity. This level of impunity cannot be.”

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa tweeted, “We are with Evo and the outraged Bolivian people. Our America cannot tolerate this abuse! As it goes with Bolivia, so it goes with us all.” 

South American presidents are trying to organize an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations to discuss the offense.

Snowden has been living in the international terminal of the Sheremetyevo International Airport since fleeing Hong Kong on June 23. The former-intelligence service employee has been desperately trying to secure asylum to avoid prosecution in the United States. The U.S. government revoked Snowden’s passport, complicating the fugitive’s flight.

Reuters compiled a list of the countries where Snowden has applied for asylum, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. 

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