COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — President Evo Morales warned on Thursday that he could close the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia as South America's leftist leaders rallied to support him after his presidential plane was rerouted amid suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board.
Morales again blamed Washington for pressuring European countries to refuse to allow his plane to fly through their airspace on Tuesday, forcing it to land in Vienna in what he called a violation of international law. He had been returning from a summit in Russia during which he had suggested he would be willing to consider Snowden's request for asylum.
"We do not need the embassy of the United States," said Morales, adding that leaders of his party had asked him to take action. "We don't need them to come here with the excuse of cooperation."
Morales spoke as the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay joined him in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for a special meeting to address the diplomatic row.
Latin American leaders were outraged by the incident, calling it a violation of national sovereignty and a slap in the face for a region that has suffered through humiliations by Europe and several U.S.-backed military coups.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said he and the other leaders were offering "all of our support" to Morales following the rerouting of the plane, calling it an aggression against the Americas.
Also at the gathering was Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who protested alleged attempts by Spanish officials to search Morales' plane.
"Who takes the decision to attack the president of a South American nation?" Maduro asked. "(Spanish Prime Minister Mariano) Rajoy has been abusive by trying to search Morales' plane in Spain. He has no right to breach international law."
Morales, long a fierce critic of U.S. policy toward Latin America, received a hero's welcome in an airport in Bolivian capital of La Paz late Wednesday night. His return followed the dramatic, unplanned 14-hour layover in Vienna.