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Bolivia plane incident infuriates Latin America

Published Jul. 4, 2013

CARACAS, Venezuela — Latin American leaders reacted with fury Wednesday to the diversion of the plane carrying President Evo Morales of Bolivia through European airspace, calling it a grave offense to all of their countries, unjustified by suspicions that the fugitive U.S. former security contractor Edward J. Snowden was on board.

Latin American leaders immediately called for an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations, which is expected to take place today. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, said the episode had "vestiges of a colonialism that we thought was completely overcome," adding that it was a humiliating act that affected all of South America.

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said in a post on Twitter that the situation was "EXTREMELY serious."

The diplomatic skirmish began with a seemingly offhand remark. Morales was flying home Tuesday from Moscow, where he had attended a meeting of natural-gas-exporting nations, and had told Russian television that he was open to giving asylum to Snowden.

Snowden has been holed up at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow for more than a week, hoping to receive a positive response to the asylum requests he has made to several countries, and Morales' remark may have set off suspicion that he was bringing the fugitive aboard.

After taking off from Moscow, Morales' plane asked permission to land in France to refuel, according to Carlos Romero, the minister of government in La Paz. But France refused and denied the plane permission to enter French airspace, Bolivian officials said. Portugal had also previously refused to let the plane land for refueling in Lisbon.

Morales was finally given permission to land in Vienna, where he spent the night.