DAVID DOUGHERTY, PRODUCER: President Evo Morales has returned to the Plurinational State of Bolivia after being held in Austria for more than 13 hours after his presidential plane was denied passage through the airspace of France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Morales was returning from a trip to Russia, where he participated in energy talks with President Vladimir Putin.
While in Moscow, Morales mentioned that Bolivia would be willing to debate and review an asylum request by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who is suspected to remain holed up in Moscow’s international airport. It is suspected that the Bolivian President’s comments raised suspicions in the United States that Snowden could possibly have been aboard the presidential plane when it departed, prompting the U.S. to call upon European allies to deny the President and his staff passage through their airspace, forcing them to land in Vienna. The U.S. has refused to comment on the incident involving President Morales’s plane, but has admitted to contacting European countries over potential flights that Edward Snowden could be traveling on.
EVO MORALES, BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): It’s true that this is an open provocation against the continent, not just against the president. North American imperialism uses its agents to frighten us and intimidate us. I just want to say that they are never going to intimidate us and they are never going to scare us because we are a dignified and sovereign people.
DOUGHERTY: Bolivia has filed a complaint with the United Nations, alleging that the actions constitute the diplomatic kidnapping of a democratically elected head of state, violating a number of international treaties. In the international airport of El Alto, which serves the administrative capital of Bolivia, La Paz, a crowd of supporters gathered to welcome the president as he arrived on Wednesday night.
PATRICIA CASILDA ALANOCA, CENTRAL OBRERA REGIONAL, EL ALTO (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are outraged with these neoliberal countries that have always enslaved us, and now they have humiliated our president, Evo Morales. You can see how the social organizations and the city of El Alto are truly angered. And so, as women, men, and children we are here to receive and give our full support to our president, Evo Morales.
DOUGHERTY: A number of South American heads of state have condemned the actions of the European countries and the United States. The South American bloc UNASUR held an emergency meeting on Thursday in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to discuss the issue. Bolivian Congresswoman Segunda Flores echoed calls around the continent that the actions constitute an open act of aggression.
SEGUNDA FLORES, BOLIVIAN CONGRESS REPRESENTATIVE, SANTA CRUZ (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We feel this is an act of aggression against the Bolivian people, not just against the president, Evo Morales, but all of the country. We have felt very humiliated and discriminated against.
DOUGHERTY: Austrian officials have stated that Edward Snowden was not on board President Morales’s plane. On Tuesday and Wednesday, protests were reported at several European embassies in La Paz.
Reporting from La Paz, Bolivia, this is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.
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