Evo Morales back in Bolivia after plane drama over Snowden

Evo Morales

Evo Morales was greeted by his Cabinet and cheering, fist-pumping crowds at La Paz's airport after a dramatic journey from Moscow that ignited a diplomatic furore when his plane had to make an unscheduled stop in Vienna on Tuesday evening. "This was an open provocation toward a continent, not just a president," said Morales, his hair strewn with flower petals thrown by people in traditional Andean garb.

"North American imperialism uses its people to terrify and intimidate us. I just want to say they will never frighten us because we are a people of dignity and sovereignty." Other Latin American leaders were also fuming over the plane incident, with heads of state in the 12-nation South American bloc Unasur denouncing the "unfriendly and unjustifiable acts.

The bloc said a group of leaders from member countries would hold an emergency summit in Bolivia on Thursday to discuss the matter. Unasur includes close leftist allies of Bolivia like Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina as well as more centrist governments like those in Chile and Brazil. Earlier on Wednesday, Bolivia accused the United States of trying to "kidnap" Morales, after his plane was denied permission to fly over France and Portugal.

The Bolivian government said it had filed a formal complaint with the United Nations and was studying other legal avenues to prove its rights had been violated under international law. Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, said, "We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House. By no means should a diplomatic plane with the president be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country."

The White House declined to comment on the Bolivian allegations. Snowden was not on the plane when it landed in Vienna, an Austrian official said. He is believed to be stranded in the transit lounge of a Moscow airport and the United States has been trying to get its hands on him since he revealed details of its secret surveillance programs last month. The furore was the latest twist in a saga that has raised debate over the balance between privacy rights and national security.

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