Latin America fumes over Bolivia incident in Snowden saga

Evo Morales

Bolivia said Morales was returning from Moscow on Tuesday when France and Portugal abruptly banned his plane from entering their airspace due to suspicions that Snowden, wanted by Washington for leaking secrets, was onboard. Italy and Spain also banned the plane from their skies, it said.

The unusual treatment of the Bolivian military aircraft touched a sensitive nerve in the region, which has a history of U.S.-backed coups. Regional leaders, particularly from the left, rallied behind Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president and a former union leader of the country's coca farmers.

"(These are) vestiges of a colonialism that we thought were long over. We believe this constitutes not only the humiliation of a sister nation but of all South America," Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said in a speech in Buenos Aires.

Heads of state in the 12-nation South American bloc Unasur denounced the "unfriendly and unjustifiable acts." Initial plans for an emergency meeting of Unasur foreign ministers in Lima on Thursday were still up in the air at the end of the day. Unasur includes close leftist allies of Bolivia like Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina as well as more centrist governments like those in Chile and Brazil.

"Latin America demands an explanation," tweeted Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa. "If what happened to Evo does not merit a Unasur summit, I don't know what does. "Dilma Rousseff, president of regional economic powerhouse Brazil, issued a statement repudiating the European countries that denied Morales access to their airspace based on what she called the "fanciful" notion that Snowden might be on board.

The Chilean foreign ministry issued a statement saying it "lamented" what happened to Morales and that more clarity was needed on the facts. Much more blunt was the statement from Mexico's Congress condemning what it called the "disgraceful and discriminatory" treatment Morales had received in Europe.

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