“It’s an abuse to have put Evo Morales life in danger,” said Venezuela’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, after the Bolivian president’s flight was forced to perform an emergency landing in Austria.
Morales had been in Russia with Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, attending the second summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF). Maduro and Jaua are now in Belarus for bilateral talks, while Morales tried to return to Bolivia. However France, Spain, Italy and Portugal barred his flight from entering their airspace, causing his plane to land in Vienna, Austria.
The countries claimed they suspected whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board the presidential plane. However, Austrian authorities searched the plane, and found “no stowaways on board”, and the Morales’ plane will now continue on its way. Snowden had requested asylum from Bolivia, among other countries.
Talking via telephone to Telesur from Belarus, Jaua stated, “We call on all countries, above all those in Latin America and the Caribbean… to make declarations regarding this abuse”.
“The least important thing is if Snowden was on board or not, we’re talking about a presidential plan, with special licenses…Portugal and France should take responsibility [for their actions],” he said, calling it a “real violation of all the norms of …immunity of a president of a republic and of the sovereignty of countries and of official flights”.
In the conversation, Jaua primarily blamed the United States government for the incident. “The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela would like to express that we hold the United States government, and all the governments who have denied flight permission to the presidential plane of brother president Evo Morales accountable, for the life of president Evo Morales, for his dignity as president,” he said.
He also said the incident aimed to “hunt down” Snowden, who is facing an “empire which tries to control the world”.
President Morales also told press at the Vienna airport that he was not a “criminal” and reminded European countries that “we are no longer in the colonial period”. He reiterated Jaua’s comments that France, Spain and Portugal “explain to the world the reasons behind this delay” and said their actions were indicative of the “repressive policies” of some European countries.
Argentine president Cristina Kirchner also called the situation “madness…the head of state and his plane have total immunity”, and the Cuban government said the detention of Morales was an ““unacceptable and unjustifiable act that offends Latin America and the Caribbean”.
Maduro also expressed his solidarity with Morales via his Twitter account, saying “from Venezuela we will respond to this dangerous, disproportionate and unacceptable aggression…I am in contact with Evo, they have violated all the international immunities that protect heads of state, because of the imperial obsession”.