Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has joined with other Latin American leaders in condemning the “raid” on Bolivian president Evo Morales' flight out of Europe earlier this week.
At an emergency summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Cochabamba, Bolivia on Thursday, member states issued a joint statement calling for an explanation from European countries that barred Morales' flight from entering their airspace earlier this week, including France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Along with Maduro, the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Suriname and Uruguay attended the summit.
“South America and Latin America deserve answers and explanations-more than explanations, apologies… to restore trusting relationships and move forward on any other issue,” Maduro told the summit.
He criticised the actions of the European governments involved, and stated that a “violation of international law against Evo Morales is [a violation] against all of us.”
“What would happen if the same happened in a South American territory to any of the presidents of Europe or the U.S. president? The Security Council of the UN would be called to come with all their brutality and military force,” he stated.
“What was the cause?…The pursuit of a 29-year old that has revealed to the world how the elite U.S. imperialists aim to control via massive spying,” Maduro also stated on Thursday.
He also criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for allegedly pressuring the Venezuelan government to reject a request for political asylum from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
“John Kerry has been calling for the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry…[trying] to put pressure and keep it from acting on the basis of humanitarian law,” Maduro stated, adding that the U.S. government is working to “erase the history of public international humanitarian asylum law”.
Earlier in the week, Maduro described the actions of the European governments as “insanity”.
He also indicated that bilateral ties with Spain will be affected.
“We’re going to re-evaluate our relations with Spain. With the Spanish government, not with the Spanish people. The Spanish people have shown solidarity with Evo Morales and Snowden. But what the Spanish government has done is despicable,” he said.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria characterized Maduro’s statements as “inconsistent”.
Leaders Express Solidarity with Morales
“My only sin is that I'm indigenous and anti-imperialist, [that I question] those economic policies planned and implemented by politicians that just starve us to death,” Morales himself stated at the summit.
According to the Bolivian government, Morales' flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria after permission to fly through French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish airspace was revoked. Austrian authorities have stated that they searched the plane for Snowden while it was on the ground, a claim Morales denies.
Speaking to Spanish media, Spain's foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo stated that “they told us he [Snowden] was inside [the plane],” though he didn't specify who “they” were.
On Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius issued an apology, stating there was “never any intention to block the access to our air space”.
Morales has dismissed claims that there was a mistake.
"What happened these days is not an accident… but part of policies to continue intimidating the Bolivian people and Latin American people,” he said on Thursday.
However, Garcia-Margallo stated there is “no reason to apologise”, and that Morales was never barred from Spanish airspace. According to the minister, authorisation for Morales' flight to pass through Spanish airspace elapsed while the plane was delayed in Austria, and simply had to be renewed.
This hasn't stopped the chorus of Latin American leaders from criticising the Spanish government, along with the other nations involved.
Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner expressed “solidarity and support” with Morales and Bolivia, and urged “those responsible” to “apologise”.
“It's curious that those who speak of human rights committed this violation,” she said.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa warned that a dangerous precedent that “destroys international law” has been set.
Jose Mujica, president of Uruguay, said that “when one of our governments is insulted we feel the insult throughout Latin America”.
“We are not colonies anymore,” he stated.
Although the UNASUR declaration doesn't mention the U.S., Morales has also blamed Washington for allegedly pressuring European governments over the Snowden case. Morales has warned that he may close the U.S. embassy in La Paz, “if necessary”.
While the summit took place, the U.S. embassy reportedly cancelled Independence Day celebrations. The day before, protesters marched on the French embassy in La Paz, demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador.
Maduro vowed that UNASUR will reach “a strong decision in defence of the unity of our region” when the organisation meets again in Montevideo later this month.