November 27, 2020 | News | No Comments
MONTEVIDEO/WASHINGTON – The suspicion that Bolivian President Evo Morales’ jet was carrying Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who has become Washington´s public enemy number one, triggered an unprecedented international incident.
Four European countries – France, Italy, Spain and Portugal – denied Morales’ presidential jet permission to fly through their airspace on his way back from Moscow to La Paz.
Snowden, the former technical contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) who released dozens of top secret documents proving that the U.S. government has been tapping global internet and phone systems on a massive scale, is in hiding in the Moscow airport.
“What this ultimately underscores is how seriously the U.S. regards this case.”
Morales’ aircraft was rerouted and forced to land in Austria, where it was stuck on the tarmac for 14 hours. The governments implicated in the incident brandished technical explanations, and after hours of heated negotiations, the presidential jet was allowed to take off again.
While it was grounded, the plane and its passengers were apparently subjected to some kind of inspection, the scope of which is not yet clear. But afterwards, Austria’s foreign minister, Michael Spindelegger, stated that there were only Bolivian citizens in the aircraft.
The incident violates international law, because aircraft carrying national leaders have diplomatic immunity. Bolivian diplomats complained at the United Nations that Morales had been “kidnapped” during the time he was grounded in Austria. And the indignation spread to other South American governments.
An extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has been convened for Thursday in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to discuss the issue.
Morales, who along with other presidents from the region was in Russia for an oil and gas conference, had expressed sympathy for Snowden’s plight. The whistleblower has been desperately seeking asylum in different countries since his passport was revoked and he was charged with espionage. In the last few days Snowden has applied for asylum in 21 countries. But as of yet he hasn’t received a response from any government.
Washington has not tried to conceal its efforts to block any attempt to offer asylum to the 30-year-old former employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
But U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki largely evaded questions as to whether communications between the U.S. and the European countries which denied the airspace had led to the rerouting of Morales’ presidential jet. “Ask them,” she said.
She was only willing to acknowledge that U.S. officials had been in touch with “a broad range of countries” in recent days with regard to Snowden.
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