Forced to land in Vienna, left waiting for 13 hours and only allowed to leave after he agreed to a search — presumably for the U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden — the treatment of Evo Morales has stirred up fury in Latin America, a region that has long bristled at the bullying of the U.S. and the double standards of its former colonial masters in Europe.
Bolivia has denounced what it calls a “kidnap” operation by imperial powers that violates the Vienna convention and its national sovereignty. Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay have joined in the condemnation. Angry headlines have been splashed on newspapers across the region.
The Foreign Minister of Ecuador Ricardo Patino said his country would stand with Bolivia. “We will not allow this affront against a Latin American leader,” he tweeted.
The secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, expressed his “profound displeasure” with the countries who refused to allow Mr. Morales’s plane through their airspace.
Peru reportedly called for an emergency meeting on Wednesday of another regional grouping, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur).
“Tomorrow is going to be a long and difficult day,” tweeted the Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Tuesday night, adding that Mr. Morales had been treated with “impunity”. Venezuela has also reacted with fury. The Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, is also said to be indignant.
The U.S. did not comment, but the longer it remains silent, the stronger will be the suspicions that it leaned on France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny permission for Mr. Morales’s plane to fly through their airspace, in effect putting the hunt for a U.S. whistleblower above international law and the rights of a President of a sovereign nation.
Several politicians and commentators in the region are already adding this action to a long list of interventions, invasions and “policing actions” by its giant northern neighbour, along with the Monroe Doctrine; the annexation of half of Mexico, the Bay of Pigs; support for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and other dictators; and the ousting of democratically elected leftist governments in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Hondurus and elsewhere.
The Old World has also come under fire for abetting in the detention of Latin America’s first indigenous President, which has also reopened historical scars.
“Just as they did 500 years ago, foreign powers have once again mistreated and assaulted the Bolivian people,” the Vice-President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, said.
Spain, France, Portugal and Italy reportedly denied permission for Mr. Morales’s plane to fly through their airspace, in effect forcing it to make an unscheduled stop in Vienna, where Austrian authorities inspected the plane.
“So many beautiful masks fell. As always, in times of crisis you learn the truth behind the speeches,” tweeted Mr. Patino, the Ecuadorean Foreign Minister. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013