July 5, 2013
Forced to land in Vienna, left waiting on the tarmac for and only
allowed to leave after half a day – the treatment of Evo Morales has
stirred up fury in Latin America, a region that has long bristled at the bullying of the US and double standards of its former colonial masters
Bolivia has denounced what it calls a “kidnap” operation of its
president 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.
Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño Aroca, 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, José
Miguel Insulza, expressed his “profound displeasure” with the countries
who refused to allow Morales’s plane through their airspace.
“Nothing justifies an action as disrespectful to the highest authority of a country,” Insulza said in a statement.
Peru reportedly called for an emergency meetingon 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 Fernández de Kirchner, on Tuesday night, saying the level of impunity for Morales’ treatment was unprecedented.
Venezuela is furious and the Uruguayan president, José Mujica, is said
to be indignant.
The United States has yet to comment, but the longer it remains
silent, the stronger suspicions will be that it leaned on France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny permission for Morales’s plane to fly
through their airspace, in effect putting the hunt for US whistleblower
Edward Snowden above international law and the rights of a president of a sovereign nation.
Politicians and commentators in the region are already adding the
action to a long list of interventions, invasions and “policing actions” by Latin America’s giant northern neighbour, alongside the Monroe
Doctrine, the annexation of half of Mexico, the Bay of Pigs invasion,
support for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and other dictators and the ousting of democratically elected leftist governments in Guatemala, Nicaragua,
Honduras and elsewhere.
Europe has been accused of reopening historical scars by abetting in the detention of Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
“Just as they did 500 years ago, foreign powers have once again
mistreated and assaulted the Bolivian people,” the country’s
vice-president, Álvaro García Linera, said.
Ecuador was expected to provide further evidence of intrusiveness and interference at a press conference later on Wednesday, when the foreign minister said he would provide evidence of a bug that was discovered at its London embassy, where the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been taking refuge for a year.
Ecuador had also looked a likely destination for Snowden, though its
president, Rafael Correa, appears to have cooled on the idea in recent
days. Many attribute his change of tone to a phonecall from the US
vice-president, Joe Biden, which reportedly included a reminder that
Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency. For some commentators, this
was a veiled threat.
Conscious of the growing importance of the Latino vote in the US, the president, Barack Obama, has tried to bolster his reputation in the
region by making immigration reform one of the priorities of his second
But his secretary of state, John Kerry, upset many in Latin America
earlier this year, when he referred to the region as the US “backyard” – a term that has long been seen as a sign of US imperialistic
tendencies. In response, Bolivia expelled USAid, a development agency.
Spain, France, Portugal and Italy reportedly denied permission for
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 Patiño. He then praised a
comment about the solidarity of Latin America, which has built closer
regional ties in recent years. “Unasur today must prove to the European
Union the true meaning of Latin American integration,” he wrote.