Snowden

Bolivia threatens to close U.S. embassy to protest presidential plane diversion

 

jwyss@MiamiHerald.com

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Thursday he will study proposals to shut down the U.S. embassy amid growing anger after his airplane was diverted in Europe amid suspicions he was trying to smuggle NSA-leaker Edward Snowden off the continent.

At a rally with other South American leaders, Morales said member of his MAS party had proposed shuttering the embassy and he said he would “study” those proposals.

“We don’t need a U.S. embassy, we don’t need their pretexts of cooperation and diplomatic relations,” he told a crowd of supporters. “They conspire against us both inside and outside the country.”

The leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina joined Morales in Cochabamba, Bolivia on Thursday. They were expected to produce a joint document to protest Morales’ treatment.

“Whoever messes with Bolivia messes with Venezuela,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro told the crowds. He also said Morales’ plane had been flying on “emergency fuel” and that the diversion had put his life at risk.

Morales was heading home from a Moscow energy conference Wednesday, when he says his presidential aircraft was denied the right to use French airspace and was forced to land in Vienna, Austria. There, Morales said the Spanish ambassador demanded to search his airplane amid suspicions that Snowden might be aboard.

Morales said he informed him that Snowden was not on the aircraft.

“If you don’t believe me, then you are calling the president of Bolivia a liar,” Morales said. “You can only search delinquents and I’m no delinquent. You are not going to search the presidential airplane.”

Morales said he was stuck in Vienna for 13 hours against his will.

Snowden, who is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges, has been stranded in the transit zone of a Moscow airport for almost two weeks after the U.S. revoked his passport.

The impasse had fueled speculation that he might try to hitch a ride with Maduro or Morales as they returned to South America. Snowden, a former CIA employee who has divulged top-secret spying programs, has asked for asylum in more than 20 countries, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

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