The plane carrying Bolivia's President Evo Morales is making its way back to the Andean nation after being rerouted to and stuck in Vienna for 13 hours, prompting Bolivia's Vice President to say Morales was "kidnapped by imperialism."
Rumors had emerged that Morales, on his way home from a Moscow summit, had Edward Snowden on board, and the plane was reportedly searched for the whistleblower.
"We don't know who invented this lie" that Snowden was on board, said Bolivia's Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca. "We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of Evo Morales."
Bolivian officials say the plane was forced to land in Austria after being denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal at the U.S.'s bidding, a claim the countries denied on Wednesday.
The Guardian reports that
The United States has yet to 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 Morales's plane to fly through their airspace, in effect putting the hunt for a US whistleblower above international law and the rights of a president of a sovereign nation.
Whether the plane was actually searched remains murky. Morales told press that Spanish officials in Vienna had insisted on inspecting the plane to see if Snowden was aboard, but that he denied the request, saying it violated international norms. The New York Times reports that the plane did get inspected:
Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry, said Austrian border authorities carried out a routine check of the passports of everyone aboard after the plane landed and were also granted permission to search the plane to ensure that Mr. Snowden was not aboard. “The rumors were just that,” Mr. Grundböck said.
However, the Guardian reports Wednesday afternoon that
Jonathan Watts, our Latin America correspondent, says that the Bolivian defence minister, Ruben Saavedra, has denied that anyone had boarded the plane. There were reports earlier that the plane had been inspected in Austria, but Saavedra has stoked confusion, saying that Morales had refused entry to officials, and that they had only got as far as the door of the aircraft.
And journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted this:
Austrian journalist tells me: Bolivia did not give permission to have Morales' plane searched, but airport policeman allowed to walk through
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 3, 2013
Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, told reporters in Geneva, "We have no doubt that [the denial of airspace] was an order from the White House," and said that his country was planning on filing a complaint at the UN.
Other Latin American officials echoed the condemnation.
In a statement from aboard the plane, Morales said, “I feel this was an excuse to frighten, intimidate and punish me. More than anything, an excuse to try and silence us on the struggle against the politics of plunder, invasion and domination.”