Edward Snowden and the diversion of Bolivian President Evo Morales' aeroplane in Europe

Last week’s diplomatic incident in Vienna continues to spark anger in Latin America. In Austria, the Bolivian President Evo Morales’ aeroplane was grounded amid allegations the NSA informer Edward Snowden was on board after Morales left Moscow during a state visit. Recently, the Organization of American States (OAS) met and issued a resolution, “to condemn actions that violated basic rules and principles of international law such as the inviolability of Heads of State.” It added that it would: “strongly call upon the governments of France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to provide the necessary explanations and apologies about the events involving the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales, as well as the corresponding apologies”.

A few days earlier, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued a similar statement. They declared that what took place was a “flagrant violation of international treaties that rule the peaceful coexistence, solidarity and cooperation between the States.” Arguing the act was “an illegal action that affected the liberty of transit and movement of a Chief of State and his official delegation”, UNASUR added that: “[t]he unacceptable restriction to Morales´ liberty, turned him into a virtual hostage, was a violation of rights, not only to the Bolivian people but against all the countries and people of Latin America as well.”

With the incident quickly moving to the back pages of the international press, the Australian journalist John Pilger in the Guardian best summarized the episode as follows:

Imagine the aircraft of the president of France being forced down in Latin America on "suspicion" that it was carrying a political refugee to safety – and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.

Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the "international community", as the governments of the west call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.

The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales's plane – denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to "inspect" his aircraft for the "fugitive" Edward Snowden – was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.

Posted on July 12, 2013 .