WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Bolivian President Evo Morales blames the United States for his plane from Moscow being diverted to Vienna, Austria, Wednesday for a 14-hour layover after suspicions arose he was harboring National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
Returning home to a hero’s welcome, Morales called it an “open provocation” to the South American continent after France, Spain and Portugal refused to let his plane pass through their airspace.
The United States and European allies “use the agent of North American imperialism to scare us and intimidate us,” Morales said.
Morales added: “I regret this, but I want to say that some European countries should free themselves from North American imperialism.”
The United States declined to comment on whether it was involved in any decision to close European airspace for Morales’ plane.
CBS News reports that France called it “an administrative error” while Russia’s foreign ministry criticized the three European nations in a statement.
Morales was in a summit in Russia when he said he would be willing to give Snowden asylum in Bolivia.
Snowden originally intended to travel from Moscow with the intention of going to the Ecuadorean capital of Quito. However, after he was held up in the Moscow airport, Ecuador asked Russia to let him take a commercial flight to meet Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino in Vietnam or Singapore, where Patino was on a pre-planned official trip, in order to be taken back to Quito by Patino, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the press.
The Russians rejected Ecuador’s requests to let Snowden leave Moscow, or to let an Ecuadorean government plane pick him up there, the official said.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told reporters last Thursday that Snowden was “in the hands of the authorities” in Russia.
But Russian authorities have said Snowden is outside Russian control in a transit area of the Moscow airport, which is technically not Russian territory.
Snowden is charged with violating U.S. espionage laws for leaking information about NSA surveillance of Internet and telephone records to detect terrorist plots.
The State Department has revoked Snowden’s visa.
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