Leaders of South American countries held an angry and combative meeting Thursday night in Cochabamba, Bolivia – after Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was rerouted Tuesday due to suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board.
Morales’ plane was prevented from entering French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese airspace after false rumors circled that Snowden was onboard his plane, and he was forced to land in Austria.
During the meeting, Morales threatened to close the American embassy in Bolivia and to expel American diplomats, saying: “We do not need them.”
Because of the general atmosphere, the American embassy in La Paz canceled their July 4 celebrations.
Latin American leaders were outraged by the incident, calling it a violation of national sovereignty and a slap in the face for a region that has suffered through humiliations by Europe and several U.S.-backed military coups.
Morales blamed Washington for pressuring European countries to refuse to allow his plane to fly through their airspace on Tuesday, forcing it to land in Vienna, Austria, in what he called a violation of international law. He had been returning from a summit in Russia during which he had suggested he would be willing to consider a request from Snowden for asylum.
“United we will defeat American imperialism. We met with the leaders of myparty and they asked us for several measures and if necessary, we will closethe embassy of the United States,” Morales said in the city where he started his political career as a leader of coca leaf farmers. “We do not need the embassy of the United States.”
A joint statement issued by the leaders said that an insult to Morales was an insult to them all. Some of those present included Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica and Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, said that she wanted to attend but was unable.
Ecuadorean President Correa said: “We’re not going to accept that in the 21st century there’s first, second and third rate countries,” Correa said. “The leaders and authorities in Europe have to take a lesson in history and understand that we’re not 500 years behind. This Latin America of the 21st century is independent, dignified and sovereign.” Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner said:
Speaking to supporters in Cochabamba, where a number of South American leaders were meeting to show solidarity with the Bolivian president after his delayed return home, Morales was quoted as saying “We do not need the US embassy.”