Asylum Awaits Snowden in Bolivia as Thousands March at US Embassy
Thousands of protesters marched in La Paz, Bolivia today, calling on their government to close the United States embassy following an incident that saw President Evo Morales' plane grounded in Vienna overnight last week amid rumors National Security Agency whistle blower Edward Snowden was on board.
(Related story: Grounding of Morales Plane Could Push Bolivia to Give Snowden Asylum)
The incident drew outrage from Bolivia and its allies in the region, and prompted Morales to join Venezuela in offering Snowden asylum.
Today's march by trade unions began as protesters set fire to the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and U.S. flags but later proceeded peacefully with very little police presence.
"We're a small country," said Braulio Rocha Tapia, a union leader from the nearby city of El Alto, as his fellow workers filed past the embassy. "But we must ensure that our country is respected."
The U.S. is widely blamed in Bolivia for convincing France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to block the presidential plane's access to their airspace, a claim Spain and France deny, according to the BBC. Today Bolivian state news reported that President Morales has summoned representatives of those countries to answer questions about the incident.
Last week President Morales said he will consider closing the U.S. embassy, and that if Snowden requests it Bolivia is prepared to offer asylum. (Related story: Bolivia Considers Shuttering US Embassy Following Snowden Plane Hijacking)
"I want to say that now we are going to offer asylum, if he asks, to this North America who is pursued by his countrymen," Morales said on Saturday. "We are not afraid – they have already accused me of bringing this ex-agent of the CIA."
(Related story: Could Edward Snowden Seek Asylum with an American Indian Tribe?)