Bolivia Accepts Apologies Over Snowden Plane Debacle
Bolivia's President Evo Morales has accepted apologies from Italy, France, Portugal and Spain following a July incident that saw his plane grounded in Vienna for 14 hours as rumors circulated that National Security Agency whistle blower Edward Snowden was on board. Morales also said that Bolivian ambassadors would return to their posts after temporarily recalling them from France, Spain and Italy, according to a press release from the president's offices.
"We accept the apologies of the four countries as a first step because we want to continue with respectful relationships between our countries, relationships of complementarity and solidarity," Morales said, though he added that Bolivia reserves the right to file complaints over the incident with international organizations.
On July 2 Morales' plane was returning from an official visit to Moscow, where Snowden has taken refuge in Sheremetyevo airport since late June. Stripped of his American passport, Snowden is unable to travel as he seeks asylum in more than 20 countries around the world.
According to allegations made by the Bolivian government, The United States, suspecting Snowden was on board, pressured the governments of Spain, France, Portugal and Italy to close their airspace to President Morales' plane, effectively stranding him in Europe. The event sparked an outcry by Bolivia's regional allies, including Argentina and Ecuador.
"We are going to offer asylum, if he asks, to this North American who is pursued by his countrymen," Morales said of Snowden following the incident. "We are not afraid – they have already accused me of bringing this ex-agent of the CIA."
Venezuela also offered Snowden asylum.
The United States has not commented on the incident, which further soured relations between the two countries and led to protests in Bolivia calling for the closure of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz. Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008, and the U.S. Agency for International Development earlier this year.