Bolivian presidential plane grounded over Snowden suspicions

Posted Jul 3, 2013 by Anne Sewell
After attending a major gas supplier summit in Moscow, Bolivian president Evo Morales left, only to be forced to land in Austria over suspicions that Edward Snowden had stowed away on board the presidential plane.
Bolivian President Evo Morales
Bolivian President Evo Morales
RT / YouTube
South American leaders are outraged over the event as it appears that the Bolivian president is not welcome in the airspace above Europe.
It seems that the plane is stuck in Austria due to reports that France and Portugal would also not allow the La Paz-bound plane to enter their airspace. The plane needed to refuel, but was turned away from Lisbon in Portugal.
As the plane then got dangerously low on fuel, it had to conduct an emergency landing in Austria. The plane was then stuck in Vienna and not allowed to fly over Europe on its way home because it was thought that Snowden was hiding on the plane.
While Snowden had applied to Bolivia for asylum, this was only one of the 21 countries that he had approached and the country has yet to answer his request. He also petitioned Austria for asylum, but was rejected by that country.
In the meantime, Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra has met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer to discuss the grounding of President Morales’ plane. According to Saavedra they are still waiting on Italian authorization to continue their journey.
Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca refuted the idea that the NSA whistleblower was on the plane.
He told the media that: “We don’t know who invented this lie, but we want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales.”
A tweet from Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, citing the Bolivian President, said, “I am not going to allow them to search my plane. I am not a thief.” Kirchner had spoken to the Bolivian President by telephone about the incident.
The Bolivian Defense Minister, Ruben Saavedra told CNN:
“This is a lie, a falsehood. It was generated by the US government.”
“It is an outrage. It is an abuse. It is a violation of the conventions and agreements of international air transportation.”
There were also problems with Spanish airspace, as authorities requested permission to search President Morales’ plane as a condition of transiting through the country, however the Bolivian officials refused.
"The ambassador for Spain in Austria has just informed us that there is no authorization to fly over Spanish territory and that at 9am Wednesday they would be in contact with us again," Saavedra said.
Speaking of Spain's demand to search the plane he stated, “This is blackmail, we are refusing these conditions.”
Alvaro Garcia, the Bolivian vice president was quoted as saying that Morales had been "kidnapped by imperialism."
Despite all the uproar over the debacle, it seems that Austrian ministry officials have confirmed that Snowden was not on Morales’ plane.
Denying any knowledge of why the plane landed in Austria, a ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg told AFP: “President Morales will leave early Wednesday morning for La Paz.”
RT's correspondent in the video above says that possibly the reason why the suspicions arose in the first place was that the Bolivian president had said that he would possibly grant asylum to Snowden in a recent interview.
Update 2:
It was later advised that Spain did, after all, open air space for the Bolivian President's plane. It was organized for Morales to fly over Spanish airspace and make a technical stop in the Canary Islands.
A spokesman for the Spanish foreign ministry told the media:
"Bolivia has again requested overflight and a stopover and we granted it at 09.30am this morning," (or 07.30 GMT.)