Saturday 21 October 2017

Latin leaders meet over 'kidnapping'

David Mercado

SOUTH America's most outspoken leftist leaders were due to have met yesterday in Bolivia to rally behind Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose plane was diverted in Europe this week on suspicions that fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was aboard.

The presidential gathering in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is aimed at expressing outrage over his "virtual kidnapping" and the US pressure they believe spurred it.

"Latin America has to react," Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said. "Imagine for one second if this had happened with a European president or the US president – it probably would've been grounds for war. And here they think they can infringe and crush international law."

Despite the rhetoric, no Latin American country has offered asylum yet to Mr Snowden, who is wanted by Washington for disclosure of intelligence secrets. Two radical leftist governments – Venezuela and Cuba – are in a cautious rapprochement with the United States that would be jeopardised if they gave him sanctuary. Russia is growing impatient over Mr Snowden's stay in a Moscow airport and has urged him to leave.

Bolivia said Mr Morales was returning from Moscow on Tuesday when France and Portugal abruptly banned his plane from entering their airspace and it was forced to land in Vienna. Austrian officials said they inspected his plane, but Bolivia's defence minister denied this.

This unusual treatment of a presidential plane upset leaders in Latin America, which has a history of US-backed coups.

The presidents of Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay and Suriname were due to attend the meeting.

More moderate governments in the region were sending lower-ranking officials, indicating the 12-nation South American bloc UNASUR is split.

Irish Independent

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