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4 Jul, 2013 12:10

Latin America rising: Outrage at ‘imperial hijack’ of Morales’ plane

Latin American leaders are meeting to discuss the “hijack” of Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane in Austria. Regional leaders presented a united front, defending Latin American sovereignty in the face of what they see as post-colonial imperialism.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the EU air blockade that forced the Bolivian President Evo Morales to land in Austria on Wednesday. France, Spain, Portugal and Italy all closed their airspace amid suspicions the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had stowed away on board the president’s craft.

The 12 nations that are part of the regional block will have a ministerial meeting in the Peruvian capital of Lima to discuss the consequences.

Bolivian President Evo Morales talks to journalists on July 3, 2013 at the airport of Schwechat, near Vienna. (AFP Photo/Helmut Fohringer)

So far Bolivia has already resolved to take an official complaint to the UN over the incident, alleging that the US was undoubtedly the instigator.

"What's at stake here is ... the dignity of Bolivia and the dignity of Latin America," said Sacha Llorenti Soliz, Bolivia’s envoy to the UN on Wednesday in Geneva. Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera for his part likened the incident to an “imperialist hijack.”

In the face of furious rhetoric from Latin America, the EU and US have played down the incident.

The White House has denied any involvement in the grounding of Morales’ plane, while France has said they revoked the flying permit because they were not aware it was the president’s plane.

France apologized to Bolivia for closing its airspace to President Morales’ plane, forcing it to make a stopover in Austria.

The Foreign Minister called his Bolivian counterpart to tell him about France's regrets after the incident caused by the late confirmation of permission for President Morales' plane to fly over (French) territory," French Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Philippe Lalliot said in a statement.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales boards the presidential plane at Fortaleza airport July 3, 2013. (Reuters/Jarbas Oliveira)

French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that he had opened the airspace to the Bolivian presidential jet as soon as he knew Morales was onboard.

There was conflicting information about the passengers who were on board,” Hollande noted in Berlin, cited Expatica.com.

Latin America rising?

A number of Latin American countries have banded together in there condemnation of the event, but the silence of regional key players has cast doubt whether their actions will lead to any concrete consequences.

Brazilian journalist Mauricio Savarese told RT that the world would likely see a “split” in Latin America between US allies and the anti-American contingent. 

Supporters of Bolivia's President Evo Morales shout slogans in front of the Bolivian embassy in Caracas, July 3, 2013. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

“Some countries that are very closely allied to Morales have been very vocal, but many others have kept silence. That’s the case for Chile, Colombia and Brazil, the biggest country in the region,” he told RT. He added that countries closer to Morales like Argentina, Nicaragua and Venezuela were more likely to press the agenda for criticism of the US. 

“The posture of Latin America might be of strong criticism on the microphones, but behind the scenes it’s going to be a little more split than it seems,” he said. 

Eva Golinger, author and lawyer contradicted this, describing it as indicative of a “new era of Latin American sovereignty.”

RT @RicardoPatinoEC : "Confirmed Meeting of Heads of State of Unasur today, at 4pm in Cochabamba, in solidarity with President Evo Morales"

— Cancillería Ecuador (@CancilleriaEc) July 4, 2013

“The 21st century is no longer the time when the US dominates Latin America or EU countries colonize Latin America. This is the dawn of a new era of Latin American sovereignty, dignity and independence,” Golinger told RT. However, she voiced doubts as to whether the Bolivian appeal to the UN will lead to a concrete result. 

She also told RT’s Spanish channel that there were elements of “discrimination, racism, classism and arrogant imperialist attitudes” in the incident.

“This would not have happened if it had been the plane of a European head of state,” she told RT Actualidad.

Moreover, she said that Latin America could strike at the US and EU through trade sanctions, saying “those things are what will have the effect in the long term.”