The Hunt for the President's Plane

July 8, 2013
The airplane of Bolivian President Evo Morales
It is not that important from what source U.S. intelligence received a signal that Edward Snowden would be transported out of Russia on the airplane of Bolivian President Evo Morales; the important thing is that the information turned out to be disinformation. Through allied governments in Europe – France, Italy, Spain and Portugal – Washington tried to organize a humiliating inspection of the presidential airplane in violation of all international conventions and treaties on the immunity of state leaders...

It is difficult to say what the airplane's pilots felt when at the very last moment the previously agreed-upon air corridors were closed to them and they were denied landings for refueling. In the end, the presidential aircraft received permission to land in Vienna on almost empty fuel tanks. It is not entirely clear how the Austrian authorities determined that Snowden was not on the plane. It was not until 12 hours later that Evo Morales and his companions were able to continue their flight to South America, where many politicians and the media assessed the occurrence as «essentially the hijacking of the airplane with the president on board». No one doubted that the entire operation had been coordinated by U.S. intelligence.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza; the Secretary General of UNASUR, Ali Rodriguez; the leaders of Mercosur; the leaders of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America); and other organizations have spoken out in protest over this occurrence. Practically all Latin American presidents – Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Ollanta Humala of Peru and others – loudly condemned those who allowed this provocation against the Bolivian leader.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa put forward an initiative to conduct an extraordinary summit of the leaders of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in order to «make joint decisions on the actions to which Evo Morales was subjected in Europe». Correa stated that everything that happened to the Bolivian leader is an extremely dangerous precedent, as it violates international law: «We are going to Bolivia to support our brother Evo and show that we do not intend to accept humiliating actions of this sort with regard to any country of our America. Imagine for a second that something like this happened to a leader of a European state or the president of the United States. Most likely it would be a cause for war. But they [the Western states. N.N.] are certain that they can encroach upon international law, destroy it, smash it to pieces, and slight the honor and sovereignty of our nations. It was not Evo Morales who was insulted, but international law, peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect between our states. We will not allow arrogance and impudence to gain the upper hand». Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela), Cristina Fernandez (Argentina), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Jose Mujica (Uruguay) and Dési Bouterse (Suriname) arrived in Cochabamba, where the UNASUR summit took place.

Mass protests near the U.S., French and Spanish embassies in La Paz began immediately after the hostile actions of the authorities of these countries against Evo Morales became known. Indignant Bolivians, and not only the president's political supporters, gathered around the diplomatic missions, awaiting further developments. Passions were rising, and several American flags were burned. The U.S. embassy announced the introduction of increased security measures, and upon approval from the State Department it cancelled the celebration of Independence Day on July 4. Indians from the Ponchos Rojos, a militia group of the Aymara people, to which Morales belongs, were noted close to the U.S. embassy. The chiefs of the Ponchos Rojos stated several times that they are prepared to defend their president by any means.

On instructions from the Spanish embassy, the consulate in Santa Cruz was closed. In La Paz the activities of the Spanish Cultural Center and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation were suspended. The Bolivian authorities know that these organizations are used as a cover for Spanish intelligence agents working in Bolivia in close contact with the CIA station. Spanish Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo tried to whitewash the actions of his government and stated without blinking an eye that Spain's «airspace was never closed».

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro opined that the «disgraceful government» of Mariano Rajoy had participated actively in the affair of Morales' plane: «Who does Mariano Rajoy think he is? Does he think we are still living in the colonial era? We need to rethink our relations with Spain, not with the Spanish people, but with Mariano Rajoy's government». These words contain a serious warning. After the death of President Hugo Chavez, Spanish intelligence agencies have noticeably stepped up their activities in Venezuela, assisting the CIA and collaborating with the radical opposition. Their goal is the destabilization of the country and the overthrow of the lawfully elected president.

At the UNASUR summit in Cochabamba, Morales stated that he is exploring the idea of closing the U.S. embassy in La Paz: «I would have no qualms about it; we're better off without the United States». He spoke of the dependence of European countries on the U.S. and emphasized the need to free Europe from it, making use of the experience of Latin American and Caribbean countries. And it must be said that Morales has extensive experience in fighting America's interference in Bolivia's internal affairs. In 2008 he declared American Ambassador Philip Goldberg persona non grata, and then banned the activities of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and USAID (Agency for International Development) in Bolivia. It is possible that this entire occurrence was Washington's attempt to take revenge on the Bolivian president for past humiliations. There is also a theory that the affair with the airplane was a warning of sorts to the Bolivian president regarding plans to invite Rosneft to Bolivia to explore promising hydrocarbon deposits where Gazprom is already operating.

In the words of Cristina Fernandez, the very least they can demand from the European countries is an apology: «The aggression against Morales is an insult to his people. It is an outrage against us all, against our nations, our rights and our societies». At the UNASUR summit it was said several times that the incident with Morales will lead to a serious crisis in Latin America's relations with the countries of Western Europe. And the statements of some officials in Washington that the U.S. has nothing to do with the occurrence («Don't ask us about it; look for explanations in the countries where it happened») are considered ridiculous by Latin Americans.