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Bolivian president's plane grounded and searched for Snowden

Bolivian President Evo Morale's plane was rerouted, grounded and searched in Austria after false rumors claimed NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board.

Evo Morales headshotEnlarge
President Evo Morales at the start of the Gas Exporting Countries' Forum at the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 1, 2013. (Maxim Shemetov/AFP/Getty Images)

Bolivia said Austria's forced search for NSA leaker Edward Snowden aboard President Evo Morales' plane violated international law, calling it an act of aggression based on false rumors.

Morales' plane had been rerouted and landed in Vienna on Tuesday after European nation's apparently blocked the flight from their airspace on suspicion that the former security contractor was on board.

Snowden was not found aboard the aircraft and Morales left Europe on Wednesday, but only after 13 hours stranded on the tarmac and a heated diplomatic row.

"The president has been kidnapped by imperialism, and he is being held in Europe," Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said Tuesday in a televised address. He said Morales was a "hostage of imperialism" and called for a worldwide protest against "this act of imperial arrogance."

Sacha Llorentty Soliz, Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters that he believed the orders to down the president's plane - flying from Moscow after a of gas-exporting conference - had come from the United States.

However, according to the Associated Press, France and Spain claim they both had clreared the president's plane to pass through their airspace. 

Leaders from across Latin American voiced their outrage against European governments. 

"(These are) vestiges of a colonialism that we thought were long over. We believe this constitutes not only the humiliation of a sister nation but of all South America," Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said.

President of Ecuador Rafael Correa tweeted: "Latin America demands an explanation. If what happened to Evo does not merit a UNSAR (Union of South American Nations) summit, I don't know what does."

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff gave a statement that said: "The embarrassment to President Morales hits not only Bolivia, but all of Latin America."

The suspicion may have arose from comments in support of the surveillance whistleblower that Morales made Tuesday, in which the president told Russian television that Bolivia could give Snowden political asylum.

"If there were a request, of course we would be willing to debate and consider the idea," Morales said. "I know that the empires have an espionage network and are against the so-called developing countries. And in particular, against those which are rich in natural resources," he added.

President Barack Obama has said serious costs would follow if a country gave safe haven to Snowden, who is still believed to be in Moscow's airport and to be in possession of classified information that could damage the US.

So far none of the reported 21 countries Snowden applied to have offered asylum.  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/130703/bolivian-presidents-plane-searched-amid-suspected-snowden-carg