Above: Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Jose Mujica of Uruguay, Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela pose for the official picture of the XLV Mercosur Summit, at the Mercosur headquarters in Montevideo on July 12, 2013.(AFP Photo / Miguel Rojo)
South American countries belonging to the Mercosur trade bloc have decided to withdraw their ambassadors for consultations from European countries involved in the grounding of the Bolivian president’s plane.
“We’ve taken a number of actions in order to compel public explanations and apologies from the European nations that assaulted our brother Evo Morales,” explained Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, who revealed some of the agenda debated during the 45th summit of Mercosur countries in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.
The decision to recall European ambassadors was taken by Maduro, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, and Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, during the meeting.
Member states attending the summit expressed their grievances with “actions by the governments of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal” over the July 2 incident, when the aircraft carrying President Evo Morales back to Bolivia after attending an energy summit in Moscow was denied entry into the airspace of a number of EU member states.
The small aircraft, which required a stop-over before completing its flight, was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria after a circuitous flight path.
It was later revealed that the European countries’ actions were prompted by accusations made by the US ambassador to Austria, William Eacho, who alleged that American whistleblower Edward Snowden had been taken on board to help him gain political asylum in Latin America.
“The gravity of the incident – indicative of a neocolonial mindset – constitutes an unfriendly and hostile act, which violates human rights and impedes freedom of travel, as well as the treatment and immunity appropriate to a head of state,” the Mercosur nations affirmed in the joint statement.
The incident was further described as a “discriminatory and arbitrary” decision by European countries, as well as a “blatant violation of international law.”
By intervening in what they thought were South America’s attempts to grant Snowden asylum, the United States and its allies are undermining the fundamental principles of international law, British human rights activist Peter Tatchell told RT.
“What the United States government is seeking is to obstruct Edward Snowden’s bid to seek asylum. Not to get asylum, but to seek asylum,” Tatchell said. “It has bullied and threatened and menaced other countries around the world to not grant him asylum and to not grant airspace so that a flight can take him to another country. That is a direct attack upon the United Nations’ refugee conventions, and it is shocking and appalling that a supposedly democratic government, in collusion with European governments – including the government in Britain – has been conspiring to not allow Mr. Snowden to make a valid asylum application.”