World Bulletin/News Desk
Four South American nations intend to recall their ambassadors in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy it was announced on Friday following an incident in which Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane was blocked from entering the European countries’ airspace amid rumors fugitive former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, a U.S. citizen, was on board.
Speaking in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, at a summit of South American regional trade bloc Mercosur, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay said the incident, which took place on July 3 and saw the Bolivian president’s plane grounded in Austria for about 13 hours, had contravened international law.
Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro described the European countries’ actions as “baseless, discriminatory, arbitrary and hostile” and “a typical neo-colonial practice”.
In a statement, Mercosur said: “We repudiate any action aimed at undermining the authority of countries to grant and fully implement the right of asylum,” in a reference to Snowden, who is wanted by the United States on charges he leaked information on the country’s surveillance programs.
Bolivia has been vocal over the incident, which it called an “act of aggression.” Last week it summoned the ambassadors of the four European countries involved in the spat. The country has also called into question the future of the U.S. embassy in La Paz.
France has already apologized for the incident, which it blamed on “conflicting information”; Spain said it had been alerted to Snowden’s presence on board the plane, but did not divulge the source of the information. All the European countries involved have called what happened a “misunderstanding” and attempted to play down the row.
The former CIA contractor made his first appearance in three weeks on Friday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after meeting human rights groups and lawyers.
He has applied for political asylum in at least 21 countries, but to date most requests have been turned down, and the Latin countries of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only ones to have said they could grant the American asylum.
Although Brazil, a Mercosur member, has turned down Snowden’s asylum request, the statement by the bloc also called for “solidarity” with the three Latin countries to have offered asylum.
However, as Snowden’s passport has been annulled by the U.S. and getting to Latin America would pose a problem, it was announced today that he would seek temporary asylum in Russia.
Incident offended all Latin American countries
Speaking at the 45th Summit of Mercosur Heads of State on Friday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said the region would stand by President Morales and should move ahead with “concrete and effective steps” as the incident had “offended all Latin American countries.”
Many Latin countries are currently embroiled in a second row with the United States over reports the country spied on the emails and telephone calls of individuals, companies, and even government figures.
Speaking on the spy saga, Rousseff said it was important for the group to signal a “clear and absolute rejection” to the events, even in the name of “combatting terrorism and transnational crime,” concluding that there could be “no justification for violating the individual rights of any citizen of any state anywhere in the world.”
On the basis of information leaked by Snowden, a former contractor for U.S. intelligence agencies, Brazilian newspaper O Globo alleges that the NSA has spied on millions of emails and telephone calls and that the agency and the CIA had held joint offices in four Latin countries – including in the Brazilian capital, Brasília.
In its statement, Mercosur said, "We emphatically reject the interception of telecommunications and espionage activities in our countries, as they are a violation of human rights and citizens' right to privacy and information."
Brazil was still waiting for explanations and clarifications from the U.S., Rousseff said, adding that the Mercosur bloc should adopt “appropriate, relevant measures” in light of the spy case.
Paraguay back in the bloc?
It was also announced at the Mercosur summit that Paraguay could be re-admitted to the group as of August 15, as soon as president-elect Horacio Cartes assumed the country’s presidency.
Paraguay, a founding member of the bloc, was suspended last year after an impeachment process ousted President Fernando Lugo – a move which other Mercosur members considered undemocratic.
However, since Paraguay’s suspension in 2012, Venezuela has joined and assumed temporary presidency of the group – something Paraguay has strongly criticized.
Cartes said on Friday that Paraguay would not rejoin the group as Venezuela’s inclusion in the group had not been handled in accordance with the international treaties that the founding members had all signed.Last Mod: 13 Temmuz 2013, 11:29