Bolivian President Held (or "Kidnapped") By Austria in Diplomatic Muddle

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 3 2013 1:08 PM

Bolivian President Held (or "Kidnapped") By Austria in Diplomatic Muddle

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Bolivian President Evo Morales waves as he boards his plane prior leaving the Vienna International Airport on July 3, 2013.

Photo by Patrick Domingo/AFP/Getty Images

Update: Details have emerged this afternoon that cast doubt on Bolivian officials’ account of the plane rerouting incident. The Associated Press reports that, contrary the Bolivians' claims, Portugal, Spain, and France had all authorized President Morales’ plane to travel through their airspace.

Also, it seems that Austrian authorities did not force the plane to land. (The Guardian published an exchange between the plane's pilot and an air traffic controller that confirms this.) Austrian officials only decided to inspect the plane once it had landed, with full permission from the Bolivians.

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Original post at 1:08 p.m.: Edward Snowden’s flight from justice hasn’t just affected American international relations—it’s also causing rifts elsewhere in the world. Austrian-Bolivian relations took a hit last night when Austrian authorities grounded Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Vienna as he returned from a conference in Moscow, on the suspicion that he was smuggling Edward Snowden back to Bolivia (where Snowden had applied for asylum). Reuters has more details:

"We're talking about the president on an official trip after an official summit being kidnapped," Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, told reporters in Geneva. The Bolivian plane, which was taking Morales home from an energy conference in Moscow, was stranded at Vienna airport for several hours after Portugal and France refused to allow it to fly through their airspace. The search found that Snowden was not onboard and the plane eventually left Vienna about noon on Wednesday.

Bolivia, along with other Latin American countries, is fuming over Austria’s move, which they claim was an order from the United States. Bolivia plans to file a formal complaint at the UN, and has called for an “emergency meeting” of Latin American leaders to discuss the incident. For Snowden watchers, the muddle seems to confirm that the NSA leaker remains at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport—or in a floating transit zone somewhere in the city.