LA PAZ – President Evo Morales on the weekend offered political asylum to former CIA analyst Edward Snowden in response to a humiliating situation he experienced last week when several European countries denied his aircraft overflight and landing privileges out of fear that the U.S. secrets-leaker was on board.
“(I want to) say to the Europeans and the Americans (that) yesterday I was thinking, as a fair protest I want to tell them ... we’re going to give asylum if that American persecuted by his countrymen asks for it. We’re not afraid,” Morales said during an appearance Saturday.
The president made his announcement at an event with indigenous residents of the Andean Oruro region, at which he was accompanied by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American, who is on his first official visit to Bolivia.
The decision by France, Italy and Portugal last Tuesday to deny passage to Morales’ plane, on board which he was returning from a summit in Moscow, sparked a serious crisis between Europe and Latin America, with governments in the latter region immediately closing ranks behind the Bolivian leader and harshly condemning the Europeans’ move.
Bolivia is including Spain among the offending countries because the Spanish ambassador in Vienna, Alberto Carnero, said he would like to board the aircraft to personally verify that Snowden was not on board.
However, the government of Mariano Rajoy does not feel that Madrid needs to apologize and insists that it never denied Morales’ plane air passage or landing rights in Spanish territory.
The government also noted that Spain allowed the jet to land in the Canary Islands to refuel.
Bolivian Government Minister Carlos Romero on Saturday criticized the “arrogant” and “immoral” attitude of Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, who said that his country “does not need to apologize to Bolivia” after the incident.
Snowden has been in the transit zone of the Moscow airport for two weeks while he awaits political asylum in one of the countries where he has requested it, among which is Bolivia, WikiLeaks said on its Web site this past week.