MADRID – Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Tuesday that the flap between La Paz and several European countries over the diversion of his aircraft two months ago is in the past.
“I don’t harbor rancor or resentment. We indigenous peoples are not vengeful,” he told a press conference in Madrid after meeting with Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Morales arrived on Tuesday for his first visit to Europe since the forced rerouting of his plane on July 2 as he was returning to Bolivia after attending a conference in Russia.
Portugal, France and Italy barred Morales’ plane from their airspace, apparently on suspicion that former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden was onboard.
Snowden, the source of documents exposing Washington’s surveillance of global telephonic and Internet communications, was then stranded in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
The Bolivian presidential aircraft spent 13 hours on the ground in Vienna as Austrian officials searched the plane for Snowden, who wasn’t aboard. The plane finally took off after Spain agreed to allow a refueling stop in the Canary Islands.
Once back in La Paz, Morales recalled his country’s ambassadors from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
He included Spain because the Spanish envoy to Austria sought to board his plane while it was on the tarmac in Vienna, which Morales interpreted as an attempt to verify whether or not Snowden was aboard.
France, Italy, Portugal and Spain subsequently apologized for the episode.
Morales accepted those apologies in late July, ordering the Bolivian diplomats back to their respective posts.
Reporters at Tuesday’s news conference in Madrid pressed Morales to address the incident, but he adopted a conciliatory tone and attributed the diversion of his flight to “external agents.”
“I don’t blame Europe,” he said.
Though he declined to name a culprit, Morales said he was targeted because he is “indigenous and anti-imperialist.”
“Starting from this meeting there is a lot of trust with Rajoy,” the Bolivian president said of his talks with the Spanish prime minister, calling for enhanced political and business cooperation between the two countries. EFE