Bolivian President Evo Morales received a hero's welcome when he finally touched down in La Paz late on Wednesday after his flight home was diverted and searched in an what has been termed a violation of the Vienna Convention and a gross diplomatic affront.

"Apologies from a country that did not let us pass over its territory are not enough," Morales said before talks with fellow leaders in the central city of Cochabamba. "Some governments apologized, saying it was an error, but this was not an error."

Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Desi Bouterse of Suriname are expected to attend the meeting, the Bolivian government said.

The leaders will give their "unconditional support" over the "disproportionate and unfair aggression by the United States and its European allies," said Juan Ramon Quintana, Bolivia's minister of the presidency.

Bolivian officials accused France, Portugal, Italy and Spain of denying entry to Morales's jet late Tuesday as he flew back home from Russia due to "unfounded rumours" Snowden was on board.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, has been holed up in legal limbo in a Moscow airport as he tries to evade US espionage charges after leaking details of a vast US phone and Internet surveillance program.

Morales likened his ordeal to a "13-hour kidnapping" and several Latin American governments and others condemned the incident.

France apologized for temporarily refusing entry to Morales's jet, with President Francois Hollande saying there was "conflicting information" about the plane passengers.

Morales warned that he would take international legal action over the incident, saying global treaties were violated.

Russia's comment

Russia on Thursday condemned France, Spain and Portugal for blocking the flight from Moscow to La Paz of Bolivian President Evo Morales, which was temporarily grounded in Vienna over suspicions that US whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board, and said it would pursue the matter in the UN.

"The action of the French, Spanish and Portuguese authorities can hardly be viewed as a friendly step toward Bolivia or Russia," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The president of any state is a person enjoying international protection,” the statement said. “In its practical actions in the United Nations, Russia will be pressing for strict observance of international law, which guarantees the inviolability of such persons and prohibits any encroachments on their personality, freedom and dignity.”


VoR's Tom Spender has the report (July 3).

Download podcast

Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations described the re-routing as an act of aggression tantamount to "kidnapping".

"The decisions of these countries have violated international law... We are already making procedures to denounce this to the UN secretary general," Bolivia's UN ambassador Sacha Llorenti Soliz told reporters in Geneva, according to Deutsche Welle, citing western news agencies.

The envoy said he had no doubt that the orders to divert Morales' plane came from the United States. The United States has not commented on those allegations.

Hollande's reaction

French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday evening that he had opened his country's airspace to the Bolivian presidential jet as soon as he knew head of state Evo Morales was aboard.

"There was conflicting information about the passengers who were on board," Hollande said in Berlin. "When I knew it was the plane of the Bolivian president, I immediately gave permission for it to fly" over French territory.

Earlier in the day, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry dismissed reports that the presidential plane was denied permission to fly over France and said it was free to cross its territory, but gave no reasons why Bolivian officials had claimed otherwise.

The plane landed in Vienna, where it was held up for more than 14 hours. Austria's Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said a “voluntary inspection” of the plane, permitted by Morales, revealed that “no-one is on board who is not a Bolivian citizen,” Reuters reported.

The Dassault Falcon 900ex took off from Vienna at 10:40 GMT and flew to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands to refuel.  It landed at 14:40 GMT.

The Bolivan Air Force registered aircraft, FAB-001, was bought in 2010 from Manchester United FC.

Reaction in South America

Bolivia's regional allies Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua reacted angrily to the jet incident.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua meanwhile described the diversion by saying: "This is an attack against President Morales's life."

"We express our solidarity with Evo and the brave Bolivian people. Our America cannot tolerate so much abuse," Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa added on Twitter.

In La Paz, the presidential palace said protest rallies were already planned outside the embassies of the United States, France, Portugal and Italy.

Bolivia will file a complaint to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the Latin American country's envoy said.

"The decisions of these countries have violated international law... We are already making procedures to denounce this to the UN secretary general," Bolivia's ambassador to the UN Sacha Llorenti told reporters in Geneva.

(Voice of Russia, RIA Novosti, AFP)