How Snowden Canceled the 4th of July Diplomatic Reception in Bolivia Favorite 



Jul 2 2013


Russia, United States, Bolivia

On July 2nd, 2013, after attending the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) conference, Bolivian President Evo Morales departed Russia from Vnukovo Airport in Moscow aboard his presidential plane. However, a "leak" suggested that Edward Snowden was aboard, which led Spain, France, and Portugal to close their airspace to the aircraft, to then be grounded in Austria.

During a T.V. interview, the day before, Morales, a staunch anti-imperialist, stated that he was open to offering asylum to Snowden, who was stuck in the Sheremetyevo Airport, in legal limbo, making his presence aboard Morales' plane plausible to U.S. agencies looking to extradite Snowden.

Adding to Snowden's revelations and concern regarding U.S.' surveillance practices, the incident caused criticism to grow against the United States' use of diplomatic influence to ground the plane. On the controversy, Ban Ki Moon, former U.N. Secretary-General, emphasized the importance of preventing such incidents from occurring since "a head of state and his or her aircraft enjoy immunity and inviolability."

The source of the "leak" that caused the incident was unknown until 2015, when Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, claimed responsibility. Assange revealed that there were conversations with presidents from Latin America to provide asylum to Snowden. The week of the oil conference was chosen to get Snowden out of Russia on a presidential plane since they are considered sovereign "flying embassies." To distract the U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring them, Assange mentioned how they started speaking about Bolivia to divert attention from the chosen plane and how they "spoke about that on open lines to lawyers in the United States. And we didn't think much more of it."

On the outcome of the ordeal, and whether he should apologize, Assange stated that "the U.S. should apologize to Evo Morales, to Portugal, to Spain, to France. Portugal, Spain and France should apologize to Evo Morales for not following the law. But we can't predict when other countries won't follow the law. We can't predict that other countries engage in some criminal operation, unprecedented criminal operation. But in some ways, while it was unfortunate for President Morales, it was also a very good thing to have seen, because it revealed the arrogance of Western Europe towards Latin America. It revealed the arrogance and hypocrisy of the United States in pressuring Western Europe in that way. It revealed the nature of the relationship between Western Europe and the United States."

Posted by JG on

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Per Assange's revelations, the action accomplished what it set out to do: distract U.S. Intelligence Agencies working on extraditing Snowden. Additionally, it demonstrated the lack of respect for sovereignty in U.S. diplomacy and its influence on European countries. People from different countries mobilized and voiced their support for Morales and Bolivia, The ordeal was the first time that the diplomatic 4th of July reception was canceled in Bolivia, leading many to believe that it was an assumption of guilt by the United States. In La Paz, people mobilized in front of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz to support Morales.