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Snowden search on Bolivian plane sparks Latin American criticism

Leaders across Latin America shared concerns about the significance of the diversion of Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane. Bolivian officials suggested the United States encouraged the diversion because Morales previously suggested he would consider granting asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

By Louise EganReuters, Hugh BronsteinReuters / July 3, 2013

A man holds a sign in support of President Evo Morales reading "Evo brother the people is with you" on Wednesday in Bolivia. The Bolivian president's flight was rerouted and delayed, allegedly because of suspicions he was trying to aid NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

AP Photo/Juan Karita

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BUENOS AIRES

Latin American leaders slammed European governments on Wednesday for diverting Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane on rumors it was carrying a wanted former U.S. spy agency contractor, and announced an emergency summit in a new diplomatic twist to the Edward Snowden saga.

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Bolivia said Morales was returning from Moscow on Tuesday when France and Portugal abruptly banned his plane from entering their airspace due to suspicions that Snowden, wanted by Washington for leaking secrets, was onboard. Italy and Spain also banned the plane from their skies, it said.

The unusual treatment of the Bolivian military aircraft touched a sensitive nerve in the region, which has a history of U.S.-backed coups. Regional leaders, particularly from the left, rallied behind Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president and a former union leader of the country's coca farmers.

"(These are) vestiges of a colonialism that we thought were long over. We believe this constitutes not only the humiliation of a sister nation but of all South America," Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said in a speech in Buenos Aires.

Heads of state in the 12-nation South American bloc Unasur denounced the "unfriendly and unjustifiable acts." The grouping issued a statement late on Wednesday saying the presidents of Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay and Surinam had agreed to attend a summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on Thursday.

"Latin America demands an explanation," tweeted Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa. "If what happened to Evo does not merit a Unasur summit, I don't know what does."

Dilma Rousseff, president of regional economic powerhouse Brazil, issued a statement repudiating the European countries that denied Morales access to their airspace based on what she called the "fanciful" notion that Snowden might be on board.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it "lamented" what happened to Morales and that more clarity was needed on the facts.

Much more blunt was the statement from Mexico's Congress condemning what it called the "disgraceful and discriminatory" treatment Morales had received in Europe.

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