Spain on Monday issued a formal apology to Bolivia over the July 2 incident involving the airplane carrying President Evo Morales home from Russia. Three European countries – Portugal, France and Italy – had denied his aircraft entry into their airspace because they suspected it was also carrying Edward Snowden, the former CIA analyst who leaked information about a massive US spying program. Snowden, who is wanted by the government of Barack Obama, is still in Moscow.
Morales was forced to land in Vienna, and remained in the airport of the Austrian capital for 13 hours. He eventually made it back to Bolivia after a stopover in the Canary Islands, which are part of Spain. Unlike the three other countries, Spain says it did not close its airspace to the Bolivian president’s airplane, but instead the Spanish ambassador in Vienna attempted to personally inspect the aircraft.
Spain’s apology was conveyed by the ambassador in La Paz, Ángel Vásquez, who handed a letter to authorities there. “I came to hand in a note, just as the Bolivian authorities wanted,” said Vásquez in a brief meeting with the local press. “We sincerely regret the incidents that the president had to go through, the discomfort in which he found himself, and the trouble he was put through, which he has expressed sharply in recent days.”
Vásquez asserted that Spanish airspace was always open to Morales’ plane
Vásquez asserted that Spanish airspace was always open to Morales’ plane. “Spain was unwittingly caught up in this event,” he said. The apologies were issued over the ambassador’s actions in Vienna. “We present our excuses over this procedure, which was not proper and which placed the president in a difficult situation not befitting a head of state. We publicly admit that these actions were not the most efficient ones possible and that maybe things could have been done better.”
Spain is the first of the four European countries to have publicly apologized for the airport incident. President Morales has since talked several times in public (including before the heads of ALBA, the Bolivarian alliance) about Ambassador Alberto Carnero’s repeated attempts at getting inside the plane. Probably his suggestion that they both “have a cup of coffee on board” was what angered Morales the most, after realizing that his word was not enough to convince the diplomat that Snowden was not on the plane.
Spain’s apology comes a week after the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OEA) condemned the incident and “firmly” called upon the governments of Portugal, France, Italy and Spain to offer explanations.