LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia said President Evo Morales’ plane was forced to land in Austria on Tuesday after France and Portugal refused air permits, apparently because they suspected it was carrying Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor wanted by Washington on espionage charges.
Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca furiously accused France and Portugal of putting Morales’ life at risk and insisted that Snowden was not on Morales’ plane.
Choquehuanca told reporters that Portugal and France had abruptly canceled the air permits, forcing the unscheduled Vienna stopover as Morales was returning on a Bolivian government aircraft from Russia.
“They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane ... We don’t know who invented this lie,” he said.
“We want to express our displeasure because this has put the president’s life at risk.”
While attending an energy conference in Russia this week, Morales said he would consider granting asylum to Snowden if requested.
Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra said the U.S. State Department may have been behind the decisions to not allow Morales’ plane to land in Portugal or fly over French air space.
“We have the suspicion that they (the two European governments) were used by a foreign power, in this case the United States, as a way of intimidating the Bolivian state and President Evo Morales,” he said.
Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Editing by Kieran Murray and Christopher Wilson