Just over a week ago, a plane carrying Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was refused permission by France, Spain, Portugal and Italy as suspicions arose that Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence worker who leaked secret data, might have been on board. The plane was forced to make an unscheduled stop at an airport in Vienna.
The aircraft was searched by Austrian officials, and needless to say, it had arrived in Vienna minus Mr. Snowden, who remained (and remains) ensconced at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.
At the time Morales’ aircraft was diverted, Bolivia’s UN ambassador didn’t mince his words. According to The Independent, he told reporters, “We’re talking about the president on an official trip, after an official summit, being kidnapped.”
At the time of his unscheduled 13-hour delay in Vienna, Morales is reported to have told reporters that the governments of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain had made a mistake of historic proportions. And so last night’s events have proved.
The scale of the resentment in South America at the treatment of President Morales was demonstrated last night. At a summit meeting of the South American trading bloc,Mercosur (or Mercosul in Spanish) held in Uruguayan capital Montevideo, representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay slammed the Morales incident, saying it violated international law. The four countries said they were recalling their envoys from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
‘A typical neo-colonial practice’
The strength of feeling at the indignity inflicted on Bolivia’s head of state was summed up in a statement by Uruguayan Foreign Minister Luis Almagro, who said the European governments’ actions were “groundless, discriminatory and arbitrary.”
Almagro continued, “The gravity of the situation — which is a typical neo-colonial practice — is an unusual, unfriendly and hostile act which violates human rights and affects the freedom of transit, displacement and immunity that is enjoyed by every head of state.”
The affected European countries had previously sought to play down the incident, referring to it as a “misunderstanding.”
The Mercosur trading bloc currently comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Paraguay is currently suspended from the bloc, following the impeachment of its president, while Bolivia presently has associate status and is in the process of becoming a full member of Mercosur.
In their final statement, South American representatives attending the Mercosur summit also condemned NSA surveillance and operation PRISM, the substantive part of the Snowden leaks. As reported by Al Jazeera, the statement read, “We emphatically reject the interception of telecommunications and espionage actions in our nations, as they constitute a violation of human rights, of the right of our citizens to privacy and information. It’s unacceptable behavior that breaches our sovereignty and harms relations between nations.”
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, gunboat diplomacy was a charge often laid against Europe’s former colonial powers. On the face of it, the Morales incident shows that, at least in the minds of some European governments, nothing much has changed since the end of empires almost a century ago. Their attitude appears to be, What can these pesky foreigners do if we choose to ground an aircraft, even one carrying a head of state? Bolivia’s not going to bomb us, after all. They might even be having a chuckle to themselves thinking that an amphibious assault is out of the question too.Bolivia’s navy is, after all, to all intents a navy without a sea to sail on after Bolivia was unfortunate enough to lose its coastal territory in the 1879-84 War of the Pacific.
But the truth is that the emerging economies of South America are no longer the financial basket cases, run by military juntas, seemingly endlessly engaged in pointless wars over bits of jungle or inhospitable parts of the Andes. Without, it has to be said, much help from their “friends” in the West, one by one, South American states are establishing themselves as modern democracies. Yes, there will be setbacks as these democracies begin to flourish, as was amply demonstrated by the recent anti-government protests in Brazil, but the thrust of South American politics is inexorably toward democracies by the people, for the people.
The growing influence and membership of the Mercosur trading bloc also shows that South American countries aren’t willing to be pushed around any longer. Individually, they may be weak and unable to counter large trading blocs like the European Union, but the development and expansion of Mercosur shows that times are changing.
The Morales incident was a throwback to an age when sending a couple of gunboats would be sufficient to keep troublesome colonials in order. It has no place in the 21st century. That the Mercosur countries have responded by recalling ambassadors was, in diplomatic terms, a shot across Europe’s bows. Europe should take heed.
Fonte : Allvoices.com