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Italy, Portugal apologize to Bolivia for blocking airspace to its presidential plane

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Italy and Portugal have officially apologized for involvement in illegally rerouting the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this month during a flight home from Moscow.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca announced Wednesday that Italian and Portuguese officials apologized for the controversial incident on July 3rd, when a number Western European countries closed their airspace to the presidential aircraft on a false suspicion that leaker of US electronic spying Edward Snowden was onboard, forcing the plane to land in Vienna on July 3.

“It was not only Spain, which sent us a letter with excuses, but Italy and Spain as well,” Choquehuanca stated, adding that the ministry would consider the apology letters on Wednesday and will later issue a reply.

The aircraft carrying Morales had been in the air for over three hours after departing from Moscow on July 3, when France, Spain, Portugal and some other European governments declared the closure of their airspace to it.

The plane was later allowed to fly back to Bolivia from Austria after local authorities concluded that Snowden was not aboard the presidential aircraft.

This is while France and Spain have already filed expressions of apology to Bolivia for shutting down their airspace to President Morales.

The development comes following an ensuing diplomatic scandal that sparked fierce reaction by leaders of Bolivia and numerous Latin American countries, demanding explanations.

Leaders and officials of Argentina, Ecuador, Suriname, Venezuela, Brazil and Uruguay joined President Morales in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba on July 4 to condemn the illegal European move against Morales, demanding a formal apology from France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The Latin American leaders further expressed outrage over the incident, dismissing it as a violation of national sovereignty and a slap in the face to a region that has suffered through humiliations imposed by Europe and numerous US-backed military coups.

“United we will defeat American imperialism. We met with the leaders of my party and they asked us for several measures and if necessary, we will close the embassy of the United States,” said President Morales. “We do not need the embassy of the United States.”

In a joint statement read after the gathering, the Latin American leaders also said they would back Bolivia’s official complaint with the UN Human Rights Commission.

Moreover, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) also issued a strong statement on July 8, condemning the illegal action of the European countries against the Bolivian president as a grave violation of his diplomatic immunity.

Describing the forced-landing in Vienna of the presidential aircraft as “a serious incident,” the 120-member movement expressed outrage over “endangering the life of the president of a developing country and his entourage despite the fact that government leaders and the aircraft carrying them are under immunity based on international laws.”

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