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Diplomacy

Latin America slams US, EU over Morales incident

After Evo Morales' forced stopover in Vienna, Latin America's long-held resentment against the US is resurfacing. But there's also growing consternation about the EU, with Colombia warning of a diplomatic scandal.

The US embassy in Bolivia was sealed off and the Independence Day celebrations on July 4 had been called off at the last minute. Police were out in force to keep unwanted visitors away. It's eerily quiet behind the walls.

After Bolivia's Evo Morales was forced to stop over in Vienna on Tuesday night (02./03.07.2013) relations between La Paz and Washington hit a low point. As millions of Americans were celebrating Independence Day, Morales hosted a crisis summit with the leaders of Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay in Cochabamba.

South America upset

The fact that the Obama administration is violating what is seen as a fundamental American right to freedom, as stipulated by the founding fathers of the United States, is a particular thorn in the sides of many in Latin America.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales (R) and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera sing the national anthem after Morales' arrival at the El Alto airport on the outskirts of La Paz, July 3, 2013. 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. REUTERS/David Mercado (BOLIVIA - Tags: POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Morales had to stop over in Vienna against his will

"The illegal detention of Bolivian President Morales is not just humiliating for one of our neighbors, it's humiliating for an entire continent," Argentine President Cristina Kirchner told daily "Clarin".

"Evo si, Yanquis no" ("Evo yes, Yankees no") - that was the battle cry of Morales' supporters. The Bolivian president returned to La Paz just before midnight local time on Wednesday.

The outrage over what they see as the condescending treatment of Bolivia#s head of state, has spread across the continent. It has revived the traditional view of the US as an imperial power. Colombia is the only country urging caution so as not to escalate the situation.

"The US is putting their own objective of national secrecy above international law," says Günther Maihold, deputy director at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, who teaches at the Colegio de Mexico at the moment. He believes Obama is "losing credibility fast" in Latin America, which he says "could cause lasting damage."

Dismay and bafflement

And it's not just the US that's under the spotlight, Europe is under fire too. "European governments have treated the president of a sovereign country with condescension," the Peruvian writer and Nobel Prize laureate Vargas Llosa said at an event on freedom of the press in Madrid's America House. He said the incident was simply unacceptable.

In South America, the conflicting responses to the incident in Europe caused dismay and bafflement. Brazil's Dilma Rousseff demanded an apology.

epa03274233 Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa attends the launch of a commemorative edition of his novel 'La Ciudad y los Perros' (The City and the Dogs), in Madrid, Spain, 20 June 2012. The commemorative edition was released on the occassion of the book's 50th anniversary. EPA/KOTE +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Vargas Llosa is disappointed with Europe

"The stance of some European governments is frightening," she said, especially given the recent row between the Washington and Brussels over US spying and surveillance programs in Europe.

Bolivia's Vice President Garcia Linera expressed his frustration in Spanish daily "El Pais". "Some European countries have damaged their own dignity with this incident," he told the paper. "The colonies are not in Africa or Asia, but unfortunately, in Europe."

The sound of silence

"The worst thing about this incident is the silence in Europe," says Marianne Braig, a Latin America expert who teaches at the FU University in Berlin.

"Why are we not having a debate here about granting asylum to Snowden?" she asks, pointing out that Europe could cite international law in this case.

But the Morales incident shows that some countries can afford to ignore international law, according to Günther Maihold. "It's not just European countries that cooperate with US intelligence agencies. Latin American nations do it too," he adds. That's why their criticism is little more than posturing he says.

Maihold believes that only countries who do not rely on the US politically, those that are "on the fringes of global politics…like Ecuador, Belarus or Venezuela" would be in a position to grant asylum to someone like Snowden.

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