• France edition
 
Snowden affair: France apologises to Bolivia
French flags burned in La Paz as Snowden affair causes international dispute between France and Bolivia. Photo: Jorge Bernal/AFP

Snowden affair: France apologises to Bolivia

Published: 03 Jul 2013 10:28 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Jul 2013 18:15 GMT+02:00

Around 100 protesters burned French flags and threw stones at the French embassy in the Bolivian capital of La Paz on Wednesday as they vented their anger over claims France had banned President Evo Morales's plane from entering their air space.

"Hypocrite France! Colonizer France," shouted the protesters, who included representatives from indigenous groups.

"Fascist France, get out of Bolivia!" they chanted.

The protests which were mobilised by groups close to Morales followed accusations by Bolivia's Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca that France and other EUropean countries had cancelled air permits for the plane carrying the president, who was heading home from Moscow, after suspicions were raised that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was hiding on board.

SEE ALSO: France set to reject asylum for Snowden

The Bolivian parliament will discuss a motion on Thursday that calls for the the French ambassador as well as the Italian and Portuguese envoys, to be expelled from the country.

"We will seek a declaration that these three ambassadors become persona non grata, out of respect for Bolivians but most of all out of respect for the life of the president," said opposition member Galo Bonifaz.

Morales had been in Moscow, where Snowden is currently holed up out of sight at the city’s airport, for energy talks.

As he began the journey home, suspicions began to spread that the fugitive former CIA operative might have been sneaked on board the plane bound for Latin America, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports.

Foreign Minister Choquehuanca told reporters that both France and Portugal had subsequently cancelled authorization for the flight to pass through their air space at the last minute.

"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,” he told reporters.

"We don't know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales," he added.

Choquehuanca said France’s decision had "put at risk the life of the president".

Later on Wednesday French President Francois Hollande said he had opened his country's airspace to the Bolivian presidential jet as soon as he knew head of state Evo Morales was aboard.

"There was conflicting information about the passengers who were on board," Hollande said in Berlin. "When I knew it was the plane of the Bolivian president, I immediately gave permission for it to fly" over French territory.

And Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius moved to quell the row by calling his Bolivian counterpart to "offer an apology" for not granting permission to the president's plane.

Morales’ plane was eventually allowed to refuel in Spain before flying on to Vienna where the plane landed with no sign of Snowden.

Bolivia is one of the countries to which Snowden has officially applied for political asylum. Bolivia’s left-wing president has previously suggested that Snowden’s application would be viewed favourably.

Bolivia’s defence minister Ruben Saavedra later told reporters that France had reconsidered its position and decided to allow the plane to fly through its airspace, but Italy and Spain were still refusing.

Later on Wednesday France said it had given permission for Bolivian President Evo Morales's jet to cross its airspace, after officials in La Paz claimed that overflight had been denied.

"The permission for overflight was indeed given," foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said but refused to confirm reports that it had not been initially granted.

The damage however had already been done with angry Bolivian authorities claiming that France had bowed to pressure from the United States in refusing to grant permission to the plane.

Saavedra said: "This is a hostile act by the United States State Department which has used various European governments."

The Bolivian government said it would be demanding explanations from both Paris and Lisbon over the affair. France’s refusal sparked an angry protest outside its embassy in the Bolivian capital La Paz. Bolivian authorities said further protests would he held in the near future outside the US embassy.

Morales's plane is still in Vienna whilst Bolivian officials try to work out their options for how to get the president home.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Gaza crisis
Thousands march in Paris to back Israel
Around 5,000 marched in Paris on Thursday in support of Israel as the Middle East crisis continues. Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP

Thousands march in Paris to back Israel

Around 5,000 people joined a pro-Israel demo in Paris on Thursday evening to show their support for the Jewish state as it continues its bombardment of Gaza amid growing international criticism. READ  

French telecom giant Iliad bids for T-Mobile
France's Iliad, which operates Free, has bid for a contolling stake in US carrier T-Mobile. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP

French telecom giant Iliad bids for T-Mobile

French upstart telecom operator Iliad, which operates Free, said on Thursday it has bid for a controlling stake in US carrier T-Mobile, offering an alternative to a potential tie-up with rival Sprint. READ  

Jean Jaures: France pays hommage 100 years on
President François Hollande takes a coffee in Cafe du Crossaint where Jean Jaures was assassinated 100 years ago. Photo: Yoan Valat/Pool/AFP

Jean Jaures: France pays hommage 100 years on

On Thursday France paid tribute to one of its greatest political leaders who was assassinated in a Paris café exactly 100 years ago. Politicians on the left and the right are still fighting over the legacy of leftist hero Jean Jaures. READ  

Air Algérie crash: To ID victims 'may take years'
It may take years to identify the remains of the passengers killed in the Air Algérie crash. Photo: Sia Kambou/AFP

Air Algérie crash: To ID victims 'may take years'

Identifying the remains of the 118 people killed last week when an Air Algérie flight crashed in Mali, including 54 French nationals, could take "months and maybe years," an Algerian police official said on Thursday. READ  

Air France tests unusual luggage check-in system
Air France will let some passengers skip bringing their bags to their airport this weekend. Photo: Jean-Philippe Ksiazek/AFP

Air France tests unusual luggage check-in system

Scores of passengers flying on Air France this weekend won’t need to bring their bags to the airport if they don’t want to. As part of a pilot programme they can instead check their luggage in central Paris and then proceed to Charles de Gaulle empty-handed. READ  

French hospital opens wine bar for patients
The wine bar will be open to patients and their friends and relatives. Wine bar photo: Shutterstock

French hospital opens wine bar for patients

A hospital in south-central France has come up with an unconventional (not to mention extremely French) idea to try to improve the lives of terminally ill patients. It has opened up a wine bar that will offer "medically supervised" wine tasting. READ  

'The French among the world's stingiest tippers'
Are the French stingy tippers? Photo of a bill: Shutterstock

'The French among the world's stingiest tippers'

The French have never been big on tipping, but according to a new survey they increasingly pay what they owe and not a penny more. An expert has an interesting explanation, which has nothing to do with the French being cheap. READ  

French ballerinas offer lessons in Fukushima
French ballet dancer Dorothree Gilbert (R) of the Paris Opera giving a lesson to Japanese children in Fukushima. Photo: Antoine Bouthier/AFP

French ballerinas offer lessons in Fukushima

A group of French ballet stars from the renowned Paris Opera donned tutus and tights in the shadow of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and twirled their way into the hearts of local students. READ  

'Exorbitant' estate agency fees capped by new law
France is finally capping the fees real estate agencies can charge renters. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

'Exorbitant' estate agency fees capped by new law

Starting in September France is finally going to cap the sometimes outrageous ‘agency fees’ renters have to pay when signing the lease for a new apartment. It will mean paying less for some, but not all French ‘locataires’. READ  

France condemns Israeli shelling of Gaza school
France has condemned the deadly shelling of a UN school in Gaza by Israel. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP

France condemns Israeli shelling of Gaza school

France's president condemned the Israeli shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza that killed 16 people who had sought refuge there. It was the second time this week Israeli artillerie hit a UN school in Gaza. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
France honours Jean Jaures, 100 years after he was assassinated
National
Nudity on the beaches of France: Dos and don'ts
National
Hospital opens patient wine bar with 'medically supervised' wine tasting
Society
Will France ban this violent Jewish fringe group?
Culture
Why are the days of going topless in France coming to an end?
Travel
Reckless or adventurous? US dad takes his two children up Mont Blanc
National
From manure to money: Ten bizarre facts about the French Parliament
Culture
Tourists picnic with rats in Louvre gardens
International
Is France really Europe's biggest public spenders?
National
Could your job in France soon be done by a robot?
National
Why you should think twice about feeding stray cats in France
National
And the new redrawn map of France will look like...?
Politics
Is French President François Hollande about to tie the knot?
International
Want a long-term visa? You may soon have to take a French test
International
Votes for foreigners: 'France would be giving up its sovereignty'
National
VIDEO: Stuntman jumps onto a moving Paris metro... and survives
Gallery
Forget 'faire l'amour', here's 15 top French expressions for making love
National
Report - 'Anti-Semitic' riots in France: 'We may leave for Israel'
National
Paris Plages: Here's 10 reasons to head down to the city beach
International
'Mont Blanc is like Disneyland. It's time to end the free-for-all'
Travel
Fancy climbing Mont Blanc? Here's 10 reasons to think twice about it
Gallery
Looking for a weird museum in Paris? Here's 10 that are worth a visit
National
Clear your head: Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se