France, Spain and Portugal: We Didn’t Deny Landing Rights to Morales’ Plane

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When news broke yesterday that Bolivian president Evo Morales’s private jet had been re-routed to Austria on suspicion that Edward Snowden was aboard, Glenn Greenwald immediately jumped to the conclusion that France, Spain and Portugal had been pressured into denying the plane airspace rights by that evil old United States:

Wikileaks tweeted a series of angry rants about “imperial power” etc., culminating in this hyperbolic statement:

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum titled his rant, “Obama Finally Shows His Chicago Thug Side for Real,” then changed the title (but didn’t back away from the claim) when people pointed out that he was endorsing a right wing racist dog whistle meme.

Glenn Greenwald, however, enjoyed Drum’s post with its original title:

Well, today: The Tale of the Re-Routed Bolivian President’s Plane Is Falling Apart.

Today, France and Spain disputed Choquehuanca’s claims, as reported by the AP.

Two officials with the French Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Morales’ plane had authorization to fly over France. They would not comment on why Bolivian officials said otherwise. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly named according to ministry policy.

An official with Spain’s foreign ministry said Wednesday that the country on Tuesday authorized Morales’ plane to fly within its airspace and to make a refueling stop. The official said Bolivia asked again this morning for permission and got it.

The refueling stop was apparently in the Canary Islands, a stop which occurred Wednesday afternoon. The Guardian offers more clarity.

Spain, where Morales’s plane is due to refuel during its current journey, denied Bolivian claims that it only agreed to allow the plane to refuel in the Canaries if Bolivian authorities allowed it to be inspected. The foreign minister said this was not the case. The prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said authorisation was given for the refuelling stop but that it was important that Snowden was not aboard.

The AP’s original article, which suggests that the plane was re-routed to Austria, quotes Choquehuanca as saying that the refusal of France and Portugal to allow Morales to fly overhead “put the president’s life at risk.” An audio recording between the plane’s pilots and air traffic control in Austria might explain why, as the Guardian pointed out.

Control tower: Do you need any assistance?

Pilot: Not at this moment. We need to land because we cannot get a correct indication of the fuel indication so as a precaution we need to land.

Why the plane landed in Austria isn’t clear, but it doesn’t seem to have been at the insistence of the Austrians.

UPDATE at 7/3/13 12:56:06 pm

The audio recording:

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