LA PAZ — Bolivian President Evo Morales on Wednesday forgave France, Spain, Italy and Portugal for denying their air space to his presidential jet early this month, closing an incident that had riled leftist governments around Latin America.
Suspecting that Morales' official plane was also carrying U.S. fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the European countries denied fly-over permission to Morales as he was heading back to Bolivia from Russia.
Morales and other South American leftist leaders Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Cristina Fernandez of Argentina and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said pressure from Washington was behind the air space denial. They said the incident had put Morales' life at risk and showed a neo-colonialist attitude on the part of the European countries involved.
The European countries later apologized to Bolivia. Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay, which make up the Mercosur trade bloc, joined Bolivia in recalling their ambassadors from the four countries for consultations over the incident.
“Although we are not fully satisfied, we accept the apologies of the four countries as a first step, because we want to continue relationships of respect among our countries,” Morales told reporters in Bolivia's capital, La Paz.
“Accordingly, we have agreed to send our ambassadors back,” Morales added.
Snowden, the 30-year-old computer whiz wanted by Washington for leaking details of secret U.S. intelligence programs, has been holed up for more than a month in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have offered him asylum.