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An expression of displeasure

July 15, 2013

International relations reflect real life situations. The rich and powerful try hard to dominate the poorer and the less powerful. But, like in real life, on occasion this leads to a struggle, often bitter and public.

Whether we are individuals, organisations or nation states, acceptance of the status quo makes life easier and the “system” work for the dominant and the powerful. Raising questions and seeking answers means you could be labelled a trouble maker.

Well, that’s the case with Bolivia and other members of the Mercosur trade block in Latin America who have refused to take lying down the illegal closure of air space by European countries to the aircraft of Bolivian President Evo Morales on July 2.

Instead, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay have decided to withdraw their ambassadors from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, whose actions led to the forced diversion of the aircraft to Austria.

These European countries, reportedly acting under American pressure, closed the air space to Morales’ aircraft on the suspicion that he was carrying whistle-blower Edward Snowden on his flight from Moscow to Bolivia.

The suspicions were unfounded and Snowden continues to live at a Moscow airport, his fate uncertain.

A statement issued by the leaders of the five Latin American nations after their Mercosur summit shows that they are in no mood to tolerate the arbitrary and illegal actions of these European countries.

God forbid that instead of Evo Morales of Bolivia’s airplane flying in Europe it was that of French President Francois Hollande. What would have happened if Hollande’s plane was illegally diverted in Latin America on the suspicion that a wanted “fugitive” was on board?

All the diplomatic hell you can imagine would have broken loose.

To their credit, the Mercosur leaders have chosen to speak out and express their displeasure. “The gravity of the incident – indicative of a neocolonial mindset – constitutes an unfriendly and hostile act, which violates human rights and impedes freedom of travel, as well as the treatment and immunity appropriate to a head of state,” they said.

Dilma Roussef (Brazil), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), Jose Mujica (Uruguay) and Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela) made it clear that they would resist any efforts to tamper with countries’ right to grant asylum.

Reaffirming the “inalienable right of every state to grant asylum,” a right which, “must not be restricted or curbed”, the leaders said in Montevideo (Uruguay): “It is fundamental to ensure that the right of asylees to travel safely to the country granting asylum be guaranteed.”

In a clear reference to American arm-twisting being brought on countries not to give asylum to Edward Snowden, the Mercosur leaders rejected “any attempt at pressure, harassment or criminalisation by a state or third parties”.

Given that we live in a world where countries don’t even stand up for themselves, such a collective decision to protest against the Morales’ incident and uphold the right to asylum can only be welcomed by the rest of the world.

The US and European nations never tire of preaching to others on the virtues of international law when not applied to themselves.

But, when push comes to shove, the US and other Western nations have no qualms in jettisoning international laws when it come to their interests even if it means the violation of diplomatic immunity.

In this pragmatic day and age, when American sovereignty is roughly equal to the sovereignty of other nations, the leaders of Latin America have shown considerable spunk in defying Washington and other European capitals on the Morales-Snowden issues.

More power to them, I say.

BRICS are you listening?