Belittling A Democratically-Elected Head of State: Denying Passage to President Evo Morales


How would we as United States citizens react if another country were to deny permission to the Presidential aircraft carrying President Barack Obama to pass over that country’s territory? Can you imagine the outrage? There would be calls for economic sanctions or military action against that country. The U.S. press would publish screaming headlines for articles detailing the international treaty provisions requiring a country to refrain from interfering with the safe passage of the presidential aircraft.

Yet when 4 European countries—France, Italy, Spain and Portugal—denied Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales the right to pass through their airspace because someone thought that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden might be on the aircraft, there has been little protest outside of Latin America. Spain has acknowledged that it acted based upon a tip that Snowden was on board the Bolivian Presidential aircraft, which he was not, as President Morales made clear. France has now reportedly apologized to Bolivia.

But who was responsible for spreading false information and urging the 4 countries to deny passage to Morales’ plane? It appears to have been the United States government, urging others to break international law in its obsessive, even deranged efforts to get its hands on Snowden. Under President Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, this country has gone far to establish the principles that might makes right and that money buys all.

It is high time to reassert a moral higher ground. Instead of treating others as inferiors and not entitled to treaty-established rights and respect—in this case likely dismissing Evo Morales’s rights because he is indigenous and lacks much formal education, as well as being from the U.S. “backyard”, Latin America, where the Monroe Doctrine has historically asserted U.S. paramount influence. Unfortunately, since many U.S. citizens believe this country is “No. 1” and can do no wrong by definition, in their disrespect for others they (and their government) condone even racist acts.

I invite others to join me in calling upon President Barack Obama to explain his government’s role in the denial of the right of passage of Evo Morales’ aircraft through the airspace of the abovementioned 4 European countries. And if it played an active role, he should apologize for these actions. Then he should take steps to see that international legal standards, such as the right of passage of heads of state, are respected and followed. And he should assure Latin American countries that they will be respected and no longer be smugly regarded as second-class members of the world order.

John I. Laun

July 6, 2013

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