The president and people of Bolivia have every right now to feel as if they are second-class citizens of the world — their independence maligned, their nationality suspect and all stemming from the high-handed manner in which Austrian authorities have acted. During a recent stopover in Vienna, while on a government jet, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and Defence Minister Ruben Soto had to endure the humiliating experience of having their plane searched — all in a futile hunt for whistleblower Edward Snowden. Snowden is seeking asylum in any one of a score of countries and is holed up in the transit zone of a Moscow airport.
Given that the South American nations are friendly to WikiLeaks, its ideals and its cadres, the Vienna government — presumably acting on a request from Washington — embarked on the search for Snowden when the Bolivian jet landed. Under no circumstances should the long-standing and internationally agreed and accepted principle of diplomatic immunity be violated. Searching a government plane, with the sovereign leader of the Bolivian nation on board, is not acceptable. Can one imagine the cries and actions of the US if, for example, Air Force One was boarded and searched?
The reality is that as long as the US embarks on a policy of wrongdoing, scanning the phone records and internet postings of citizens all over the world, there will always be those who have the moral courage to speak — or leak — in the interests of all.