A defiant Evo Morales was back in Bolivia on Thursday, railing against the United States after his presidential jet was held up in Europe under suspicions that U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden had hitched a ride.
France, Spain, Portugal and Italy refused to let the president's plane fly through their airspace after rumors surfaced that Snowden might be on board, Bolivian officials said. But Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, countered that regarding his country, saying in an interview, "Spain doesn't need to make any apologies. Our air space was never closed."
With no clear path home available, the flight's crew made an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria, where it spent some 14 hours.
The Bolivians squarely put the blame on Washington for Morales' unexpected side trip.
"Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us," Morales told supporters at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz late Wednesday. "European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans."
Speaking alongside Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at a rally in a packed stadium in Bolivia Thursday evening, Morales said officials should analyze whether to shut down the U.S. embassy in his country.
The president, who expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2008, said he wouldn't hesitate to boot the embassy, too.
"Without the United States," he said, "we are better politically and democratically."
In several speeches Thursday, Morales said he had been targeted for his indigenous background.
"What happened during these days is not a coincidence, not a mistake like some governments say," Morales said. "It is part of a policy to continue intimidating the Bolivian people and Latin America."
He added, "Our sin is being indigenous and anti-imperialist."
Despite several attempts by CNN to get a response, Obama administration officials declined to comment on Bolivia's allegations that the United States pressured European countries to deny landing rights to the Bolivian president's plane, referring all questions to the European countries in question.
Outrage in Latin America
The incident has sparked a global diplomatic feud that's roiled leaders throughout Latin America.
Presidents from five South American countries -- Argentina, Ecuador, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela -- met with Morales in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Thursday to discuss the matter. Diplomatic delegations from several others South American nations joined them.
The leaders issued a statement condemning the incident and calling for an apology
"We demand the governments of France, Portugal, Italy and Spain issue the necessary public apology in relation to this serious incident," the statement said.
The situation, they said, was a flagrant violation of international treaties.
"We reject the actions that clearly violated norms and basic principles of international law, like the inviolability of heads of state," they said.
The leaders said they supported Morales' complaint to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights over the matter, and they called for their countries' foreign ministers to form a committee to investigate what happened.
In a statement Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for dialogue between Bolivia "and the European countries that barred the plane carrying President Evo Morales from flying over their airspaces this Wednesday."
According to a statement issued by his office, Ban "urges the states concerned to discuss the matter with full respect for the legitimate interests involved."
Ecuador's Correa sharply criticized the United States for its role in the situation . In a speech Thursday at the Bolivian rally, he read an excerpt from the U.S. Declaration of Independence and decried what he said was the country's hypocrisy.
"They keep having a double standard," he said.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the countries must apologize.