Late on July 9th, after many hours of negotiations, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (made up of the representatives of the 34 active member countries of the OAS) approved a resolution expressing solidarity with President Evo Morales of Bolivia, condemning violations of international law and the inviolability of heads of state, and “firmly” calling on France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to provide the “necessary explanations” as well as apologies "as appropriate."  The resolution comes on the heels of similar statements by other regional bodies, namely UNASUR and CELAC, strongly rejecting the four countries’ decisions to deny airspace access to the plane of President Morales due to the suspicion that U.S. whistle-blower Edward Snowden was traveling aboard the plane.   In the words of the OAS resolution, by their actions the four European countries “potentially [compromised] the safety of the Bolivian President and his entourage; and [violated] international law.”

Nearly every country in the region backed the resolution.  The only holdouts were Canada and the U.S., identified in footnotes as refusing to join the regional consensus in support of the resolution.  The U.S. has been identified as having provided the four European governments with the false intelligence regarding Snowden’s presence on the plane, according to Reuters, and could hardly be expected to condemn its European partners, especially given that their actions have resulted in a particularly serious diplomatic crisis, affecting European relations with a number of Latin American countries.  But, rather than try to block the resolution entirely, the U.S. and Canada – which has almost systematically backed the U.S. agenda at the OAS in recent years – chose instead to discreetly voice their opposition in the form of footnotes.  Nevertheless, the two countries’ rejection of the resolution has been noted in the Latin American media; the U.S. in particular appears to be more isolated in the region than ever.

Though France was fairly quick to offer an apology to Bolivia, Spain and Italy – which have observer status at the OAS - both reacted angrily to the resolution, and Italy even said that the clause asking for apologies was "very grave" and would provoke a response from the Italian government.  Commenting on the aftermath of the incident with Morales’ plane, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said “these things leave wounds that are difficult to repair.”  

Here is the full text of the OAS resolution:

 July 9, 2013

(Adopted at the meeting held on July 9, 2013)



That the Charter of the Organization of American States establishes that "international law is the standard of conduct of States in their reciprocal relations;" and that "international order consists essentially of respect for the personality, sovereignty, and independence of States, and the faithful fulfillment of the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law;"

That all states must strictly observe the rules and customs governing immunity of all Heads of State, as well as the rules and regulations of international law relating to the use of airspace for overflight and landing;

That the Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, through its Permanent Mission to the OAS, reported and publicly alleged that on July 2, 2013, the Presidential Airplane FAB-001 that was taking President Evo Morales Ayma from Moscow to La Paz was forced to make an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria, because of the cancellation, denial, or delaying of previously issued overflight and landing permits for airspaces of France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, potentially compromising the safety of the Bolivian President and his entourage; and violating international law on the subject matter; and

That the Secretary General of the Organization in a timely manner, through a press release, has expressed deep concern at the decision by the authorities of several European countries that prevented the airplane carrying the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales, from Moscow to La Paz from using their airspace; and at the same time called on the countries involved to explain the reasons for taking this decision, particularly as it put the life of the leader of a member country of the OAS at risk,


1. To express the solidarity of the member states of the Organization of American States with the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma.

2. To condemn actions that violate the basic rules and principles of international law such as the inviolability of Heads of State.

3. To firmly call on the Governments of France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain to provide the necessary explanations of the events that took place with the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, as well as apologies as appropriate.

4. To call for a continuation of respectful and constructive dialogue involving the parties, in accordance with the rules of international law and the mechanisms for peaceful settlement of disputes.

5. To reaffirm the full validity of the principles, rules, and international customs governing diplomatic relations among states and guaranteeing peaceful coexistence among all countries comprising the international community.

6. To instruct the Secretary General to follow up on the contents of this resolution.


1. Canada cannot join consensus on this resolution. Canada does respect the privileges and immunities granted to heads of State in customary international law. However, in this case, there are conflicting interpretations of the facts surrounding the event. Moreover, the alleged granting or cancellation of overflight authorization is a bilateral matter separate from the question of the privileges and immunities of heads of State. Before bringing the matter to this Organization, those states named in the resolution should seek a resolution through diplomatic channels.

2. The United States cannot join consensus on this resolution. The relevant facts regarding the incident at issue are unclear and subject to conflicting reports. It is therefore inappropriate for this organization to make statements regarding them at this time. In addition, the question of granting or canceling of overflight or landing permits is a bilateral matter between Bolivia and the countries concerned. It is unhelpful and inappropriate for the OAS to attempt to intervene at this moment.

Reference: S-012