Rumors that U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden hitched a ride on Bolivia's presidential jet have sparked a global diplomatic feud that's roiled leaders throughout South America.
The drama started Tuesday after Portuguese authorities wouldn't let Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane land in Lisbon for refueling while on his way back from a conference in Russia, Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra told CNN en Español.
France, Spain and Italy also wouldn't let the plane enter their airspace, Bolivian officials said.
With no clear path home available, the flight's crew made an emergency landing in Austria.
"We are told that there were some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane," Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said.
"We do not know who has invented this lie. Someone who wants to harm our country. This information that has been circulated is malicious information to harm this country."
Late Wednesday morning, Spain agreed to let Morales' plane stop in the Canary Islands on its way home, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said. The plane landed there as planned Wednesday, and subsequently took off for Fortaleza, Brazil, where it landed and refueled again Wednesday evening, Bolivia TV reported.
The presidential plane was scheduled to return to Bolivia on Wednesday night. The state broadcaster showed crowds of supporters brandishing Bolivian flags and awaiting Morales' return.
At the El Alto International Airport outside La Paz, the state broadcaster showed crowds waved signs saying, "Sovereign Bolivia, colony no more" and, "You are not alone. The people of the world are with you."
The plane spent more than 10 hours in Vienna, where Austrian officials confirmed that Snowden was not aboard after Morales allowed an Austrian airport police officer onto his plane for a "voluntary check," Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said.
As Morales resumed his journey, differing accounts emerged of what happened.
France denied that it refused to allow the plane to enter its airspace.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called his Bolivian counterpart to express regrets about a delay in the confirmation to authorize the plane to fly over its territory, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The authorization was granted as soon as French authorities were informed that the plane was the Bolivian president's aircraft, the ministry said.
France "never intended to deny president Morales's plane access to (its) airspace," and the Bolivian leader is welcome in France, Fabius said.
Bolivian minister: U.S. behind Snowden rumor
Bolivian authorities are investigating the source of the rumors about Snowden. Saavedra, the Bolivian defense minister, told CNN en Español that he believed the U.S. was behind them.
"This is a lie, a falsehood," he said. "It was generated by the U.S. government."
Despite several attempts by CNN to get a response, Obama administration officials have 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.
It isn't the first time Bolivian authorities have accused U.S. officials of trying to meddle with their presidential plane.
In 2011, Morales said he was worried that U.S. authorities would plant something on his presidential plane to link him with drug trafficking when he attended a United Nations General Assembly meeting.
Outrage in Latin America
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera described Morales as a "hostage of imperialism."
"The president has been kidnapped by imperialism, and he is being held in Europe," he said in a televised address late Tuesday night. The vice president called for workers worldwide to protest "this act of imperial arrogance."
He said Bolivia would complain about the incident to the United Nations.