Bolivian President Evo Morales arrived home to a hero's welcome, saying some European countries' refusal to let his plane enter their airspace because of suspicion it carried fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was a provocation aimed at all of South America.
Morales was greeted late on Wednesday by his cabinet and cheering, fist-pumping crowds at La Paz's airport after a dramatic journey from Moscow that ignited a diplomatic row when his plane was forced to make a stop in Vienna on Tuesday evening.
"This was an open provocation towards a continent, not just a president. North American imperialism uses its people to terrify and intimidate us," he said. "I just want to say they will never frighten us because we are a people of dignity and sovereignty."
Other Latin American leaders were also fuming over the incident, with heads of state in the 12-nation South American bloc Unasur denouncing the "unfriendly and unjustifiable acts".
The bloc said a group of leaders from member countries scheduled an emergency summit in Bolivia yesterday to discuss the matter. Unasur includes the close leftist allies of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina as well as centrist governments like those in Chile and Brazil.
Earlier on Wednesday, Bolivia accused the US of trying to "kidnap" Morales, after his plane was denied permission to fly over France and Portugal. The Bolivian government said it had filed a complaint with the United Nations and was studying legal avenues to prove its rights had been violated under international law.
Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, said: "We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House. By no means should a diplomatic plane with the president be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country."
The White House declined to comment on the allegations.
Snowden was not on the plane when it landed in Vienna, an Austrian official said. He is believed to be stranded in the transit lounge of a Moscow airport since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong. The US has been trying to get hold of him since he revealed details of its secret surveillance programmes last month.
The furore was the latest twist in a saga that has raised debate over the balance between privacy rights and national security. Accusations of US surveillance on European countries have also strained transatlantic relations.
France said on Wednesday that free-trade talks between the European Union and the US should be delayed by two weeks given tensions over media reports, stemming from the Snowden case, that Washington is spying on the 28-nation bloc.