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SEVILLE, Spain (AP) — It took the White House more than seven years to lock in Spain on President Barack Obama’s foreign travel schedule. But events beyond Obama’s control are ensuring that his first and only visit to Spain, the largest European country that had yet to welcome the president, will be a rushed one.
Instead of spending two days sightseeing in southern Spain and tending to more pressing business in the capital of Madrid, the White House scrapped some of Obama’s events – including a staple of his foreign travels, a question-and-answer forum with young people – and crammed the rest of his schedule into Sunday.
Deadly shootings last week of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, followed by the killings of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas, led Obama make the unusual choice to return to the White House late Sunday, a day earlier than originally planned.
Obama has been loath to tear up his schedule in response to previous acts of violence. In March, he attended a baseball game in Cuba hours after a terrorist attack in Belgium spread fear across Europe. Similarly, after the coordinated assault on Paris last November, Obama participated in a global climate conference in the French capital.
He repeatedly has said that altering his plans would be tantamount to giving in to terrorists.
But terrorists didn’t strike in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near St. Paul, Minnesota, or Dallas. The assaults follow last month’s deadly shooting at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub and the rise in so-called lone-wolf terrorism, heightening fears about public safety.
“This has been a tough week,” Obama said Saturday as he addressed the violence for the third time in as many days while in Poland, where he attended a NATO summit on the first stop of a two-country European trip. He rejected any notion that what happened marked a return to the racial brutality of a dark past in the US.
As painful as the killings were, he said: “America is not as divided as some have suggested.”
Obama received a red-carpet, airport welcome after he arrived in Spain late Saturday to open the last leg of what is likely his final trip to Europe before leaving office in January.