‘Racist police’ claim mars Obama holiday in Spain
US embarrassment over racism charge as Michelle Obama heads to Marbella
As Michelle Obama takes her daughter Sasha to Marbella for a mini-break, the US State Department has been forced to disown travel advice it issued warning that African-American tourists could be targeted by racist Spanish policemen.
The First Lady and her nine-year-old youngest daughter arrive on the Costa del Sol tomorrow for a four-day holiday at an uber-luxurious spa and golf hotel, the five-star Villa Padierna. Her husband, meanwhile, will celebrate his 49th birthday at home with 12-year-old Malia.
Like many governments, the US publishes travel advice for its citizens. And, until very recently, the advice for Spain warned that "racial prejudice may have contributed to the arrest or detention of some African-Americans traveling [sic] in Spain".
The advice page said two African-American US government employees have "recently" been "questioned by police in Barcelona for no apparent reason". One was detained, the page said, and "suffered physical injuries in the process".
However, the page now carries no such warning – the offending paragraph has presumably been removed by an embarrassed State Department after press reports drew it to their attention. The original version of the page can still be seen here, thanks to Google's cache, while the newly-revised version is here.
Contacted by Spanish daily El Pais, the US embassy in Madrid played down the advice. It said the Barcelona incident had "happened a long time ago" (though the advice page said "recently") and said: "This note should not be there."
"We are in no way suggesting that Spanish police are racist," an embassy spokesperson added. "This was an isolated incident."
Spain's foreign ministry, meanwhile, told the newspaper: "Each country includes what they think relevant in the recommendations to their travellers."
If the US government doesn't take the allegations of racism in Spanish police seriously, though, it seems the Spanish police do. El Pais reports that a police union said that holding foreign citizens would actually be in line with advice from the country's interior ministry issued this January which advised the police to "identify individuals".
The union complained that the directive was purely designed to increase arrest statistics and amounted to a "denial of immigrants' rights".
The Obamas have booked 30 rooms at the luxury hotel where prices start from £210 for a room for the night and a private villa can cost as much as £4,175. As well as a secret service detail, they are being joined by a large group of friends. ·
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