- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is defending his decision to head to Panama to attend the swearing-in of the country’s new president at the request of President Barack Obama.

Patrick planned to be in Panama on Tuesday for the inauguration of President-elect Juan Carlos Varela. He’ll return to Massachusetts on Wednesday.

Patrick told reporters Monday that “being away for 24 hours to respond to the president’s request to represent the United States at a foreign head of state’s inauguration is a pretty great honor for the commonwealth.”

Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the U.S. delegation.

Critics have faulted Patrick for his travels.

In March, the governor headed a delegation on a weeklong trade mission to Panama City and Mexico City.

More recently Patrick embarked on a trade mission to Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

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