The VII Summit of the Americas in Panama will undoubtedly be remembered for the historic meeting between President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro, the first in over half a century.
Several regional presidents welcomed the rapprochement between the two countries and highlighted Cuba's first participation in the Summit. Obama took the diplomatic agreement to send a message of non-interventionism to other Latin American countries. For Castro, who attended the meeting with his son, Alejandro Castro Espín, it is the greatest diplomatic triumph after succeeding his brother Fidel in 2006.
Below are video snippets (in Spanish) of other incidents that took place
Despite the public calls for dialogue, activists from other countries as well as the Panamanian and international press witnessed acts of repudiation organized by the delegations from Cuba and Venezuela against a much smaller group of government opponents who took part in the Forum of Civil Society and Social Actors prior to the official gathering. The civil activists were bombarded with shouts of "mercenaries," "murderers" and other slogans recycled decades past. Members of the Cuban delegation also harassed activists carrying banners with the words,"Democracy is respect." Other exiles and Cuban government opponents who planned to place a flower arrangement at a José Martí statue were physically attacked by a group believed to be part of the staff at the Cuban Embassy in Panama and intelligence personnel from Venezuela.
Reactions to the acts of repudiation
▪ "This has nothing to do with an act of repudiation, I mean, for me it has nothing to do with that, there are no fanatics here,” said Abel Prieto, chief of the Cuban delegation and member of Castro’s staff. “There are many intelligent people here.”
▪ "We expressed our serious concerns about the use of violence against those representatives of civil society. And how tremendously inconsistent that was with the spirit of dialogue in the Americas,” said Ben Rhodes, national security adviser to President Obama. “...And yes, we saw a regular pattern of harassment against civil society in Cuba, but we firmly believe that U.S. policy in place for 50 years was not successful." national security adviser to President Ben Rhodes, at a press conference.
▪ "This meeting leaves a clear message that there is support for civil society in Cuba," said Cuban dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa, following a meeting with President Obama, along with other members of civil society in the region.
Said Prieto in response: "It’s not possible to ask Cuba to dialogue with puppets of those agencies of special services of the United States.”