Amid shouts of "Down with the worms!" and "I am Fidel," an official Cuban delegation interrupted Thursday's final session of a civil society conference taking place alongside the VIII Summit of the Americas.
The disruption came at the start of a session in which the spokespersons for groups at the conference were to present the results of their debates to officials of governments and the Organization of American States (OAS).
Mirthia Brossard Oris, a leader of Cuba's University Student Federation, denounced "the presence of people who represent organizations that are not real, that are not legitimate … agents of the empire paid for by the (U.S.) Department of State."
Listening to Brossard in the room was Cuban opposition activist Rosa María Payá, who heads the Latin American Network of Youths for Democracy and is campaigning for a binding plebiscite on the island's political system.
Brossard's comments sparked shouts from other members of the official Cuban delegation, such as "Down with the worms," "Out with the mercenaries," "I am Fidel," "Microphone for Cuba" and "Viva Venezuela."
The official Venezuelan delegation joined in the shouting as OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro addressed the audience. After the outburst, summit organizers moved the spokespersons and the officials to a closed room to continue the debate. The presentations were broadcast on television to the rest of the participants.
An official Cuban news media report on the event claimed that "in the face of the forceful denunciation by Cuba, the representatives of the worms abandoned the salon through a rear door."
"The protests were sparked by the shock troops that the Cuban dictatorship brought here, and a (Cuban) ambassador who was very aggressive with the secretary general," Payá said after the gathering.
"They demanded that I not be allowed to speak, that if I spoke they were not going to remain silent. It's the same blackmail of always, the blackmail of dictatorships," she added.
Cuba's ambassador to Peru, Juan Antonio Fernández, declared during the meeting that his country would not accept "the participation of a supposed network of youths who are mercenaries at the service of a foreign power, disguised as civil society."
"You in the OAS supported the social delinquents and pseudo-dissidents, the mercenaries of the empire who stay in luxury hotels and perform their opposition work from airports, between margaritas and piña coladas.
“They are the ones who shamelessly show up in public with terrorists and the corrupt," he added. "You chose the crowd of clownish activities. We are not going to legitimize them. You cannot impose terror on us."
Payá, who was spokesperson for one the coalitions at the civil society summit, said she delivered "a very clear message: they must urgently condemn a government that we Cubans did not elect."
Interim U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan met Thursday with Cuban dissidents and civil society activists in Lima, including Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio Rodiles, Ailer González, Aimara Peña, Oscar León Justo, Kirenia Nuñez, Fernando Palacio, Iván Torres and Danilo Maldonado, an artist known as "El Sexto."
The meeting was "very useful," said Rodiles, adding that the activists had urged the U.S. government to refuse to recognize the new Cuban government scheduled to be selected on April 19.
"Another of the issues we explained was the urgent need to break the regime's control over information and communication, and the importance of a free internet for the Cuban people," he added.
"Sullivan said that although it might seem that the issue of Venezuela has priority because of the extreme situation there, Cuba has not been forgotten at all," Rodiles added.
A State Department statement said Sullivan "condemned the harassment and intimidation by state security services" against Cuban dissidents and other activists.
"In the face of the anti-democratic leadership transition that will take place April 19 in Cuba, the interim secretary Sullivan reaffirmed support for the Cuban people and petitions for democratic reforms to the failed Cuban electoral process, and an end to arbitrary detentions and intimidation of independent civil society," the statement added.
Thursday also saw a meeting of the Cuba Justice Commission, which is gathering testimonies about human rights abuses in Cuba. Commission President René Bolio of Mexico said the goal is to gather "a dossier worthy of being presented to a number of tribunals, ideally in a free Cuba but until that time comes we want to do it in the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc tribunal that can be established in a friendly country, such as Peru."
A Chilean activist in a movement that supports the Cuban government told Cuba's state media that she had tried to destroy several billboards put up by Bolio's commission around Lima.
The billboards showed photos of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and the words, "Wanted for crimes against humanity."