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Rocky start to activist meeting at Americas Summit in Panama

Published:Friday | April 10, 2015 | 4:00 AM
A man shouts slogans against pro-government supporters from Cuba and Venezuela outside the Vasco Nunes De Balboa Convention Center in Panama City.

PANAMA CITY (AP):

Hundreds of activists from across Latin America are beginning a series of closed-door strategy sessions before this week's Summit of the Americas, following a rocky encounter marked by Cuban government supporters heckling a group of dissidents.

The activists meeting yesterday are putting together proposals to present to President Barack Obama and some 30 other hemispheric leaders at the summit which starts today, on topics ranging from environmental protections to support for democracy in the region.

Organisers fear the grassroots group's work is being politicised after dissidents from the communist-run island attending Wednesday's session were pushed around to shouts of "mercenaries" and "terrorists" by government supporters from Cuba and its ally, Venezuela.

The United States State Department condemned what it said was "harassment" and "use of violence" against participants.