World

Activists gather at Latin American summit in Panama, US condemns heckling of Cuban dissidents

  • A man shouts slogans against pro-government supporters from Cuba and Venezuela outside the Vasco Nunes De Balboa Convention Center in Panama City, Wednesday, April 8, 2015. About 100 supporters of Cuba's government aggressively heckled dissidents from the communist-run island attending a civil society forum Wednesday at the start of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate)

    A man shouts slogans against pro-government supporters from Cuba and Venezuela outside the Vasco Nunes De Balboa Convention Center in Panama City, Wednesday, April 8, 2015. About 100 supporters of Cuba's government aggressively heckled dissidents from the communist-run island attending a civil society forum Wednesday at the start of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, Cubadebate)  (The Associated Press)

  • A man shouts slogans against Cuban pro-government supporters outside the Vasco Nunes De Balboa Convention Center in Panama City, Wednesday, April 8, 2015. About 100 supporters of Cuba's government aggressively heckled dissidents from the communist-run island attending a civil society forum Wednesday at the start of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. (AP Photo/Cubadebate, Ismael Francisco)

    A man shouts slogans against Cuban pro-government supporters outside the Vasco Nunes De Balboa Convention Center in Panama City, Wednesday, April 8, 2015. About 100 supporters of Cuba's government aggressively heckled dissidents from the communist-run island attending a civil society forum Wednesday at the start of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. (AP Photo/Cubadebate, Ismael Francisco)  (The Associated Press)

  • Venezuelan Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, right, and Venezuelan Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, wife of imprisoned Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma gesture an "L" for "libre," or "free" during a press conference in Panama City, Thursday, April 9, 2015. In a document presented at the press conference, about two dozen former leaders of Spain and Latin America critical of the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on the region to put aside "complacent silence" and demand that Venezuela's upcoming parliamentary elections be conducted without political prisoners and with observers, as a possible solution to the South American nation's political crisis. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

    Venezuelan Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, right, and Venezuelan Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, wife of imprisoned Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma gesture an "L" for "libre," or "free" during a press conference in Panama City, Thursday, April 9, 2015. In a document presented at the press conference, about two dozen former leaders of Spain and Latin America critical of the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on the region to put aside "complacent silence" and demand that Venezuela's upcoming parliamentary elections be conducted without political prisoners and with observers, as a possible solution to the South American nation's political crisis. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)  (The Associated Press)

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 Thursday are putting together proposals to present to President Barack Obama and some 30 other hemispheric leaders at the summit starting Friday on topics ranging from environmental protections to support for democracy in the region.

Organizers fear the grassroots group's work is being politicized 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 U.S. State Department condemned what it said was "harassment" and "use of violence" against participants.