Scuffles broke out on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Panama between supporters and opponents of the Cuban government.
Prominent dissidents such as Guillermo Fariñas and Berta Soler of the Ladies in White were jostled by pro-Castro demonstrators.
The confrontation gave some idea of the extent to which the question of Cuba’s direction stirs controversy – not least within the island itself.
“The Cuban people who are left behind on the island expect nothing less from us, they expect us to react with indignation, the Cuban people wouldn’t expect less. Neither Guillermo Fariñas nor Berta Soler nor any others like them represent the real Cuba,” said government supporter Patricia Flechilla, a member of the Federation of Cuban Women.
Cuban government supporters have regularly claimed that dissidents are paid by foreign governments and that their interest in human rights is not genuine.
The anti-government demonstrators held up signs saying “democracy is respect” – they have long highlighted issues such as the plight of Cuba’s political prisoners.
“You are witnessing the most grotesque expression of intolerance that dictatorial regimes provoke,” said dissident Violeta Granera, who was taking part in the social forum on the sidelines of the summit.
Panamanian authorities were on hand to keep the rival groups in check.