Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cuban Exiles and Protesters Clash in Panama (Pt.2)


Around 11am on Wednesday, FRENADESO (National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights in Panama), a social activist group and independent media site, tweeted pictures of the M.A.R. Por Cuba press conference. The pictures showed Felix Rodriguez and Antunez standing together for the cameras. The tweet read "Cuban worms with Che's assassin." Through FRENADESO an urgent message went out that afternoon for an emergency demonstration at Porras Park. It seems the word got out that M.A.R. Por Cuba, Rodriguez and Antunez were planning to visit the park, and FRENADESO was hoping to derail those plans. By 1pm, FRENADESO and several members of Panamanian labor groups (SUNTRACS and SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS) gathered at Porras park [video]. Also in attendance was Cuban Ambassador to Panama Antonio Miguel Pardo Sanchez, and the Venezuelan Ambassador Jorge Luis Duran Centeno. The leader of SUNTRACS protested against the presence of Cuban dissidents at the Summit forums, and considered the presence of Cuban militant Felix Rodriguez as a provocation [video]. The demonstration ended and soon the news went out (around 2pm) that Felix Rodriguez never showed up at Porras Park.

Days later in Miami, Felix Rodriguez was interview by Radio Mambi over what happened that afternoon in Panama. He mentioned that he, Antunez and M.A.R. Por Cuba decided to visit Porras Park and leave flowers at the bust of Jose Marti. He also said that they were aware there had been an earlier demonstration at the park, so they arrived about an hour later and planned to hold a quick demonstration "to avoid having confrontations with the Cubans" who were there earlier. When they (Felix Rodriguez, Antunez, members of M.A.R. por Cuba, Orlando Gutierrez Boronat and other Cuban dissidents) arrived they left the flowers at the bust of Jose Marti, and started their demonstration [video]. Facing the Cuban Embassy just across the street from the park, they unfolded a flag that read "National Front of Civic Resistance" (a group led by Antunez in Cuba) and began chanting "libertad" (freedom) in front of a small but growing crowd of those (Cubans and Panamanians) who remained from the earlier demonstration. The counter-protest intensified with every second and Orlando Gutierrez placed himself in-between the two groups because no police were nearby. Then, Antunez led the group in singing the Cuban national anthem, but midway they found themselves outnumbered and heading back to their vans. As they retreated from the threatening crowd, Antunez continued shouting back and walking back slowly, with Gutierrez doing his best to act as a bodyguard. Then, from the hostile crowd, one person (Alexis Frutos Weeden) is seen pushing Orlando Gutierrez, and Gutierrez immediately pushing back. In a split second the fight broke out.

Video of violent clashes by Estrella de Panama
Video by NTN24
Video by AmericaTeVe

[Photo: Orlando Gutierrez Boronat (left), President of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, fights with Alexis Frutos Weeden (right), former Cuban Embassy spokesman in Panama. Photo source: La Prensa]

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