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US Troubled by Reported Attacks on Panama Protesters

A man shouts slogans against Cuban government supporters outside the Vasco Nunes De Balboa Convention Center in Panama City, April 8, 2015.

The United States said on Thursday it was troubled by reported attacks on civil society protesters in Panama for the Summit of the Americas after two
Republican lawmakers blamed the violence on Castro supporters.

The reported attacks come at an awkward time for Washington, which is pursuing a rapprochement with Havana and which a source familiar with the matter said was preparing to remove the island from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"We are deeply concerned by reports of attacks targeting civil society representatives in Panama for the Summit of the Americas," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement that did not address who was responsible. "We condemn those who use violence against peaceful protesters."

U.S. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida issued statements on Wednesday citing the reported attacks in Panama City and holding supporters of Fidel and Raul Castro, who together have ruled Cuba for more than 50 years, responsible for them.

"Today, the Castro regime once again demonstrated that it is the same violent, terrorist dictatorship that is has always been, as it continues to export its brand of thuggery and aggression anywhere that it finds dissent," said Diaz-Balart.