A U.S. citizen and Cuban man who was a guest of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for this year's State of the Union were both beaten in Panama City Wednesday by people alleged to be in the employ of the Castro regime.
The U.S. citizen is Orlando Gutierrez, who is the national secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a group that works to improve the human rights situation in Cuba. Gutierrez is the bald man in the white shirt who gets pulled from the vehicle.
The Cuban citizen is Jorge Luis Garcia Pérez, a pro-democracy activist in Cuba who is known as "Antúnez." He was wearing a teal shirt, and can also be seen being pulled from the vehicle and beaten.
Antúnez was a guest of Boehner's at the State of Union — Boehner invited him as a symbolic gesture to protest President Barack Obama's attempt to normalize relations with Cuba.
Both men were part of a pro-democracy protest in Panama City that was being held just a day before Obama travels there for the Summit of the Americas.
According to activists on the scene, Antúnez and others were beaten by people believed to be Cuban agents who were sent to the event to crack down on these sorts of protests. Isela Fiterre of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance said in a formal statement that some of those who were beaten were being held by Panamanian police.
"We were in a silent march to the bust of Marti in Porra Park and we were beaten by mobs of the Castro regime," she said. "Men were hitting us even though we were also women in the group."
According to a House aide, two other Americans were involved in the fracas, and Panamanian police arrested only those people, and none of those alleged to have been sent by the Cuban government.
The incident has the potential to create more opposition to Obama's effort to court Cuba by re-opening embassies and easing travel and trade regulations. Many Republicans and Democrats have said Obama has done little to win human rights reforms in Cuba as part of this opening, and the administration itself has acknowledged it is not asking for much in return.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on Wednesday night also blamed Cuban agents for the beatings, and called on Panamanian officials to take control of the volatile situation.
"Today's attack by Cuban regime thugs on peaceful pro-democracy protestors and U.S. citizens in Panama is just another reminder of the brutality of the Castro brothers and their enablers," she said.
"As President Obama arrives in Panama this week, he must not look the other way as Americans are feeling the violent wrath of Castro and Havana's disregard for human rights," she said. "This violent act today should be another wake up call to the Obama administration that its misguided policies are only emboldening the Castro regime to continue its oppressive tactics unabated."