Unión Patriótica de Cuba

In Cuba, a shout for freedom brings beating instead

Posted on Saturday, 03.31.12
Papal visit

In Cuba, a shout for freedom brings beating instead

A memorable sidelight from the papal festivities in Cuba — a man calls
for 'Libertad!' then gets pummeled and hauled away.
By Juan Carlos Chavez

He is the man who stood up amid the crowd before a papal Mass in Cuba
and shouted "Freedom!"

If his intention was to point out the lack of it, the message was
underscored. Security personnel hauled him away, beating him up in the
process. Because it happened near a nest of cameras, images were
captured and transmitted around the world, a sour sidelight to the
pope's visit last week.

Internal dissident sources have identified the man as Andrés Carrión
Alvarez, 38. Along with "Libertad!" (Freedom) he also yelled "Down
with Communism!" in Spanish.

The incident took place before the papal Mass at the Antonio Maceo
Square in Santiago de Cuba, in an area close to the platform set up
for photographers.

As he was removed from the square, Carrión was slapped and beaten
violently with a folded gurney by a group of at least three men,
including one wearing a Cuban Red Cross uniform.

Carrión's personal information was confirmed by dissident Alfonso
Chaviano Peláez and by José Daniel Ferrer García, a spokesman for
Cuba's Patriotic Union. In the early hours of Friday, Ferrer reported
through the digital site Háblalo sin Miedo (Say It Without Fear) that
Chaviano had recognized Carrión "but had not been able to report it,
first because he did not have means of communication and because his
house was under severe police vigilance."

Until Thursday the telephones of Ferrer and Chaviano had been blocked.
The interruption of the phone service was part of a 24-hour police

Chaviano said he confirmed that it was Carrión after exchanging
information with a friend and former co-worker. The woman told
Chaviano that she received a phone call from her husband, who lives in
the United States, telling her that he thought he had recognized
"Andresito" on a television newscast.

Carrión is married to a doctor. The couple have no children.

"I've known him for about 10 years. We live in the same neighborhood,"
Chaviano said in a telephone interview with El Nuevo Herald.

"He supports the opposition but never had gone public about it,"
Chaviano said. "He was always looked as the typical professional, a
very reserved man."

He also said that Carrión has a degree in social and occupational
rehabilitation. However, he has been unemployed for months and he
looked worried, Chaviano said.

He used to work at the Carlos J. Finlay Clinic.

Chaviano said that the last time he saw Carrión they were in a barber
shop. They talked briefly and Chaviano asked him if he had plans to
attend the papal Mass. Carrión responded: "I'm going to the Mass and I
know what I have to do."

Next thing Chaviano knew, Carrión was being hauled away.

Carrión was in custody at a State Security operation unit and as of
Friday no one had been able to get information about the conditions of
his imprisonment or the state of his health.

Carrión's detention prompted concerns inside and outside the island.
Elizardo Sánchez, spokesman of the Havana-based Cuban Human Rights and
National Reconciliation Commission, demanded the government guarantee
Carrión's safety.

In Miami, Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart
and David Rivera, as well as New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires joined
demands for Carrión's immediate release in a news release sent to El
Nuevo Herald.

"We call on human-rights organizations such as International Amnesty
and Human Rights Watch to monitor this case and to create
international awareness of the detention of other activists during the
pope's visit to Cuba," said the release.

Preliminary reports, including one from the Miami-based Center of
Support and Information of the Cuban Resistance Assembly, counted more
than 250 dissidents harassed during the week of the pope's visit.


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