Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez interviews Andres Carrion, the Cuban protester who was beaten and arrested after shouting “Down with Communism!” at a papal Mass in Cuba.
Andrés Carrión: ‘I Thought I Wouldn’t Return, I Thought This Would Be the Last Day of My Life’
Video of Andrés Carrión’s being beaten with a stretcher by a member of the Cuban Red Cross, after his arrest for shouting “Down with Communism!” and “Freedom!”
A few weeks have already gone by since Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, and one name comes up again and again to evoke those last days of March. Andrés Carrión, age 40, the citizen who shouted at the Pope’s homily in Santiago de Cuba, “Down with Communism!” He turned the eyes of the world from their contemplation of the Pope’s miter to the face of a man held by his captors and beaten by a supposed member of the Red Cross. Today, still under the effects of passing from anonymity to notoriety, he answers a few questions.
Yoani Sanchez: How did the idea come to you, of taking that action at the Plaza Antonio Maceo? Was it a personal initiative or was there a group?
Andrés Carrión: I do not belong to any opposition party, even today I still do not belong to any. However, these days I have received the solidarity of various activist groups, especially in the east of the country. The idea of this action came to me alone, and I didn’t tell anyone, fearing that the information would filter out and keep me from carrying it out. José Martí said, “There are things that in order to achieve them you have to keep very hidden.” That was how I was able to get there. I had a civic motivation and principles: Cubans should do something so that the world will know about the violations and the great problems confronting us here with the freedom of expression and human rights. I carried all this inside for a long time and it was time to say something.
YS: How did you reach the place despite the police cordon?
AR: I arrived about 11 in the morning. I saw the preparations for the Mass and found a strategic place for my position. There I stood. In my pocket I had some candy and a bottle of water, and with that I held out until 5:40 in the afternoon, when I rushed into action. There were two security cordons. At one point I decided, and crossed the first cordon. Once inside I went running to stand before the altar and shouted several slogans: “Down with Communism! Down with dictatorship! Freedom for the people of Cuba!” and when they caught me and held me I managed to shout “Monsignor don’t be fooled, the people of Cuba are not free!”
YS: Many have applauded your actions on March 26, but others criticize you for using the space of a Catholic Mass to shout a slogan of a political nature. What would you say to the latter?
AR: I sent a letter to the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba to explain why I did it and to apologize to the Pope and the entire Catholic community. But they must understand and everyone should understand that we Cubans do not have spaces in which to express ourselves. Because of that one looks for a place to be heard and I think this was an opportunity that could I not pass up. It was not my intention to tarnish the Mass, so I’ve told several priests with whom I have spoken and they have understood me. I’m Catholic and I did it with no interest in harming the Church or the figure of the Pope.
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