Mother of dissident arrested during papal Mass in Cuba speaks out

Via the Coalition of Cuban-American Women, a translation of an interview with Mirta Alvarez Bestard, the mother of Andres Carrion Alvarez, who was viciously beaten and arrested for shouting “down with communism” during a papal Mass in Santiago and has been imprisoned by the Castro dictatorship ever since.


April 12, 2012

INTERVIEW of MIRTA ALVAREZ BESTARD, mother of Andres Carrion Alvarez, a young Cuban man who cried out “down with communism!” and “freedom!”, minutes before the Papal Mass in the Eastern city of Santiago de Cuba on March 26, 2012. Amnesty International issued an URGENT ALERT since he is being held without charges since that date for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression:

The mother informs below of the following alarming facts:

1. The family was not told of the whereabouts of Andres Carrion until a week after his arrest (March 26, 2012). The first family visit lasted 15 minutes (Friday, April 6, 2012) with a guard watching. Mirta Alvarez Bestard is not being guided or informed by authorities about her son’s case.

2. Andres Carrion is prohibited from discussing his case with his family who’s been threatened that if they do speak about what happened; the prison visits will be suspended.

3. The mother is concerned for the mental well-being of his son whom she described as “desperate” and ‘traumatized”.

4. Andres Carrion is being held in inhumane conditions; in isolation, exposed to cold temperatures, in a ward not for prisoners accused of ‘public disorder”, according to his mother.

5. The family cannot find a lawyer that will take his case – all those contacted say that they are “too busy”, “on vacation” or simply give no answer.

6. Mirta Alvarez Bestard is so afraid for her son’s life that she stated in this interview that if he stays in Cuba she knows it’s going to be the “end of him.”


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Mirta Alvarez Bestard is a 58 year old resident of Jiguani, a town located in the Eastern province of Granma, who is the mother of Andrés Carrión Álvarez, a young Cuban man who cried out “down with communism!” minutes before the Papal Mass took place in the Antonio Maceo Plaza. Carrion remains under arrest at the State Security headquarters of Santiago de Cuba.

How is your son? What is his situation? I understand that you have not been able to see him…

He looks desperate, because he is there, they have him there you know, he’s very cold, they don’t provide him with any sheets, not one, he is not allowed to be transferred to another prison ward and it seems that the preventive measure against him was withheld because we (the family) were not informed that we had to pick it up. We were given the document after we demanded it. Up to now, we have not been able to get a good lawyer. I’m desperate because I fear for my son’s life. If he is accused of public disorder there is no reason for him to be shut up where he is. I don’t know what to do, I beg that he receive assistance. I have had to struggle to become strong and thus be able to to give strength to my son.

Have you been able to discuss his case? Did your son express any type of concern in this regard?

(We had) 15 minutes for everything. Only three are allowed inside (the prison visit): mother, sister, and when the mother is present, the father cannot be present. Nothing can be discussed with him. We only greet him and have some small talk; we are not allowed to discuss what happened.

Who does not allow you to speak of the case? The warder or the person who is present during the prison visit?

Those who are guarding him, the prison officer standing there during the visit. His presence is obvious. There was one with him there who prohibited that we speak about the case or else we would be denied the visit.

How do you see his son health-wise?

He appears physically well, though mentally I see him a bit desperate, traumatized. Imagine, to be shut up in there without any information, it’s not easy. He’s isolated. We were only able to see him for 15 minutes on Friday (April 6, 2012). And I really don’t know what is going on with him inside that place, no one guides you, they don’t tell you anything.

Are you afraid for your son’s mental health?

For his life, for his mental health, for everything, because I don’t know what they are doing to him. I don’t know, I imagine bad things, but I don’t know anything, Do you understand?

Did you observe some sort of strange gesture, movement or behavior in your son?

As a mother, I believe so, but he is not able to tell me. I noticed he wanted to tell me something but cannot. He looks desperate.

Tell me something about your son, who is Andres Carrion Alvarez?

He studied a beautiful career during six years and he graduated with honors. But that has never been useful for him here in any way. He is an honest and quiet man without a criminal record. Nevertheless, in his preventive measure they documented that he does have a criminal record, which I objected. The lawyer we find will have to see that because he doesn’t have a criminal record.

He was unemployed, what did he do for a living?

Yes, due to a reduction of employees, you know, he was left out and he applied for a leave.

Then, what did he do?

Take photographs, he was a photographer.

Did you know that your son was going to do at the Pope’s Mass in Santiago de Cuba and that he had decided to do this? Did he share that idea with you?

Not at all, not at all. It was something that surprised me and I’m still surprised that he did that because he’s a quiet person…

How did you find out that your son was arrested and learn about all that happened at the Antonio Maceo Plaza?

I found out after a week had passed because I live in Jiguani. My daughter called my sister and told her. I am his mother, and I have to see how I get my son out.

Isn’t the family able to find anyone who can defend him, a lawyer who can represent your son?

We are looking for a lawyer who can defend him. But, when we particularly discuss what it’s all about, they refuse, saying that they have too much work. Others say that they are on vacation. No one wants to do it, I have no answer.

Did you already see the video where your son appears at the Antonio Maceo Plaza?

No, I was told about it. I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to see it. They tell me it’s horrible, I don’t want to see it. He was beaten, they say he was beaten. The Red Cross beat him and now they blame the people there. It was not the people (at the Mass).

Your request is that Andres Carrion Alvarez be helped…

That he is given help, that he is helped. And if there is a way of getting him out, that someone get him out, please.

Are you asking that Andres be taken out the country?



Because I feel that that would be the best for him after all that’s happened. If he remains here it will be the end of him. I am afraid for my son’s life. Please I need help.

Have you or any other member of the family gone to the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba asking for help?

To tell you the truth, I have not gone to the Church. I have faith, I’m a believer, but I have not gone. I have asked so much and can’t sleep, praying, asking so that nothing happens to my son. Asking God that nothing happens to him.

Original in Spanish:

Journalist who did the interview by phone: Jose Luis Ramos, Radio Marti, EEUU

Translation to English: Laida A. Carro/ Human Rights Defender/ Coalition of Cuban-American Women /

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