Man who shouted “Down with communism!” during pope’s visit to Cuba is now in Chattanooga
Andrés Carrión Says security agents threatened to kill him, fired his wife, forced them out of their home and sent two snitches to get close to him.
Andrés Carrión Alvarez says he knew it would be up to him to shatter the image of peace and order clamped on Cuba by government security agents when then Pope Benedict XVI said Mass last year in Santiago de Cuba.
“I could not allow the international news media there to think everything was OK,” said Carrión, the man seen in a memorable video shouting “Down with communism!” before the Mass and then being pummeled and hauled away by plainclothes agents.
Carrión, 41, and his wife, physician Ariuska Galán, 38, received U.S. refugee visas and arrived Nov. 21 in Chattanooga, Tenn., where they have been filling out papers for work permits, Social Security numbers and medical checkups.
They had some initial concerns about the crime-ridden and racist capitalist society that Cuba’s official news media always portrays, but found the city to be safe. Americans smile a lot, Carrión said, and even say “Excuse me” when they bump into people.
“You are even treated very well in the shops, not at all like in Cuba,” he said. His Facebook page shows him in gloves and hat pulled way down over his ears, hugging a store Santa Claus and pointing at a reindeer in a shop window.
“But most of all I am breathing freedom, an incredible sense of freedom,” Carrion told El Nuevo Herald in his first interview since leaving Cuba.
That was not what he was breathing in Cuba after his notorious outburst minutes before Benedict began the Mass in Santiago on March 26, 2012, on the first leg of a three-day visit to Cuba, the first papal tour of the communist-ruled nation since John Paul II visited in 1998.
Government officials threatened to kill him, fired his wife from a public clinic and evicted them from their apartment above the clinic. Two State Security infiltrators tried to get close to him. And an Interior Ministry car seemed to try to run him over, he said.
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