Democracy’s Hero: Andrés Carrión Álvarez
For days, Cuban authorities kept his identity secret, but the incident made international headlines, and he was eventually identified by members of the Cuban Patriotic Union. On April 13, after almost three weeks in prison, Carrión was released. He was required to sign a document noting that he would be re-arrested if he gave interviews with foreign journalists or if he met with opposition activists. This did not deter him from participating in activities that signaled opposition to the Cuban regime, and just days later, he was arrested again while staging a street protest in Santiago, demanding the release of well-known pro-democracy activist, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia. His second arrest and subsequent short detainment also occurred a day after he was interviewed by Radio Marti, the U.S.-supported radio station based out of Miami, Florida that broadcasts unfiltered news to the Cuban people.
According to a report released by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, during the month of March, Cuban police carried out at least 1,158 political detentions. This wave of arrests was seen as part of efforts to intimidate and prevent members of the opposition from participating in any events related to the Papal visit, as more the half of the political detentions occurred in the days leading up to and during Pope Benedict’s time on the island. In order to control the crowds who attended the public masses, many people were selected or required to attend.
Carrión’s background in social and occupational therapy did not provide much of an indication about his views of the regime, but with one brave decision, he seized the opportunity to speak out in support of freedom for all Cubans. He has continued to suffer oppression since that moment and has been detained several more times. Recently, Cuban police reportedly warned Carrión that if he continues to criticize the government and speak to foreign journalists, he will be put on trial for “disobedience.”
Carrión’s efforts to call attention to the daily oppression experienced by all Cuban citizens, no matter what their backgrounds may be, deserves to be recognized as a positive contribution to those who advocate for freedoms in Cuba. While Carrión’s name and face were previously unknown to most of the world, his plight shined a spotlight on the continued repressive actions by the Cuban regime and the lack of basic fundamental freedoms in that country.