From The Miami Herald:
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.
“[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.
Carrión said he was not active in dissident groups before his outburst. A physical therapist who lived with his wife quietly in Santiago, Cuba’s second-largest city, he had been dismissed from his job as part of a government belt-tightening, and was unemployed.
“I was a normal person, with some political worries, but then little by little came an increase in my political consciousness,” he said in a telephone interview.
He realized he would have the perfect opportunity to attack the government publicly when it was announced that Benedict would say Mass in Santiago — an event sure to be attended by the international news media and Cuba’s ruling elites, but not by dissidents.
Carrión was right. Following past procedures, police detained hundreds of dissidents and blocked their phones during Benedict’s visit to make sure they could not get anywhere near the pope in Santiago and Havana.
“I took advantage of that moment because I was a person unknown in the political world,” he said. “If not, I could not have reached that spot.”