Ozzie Guillen, the outspoken manager of the Miami Marlins, has been suspended for five games for praising Fidel Castro in an interview.
The manager's comments promptly caused a stir in Southern Florida, where many opponents of Castro reside, and the Marlins organization soon distanced themselves from Guillen's statement. Guillen has apologized, saying he misspoke. "It was an error. Everyone hates Fidel Castro, including me. I am surprised he is still in power. That is what I was trying to say to the journalist," Guillen said. "I have hurt a lot of people and I am aware of that."
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Chicago Tribune: Guillen suspended 5 games for Castro remarks
Ozzie Guillen, who was suspended for five games Tuesday by the Miami Marlins for his comments regarding Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, said he was "very embarrassed and very sad" at a morning news conference at Marlins Park.
Outside the stadium, protesters waived Cuban flags and held signs calling for Guillen's resignation.
"The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," the team said in a statement. "The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."
Guillen, who flew in from Philadelphia on an off day for the team, is expected to return for the Marlins' April 17 game against the Chicago Cubs. Guillen said bench coach Joey Cora would run the team in his absence.
Guillen cited a language breakdown for his unintended incendiary remarks. Speaking to news media alternately in Spanish and English, Guillen apologized repeatedly.
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"With my heart, I didn't say it. I was thinking in Spanish and said it wrong in English," he said. "It was an error. Everyone hates Fidel Castro, including me. I am surprised he is still in power. That is what I was trying to say to the journalist."
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Casual kind words for Castro in Miami is akin to looking at a leaky bottle of kerosene and thinking it could use a match. Now, we haven't seen outrage like this in South Florida since butterfly ballots and hanging chads.
The Miami Marlins immediately released a condemnation of Guillen but that couldn't stop a volcanic political explosion. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called on the organization "to take decisive steps" against Guillen in the name of "freedom loving people." Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez demanded Guillen's resignation. Cuban-American State Senator and Hispanic caucus chair Rene Garcia—in record time!—sent an open letter published in the Miami Herald calling Guillen's comments "appalling" and said he was "looking forward to further actions taken against him for his deplorable comments." Garcia also stuck Loria in the ribs by including, "What I also consider disturbing is the fact that the Miami Marlins received tax dollars from this community, including Cuban-American exiles, to fund the construction of the new stadium." Suffice it to say, many a sports commentator also want Guillen fired or suspended. In their frothy anger, they have a common demand with the Cuban hardline exile group Vigilia Mambisa. An organization that has never shied from street violence and intimidation, Vigilia Mambisa has called for protests in front of the stadium until the Miami Marlins manager is fired.
As for Guillen, he has crumbled under the weight of all this, saying that he is now flying back to Florida to apologize in person to every animal, vegetable and mineral he might have offended. "I want them to know I'm against everything [in Cuba] 100 percent-I repeat it again-the way [Castro has been] treating people for the last 60 years."
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ESPN: Controversial Comments
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