Marlins suspend Guillén five games for praising Castro
Guillén’s statement that he “loves” Fidel Castro sparked a media firestorm and backlash from the Cuban-American community in Miami. (Screenshot: CNN)
The Miami Marlins on Tuesday suspended manager Ozzie Guillén five games for making a controversial statement about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The team announced the suspension just minutes before Guillén addressed the media in the team’s hometown to respond to the growing backlash against his comments.
Speaking in Spanish and English, Guillén apologized to fans and the Latino community and said that he would not protest the suspension.
“I respect that decision, I will take it, whatever they want me to do,” he said in English. “I will do everything to try to make it better. I will help the Cuban community, the Latino community like I always do. I hope I get better and people understand.”
The controversy started late last week, when Time magazine quoted Guillén as saying he “loved” Castro and that he has “respect” for him for maintaining power for so long.
Guillén’s comment came only five games into the season, during which the team is trying build a stronger fan base in Miami, which is home to an influential community of Cuban exiles who have personally felt the brunt of Castro’s oppression.
The comment triggered street protests from anti-Castro groups and some city officials called on the team to fire Guillén, who was given a four-year, $10 million contract this offseason. The manager flew back to Miami from Philadelphia on Tuesday, an off day for the team, to apologize at the team’s new stadium in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood.
Though some believe that the reaction to Guillén’s comments was overheated, the Marlins appear to be taking action to prevent the subsequent public-relations fiasco from getting out of control.
Guillén sought to clarify his original statement, claiming that it was lost in translation.
“It was misinterpreted, what I mean in Spanish,” he said in English and Spanish. He said what he meant was that: “I cannot believe that somebody hurt so many people over the years is [still in power].
“I do not love him, I assure you,” he added.
Guillén, a native of Venezuela who has lived in Miami for 12 years, in the past has drawn fire for making controversial statements, including past praise and criticism for Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.
In Spanish, Guillén clarified that he denounces hardline leaders in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and all over Latin America.
“I’m not doing this to play politics,” Guillén said in Spanish.
In front of a room crowded with media, Guillén expressed remorse for causing the stir.
“Very embarrassed. Very sad, because when I sit in this room in the past, it was all good. he said. “I thought the next time I was going to see the room this full, the World Series trophy would be next to me,” he added.
“If I don’t learn from this mistake, then you can call me dumb. But not yet,” he added. “I know I did the wrong thing.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.