By Joseph Schwerdt, Sun Sentinel –
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Miami Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen five games for comments he made about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the Marlins said in a statement Tuesday. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
Guillen, who inflamed South Florida Cuban community when he was quoted in Time magazine saying “I love Castro,” apologized repeatedly to the Cuban and Latin American communities in a statement before a news conference Tuesday morning at Marlins Park.
“I feel like I betrayed the Latin American community and I am here to say I am sorry,” Guillen said in Spanish. His comments were translated during a live broadcast on ESPN.
“I want to say I am sorry to all the people I hurt indirectly or directly from the bottom of my heart.”
Guillen said his comments to Time were made in Spanish and their meaning lost in the translation to English. But, he said: “I don’t want to make any excuses.”
Guillen pledged to “do everything in my power to make it better.”
Guillen flew to Miami after his team’s 6-2 win in Philadelphia on Monday in an attempt to explain his comments. He invited anyone to attend who wants to ask a question or hear what he has to say. ESPN announced it will televise the news conference.
“Anybody who wants to be there, feel free,” he said on Monday.
On Tuesday morning, state fire marshals restricted access to the interview room at Marlins Park, which holds about 200, after it was filled to capacity.
Outside the stadium, protesters waived Cuban flags and held signs calling for Guillen’s resignation.
Guillen has been under fire since reports surfaced that the upcoming edition of Time magazine quotes him as saying, “I love Fidel Castro.”
He later amended his comment, saying: “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still there.” Guillen said he has been troubled and unable to sleep since the story broke. “I feel sad and a couple days stuff in my stomach,” he said. “Not because what I did, just because I know I hurt a lot of people. And I’m going to make it clear, especially for me. … I told the Marlins I want to fly as soon as I can. (Tuesday) is a day off. I’d rather be in Miami clear everything up. I think that’s the best for everyone.”
The Marlins have an off day on Tuesday (built into the schedule in case opening day is postponed). They resume their schedule in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Guillen said he has spoken to a number of people with ties to Cuba and offered apologies, including long-time Marlins Spanish announcer Felo Ramirez.
Ramirez said Guillen is taking the proper steps by returning to Miami and address the issue as soon as possible.
Asked if he was concerned the issue could cost him his job, Guillen said, “I hope not. Why? I’m Latino. I lived in Miami for 12 years. I know how people feel about that. I’ve got a lot of friends, a lot of players (who) play for me, they know who I am. They know how I feel, what I mean.”
Guillen didn’t deny making the comments about Castro, but seemed surprised how his remarks were portrayed in the Time article.
“I don’t want to put the guy in the spotlight. The interview was about sport, not politics,” he said. “You read what it was, it comes out (a) different way. I can’t control that. I have to wear it, I have to face it. I have to grab the bull by the horns, and I will do it tomorrow.
The Cuban-American group Vigilia Mambisa plans to boycott and demonstrate against Marlins until Guillen steps down, according to a report on NBCMiami.com. A demonstration is planned at the new Marlins stadium in Little Havana on Tuesday.
The Marlins return home against the Houston Astros on Friday night.