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Posted at 12:17 PM ET, 04/10/2012

Ozzie Guillen, suspended five games, says, “I feel like I betrayed my Latin community”


Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen spoke for an hour about his controversial remarks about Fidel Castro. (Andrew Innerarity / Reuters)
Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen apologized for and explained his laudatory remarks about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an hourlong press conference in Miami that alternated between English and Spanish.

Just before the 10:30 a.m. press conference, Guillen was suspended five games by the team for remarks that deeply offended the Miami community, particularly members of an older generation that found refuge in south Florida from Castro’s regime.

“I feel like I betrayed my Latin community,” Guillen said in Spanish (via ESPN’s translator). “I am here to say I am sorry with my heart in my hands and I want to say I'm sorry to all those people who are hurt indirectly or directly.”

Guillen, a 48-year-old U.S. citizen who was born in Venezuela and has lived in Miami for years, said he was embarrassed by the comments and acknowledged that “some people might think I am crazy.” He was trying, he said, to say, “I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive.” Guillen did not claim his remarks were misconstrued; the problem, he said, was that he was thinking in Spanish and speaking in English.

“I'm sorry for what I said and for putting people in a position they don't need to be in. And for all the Cuban families, I'm sorry,” he said (again, via ESPN’s translator). “I hope that when I get out of here, they will understand who Ozzie Guillen is. How I feel for them. And how I feel about the Fidel Castro dictatorship. I'm here to face you, person to person. It's going to be a very difficult time for me.”


Demonstrators outside Marlins Park. (Joe Skipper / Reuters)
In comments on Time.com, Guillen, who has in the past praised Hugo Chavez as well as Castro, said, “I love Fidel Castro.” The remarks riled the community at a particularly sensitive time for the baseball team, which has reinvented itself with new uniforms, logos and a new $643 million ballpark built largely with taxpayer funds in Little Havana.

“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the team said in a statement announcing Guillen’s suspension. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”

Marlins President David Samson said the team expected no further punishment from Major League Baseball. “As I have often said, baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement released by MLB. “All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve.”

Guillen, who vowed today never to talk about politics again, said he “offered to go talk to the business owners who’ve supported the team and ... to those who suffered under the dictatorship. I want them to make sure that I’m saying the truth. I can sit down and talk to them face to face, if I have to.”
Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen drew a crowd for his press conference Tuesday (Lynne Sladk / Associated Press)

Guillen spoke of how deeply the mistake had affected him, saying he had not slept and could not walk down the streets of Miami with his head high. He said the mistake was “stupid,” but that he was not “dumb.”

“This is the biggest mistake so far in my life that I’ve made,” he said. “... If I can’t learn from this, I will call myself dumb. If I don’t learn from this mistake, at 48 years old, then we can sit back here and you can call me dumb.”

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