Guillen claims Castro remark misinterpreted

Marlins manager apologizes for controversial comment

Published On: Apr 10 2012 10:18:42 AM EDT   Updated On: Apr 11 2012 11:09:48 AM EDT
MIAMI -

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has been suspended for five games amid controversy over a comment he made about Fidel Castro.

The Marlins released a statement Tuesday morning, saying, "The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen. The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."

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Time Magazine reported that Guillen said he loves Castro and respects him for staying in power so long.

An emotional Guillen spoke at a Tuesday morning news conference, apologizing again in Spanish before fielding questions in English. He said he was "very embarrassed, very sad."

WATCH: News conference (English)

WATCH: News conference (Spanish)

PHOTOS: News conference, protest

"I apologize to the people here, outside, and I'm very, very, very sorry about the problem, about what happened. I will do everything to make it better, everything in my power to make it better," Guillen said.

Guillen has been accused of saying he loves Castro, but when asked at the news conference if he loves the former Cuban dictator, he said, "No." The Marlins manager said the reporter in the article misinterpreted his remarks and claimed what he really said in Spanish was, "I cannot believe that someone who has hurt so many people over the years is still alive."

Guillen, who is from Venezuela, repeatedly told reporters he is not pro-Castro or pro-Hugo Chavez.

"I'd prefer to die than vote for Chavez," Guillen said in Spanish.

A Miami resident, Guillen said that fixing his problem with the community is more important to him than his suspension.

"I don't blame those people to think what they think right now because they have all the right, because I hurt a lot of people, and I'm aware of that. It's something, it's another thing that's not in my hands," Guillen said. "If I'm going to be a Miami guy for the rest of my life, I got meet the community every day even if I want to or not, because I live here. I want to walk on the street with my head up and feel not this bad, the way I feel right now."

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The manager said before Monday's game he's had sleepless nights because of his comments and wants to make amends.

"I'm going to make everything clear what's going on," he said. "People can see me and talk. I've already talked to people. But I think it's the proper thing to see my eyes. They can see me and ask whatever question they want. I think sooner is better. Better for the ballclub, better for me."

Guillen said that he will no longer talk politics and that he will stick to baseball.

Members of the Cuban-American community, as well as Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and Miami Commission Chairman Francis Suarez, have called for Guillen's removal.

A group of protesters gathered outside Tuesday morning's news conference. Some held signs saying, "Boycott the Miami Marlins."

The protesters were not satisfied by the suspension and the public apologies by Guillen. Some were activists belonging to groups such as Vigilio Mambisa, but others were not.

"I come on my own because I am a bit allergic to specific groups but I have to be here and I am here," said protester Sylvia Unzueta. "There's no apology. Lack of common sense and stupidity has no room. How can he guide a group of people to win anything?"

Not everyone was anti-Guillen. One woman showed up at the rally to defend Guillen's right to free speech.

"Right or wrong, he has the right and he shouldn't be fearful of saying anything around this city," said the woman, who would not give her name.

"I don't understand how the exile community can want to persecute a man for saying what he said, and yet they fled the same type of persecution," said another man who didn't want to be identified.

The First Amendment wasn't a good enough defense for others.

"It's easy to be like free speech but if you're Cuban that's going to burn a little bit," said Crystal Valdez.

Opinions were strong in every direction. Some said Guillen deserves to stay.

"I wouldn't say, 'Kick him out of his job.' He can say what he wants. You just don't have to like him for it," said South Florida resident Connie Fernandez.

Others said he should go and called for a boycott of the Marlins.

Still others want to just get back to baseball.

"He's a baseball coach, man. Really? Come on," said another South Floridian.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued a statement, saying "Guillen should meet with the many victims of Castro’s tyranny who live in our community to learn about the horrors of Castro and his regime."