Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen returned to Miami on Tuesday to apologize for saying that he loved Fidel Castro and respected the leader for being in power for nearly fifty years in an interview with TIME Magazine.
The Venezuelan Guillen, after being suspended for five games by the Miami Marlins for his comments, addressed the media at a press conference on Tuesday morning.
"I feel like I betrayed the Latino community. I am here to say I am sorry from the bottom of my heart," Guillen said in Spanish.
Guillen said in the conference that he actually hates Fidel Castro, and that some of his words were distorted by his own translation.
"In the translation from Spanish to English you lose a lot. I don't want to make any excuses, but what I wanted to say is that I was surprised that Castro had been in power for so long, after hurting so many people," Guillen said in Spanish. "But something was lost in the translation from Spanish to English."
At one point, Guillen expressed confusion about some of the questions at the press conference, and asked that reporters not speak to him in two languages at once.
"That's why I'm in trouble right now," he said in Spanish.
With many parties calling for Guillen's resignation, the controversy surrounding his comments demonstrates that Cuba's communist leader remains a hated and controversial figure for many in the Cuban-American community.
Francis Suarez, the chairman of the Miami city commission, said in a statement that Guillen should be fired for his comments.
"Mr. Guillen's admiration for a dictator who has destroyed the lives of so many and who has violated the basic human rights of millions is shameful. On behalf of many angry residents, I'm calling for real action to be taken and for the removal of Mr. Guillen," Suarez said in a statement.
Chairman of the Miami-Dade County board of commissioners, Joe Martinez, also issued a statement calling for Guillen to resign.
"This unfortunate comment is an insult to the citizens of Miami-Dade who have been victims of a tyrant in power for over 50 years," Martinez said in a statement.
Even the recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the island nation's patron saint was shrouded in controversy for Miami's Cuban exile community.
Still, others think critics of the Venezuelan manager should remember that Guillen is a sports figure -- not a politician.
Julio Pabón, HuffPost LatinoVoices blogger and founder of LatinoSports.com, writes:
"I just want to make it clear that Ozzie does not know anything except baseball; to try to burn him to the stake for his comments outside of baseball is like trying to burn the poor village idiot for comments that do not make any sense," Pabón wrote on LatinoSports.com.
This isn't the first time Guillen has come under fire for controversial statements, however. He has also come under fire for comments regarding gays, opponents of illegal immigration, and even fellow Venezuelans, according to The Miami Herald.
But on Tuesday's press conference, Guillen took back his praise of Castro, and attempted to clarify his statement.
"No, I don't admire Fidel Castro. I'll repeat it again -- a person who has hurt so many people, what I meant to say, was that I was surprised he'd been able to keep power for so long," Guillen said in Spanish in Tuesday's press conference.
"I know exactly who Fidel Castro is. I know what he did. And I know how the Cuban people suffer," he added later in Spanish.
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