Oswaldo “Ozzie” Guillen, the Venezuelan-born manager of the Miami Marlins, is in hot water after telling Time Magazine he "loves" Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The outspoken former Major League Baseball shortstop, who played for the Baltimore Orioles (1998), Atlanta Braves (1998-1999), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2000), and managed the Chicago White Sox from 2004 to 2011, is no stranger to controversy. In 2006, he called Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a “fag.” In 2010, in the wake of the controversial Arizona immigration law, he said illegal immigrants were “workaholics” who were needed in the United States as some Americans are “lazy.”
But the backlash generated by the Fidel Castro comments is like nothing seen before by the outrageous figure. As soon as the gaffe was reported, the Marlins issued a statement saying that there was nothing to respect about Fidel Castro, “a brutal dictator who has caused unimaginable pain for more than 50 years.” Guillen has since then retracted his comments, apologizing to the South Florida Cuban community and admitting he felt “embarrassed.”
However, this hasn’t stopped the backlash from fans and government officials alike, such as MLB spokesman Pat Courtney, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and Joe Martinez, head of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, who have asked for different disciplinary measures from suspension to simply calling for Guillen’s resignation.
The uproar was best explained by veteran Spanish-language baseball announcer Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, who fled Castro’s communist Cuba at age 17, “It’s like going to New York’s Jewish district and saying, ‘Hitler wasn’t so bad.’”
In the meantime, Guillen has refused to release an official statement arguing that doing so would be “a bunch of crap” and choosing instead to hold a press conference this Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. from the Marlins Park where he hopes to explain himself to Cuban-American and other Latino fans who might have been offended by his public expression of love for Fidel Castro.
Guillen has also been caught in controversy for his alleged support of authoritarian Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, an outspoken anti-American ruler who pals around with the Castro brothers and other Latin American leftist figures. In 2005, after the White Sox won the World Series, someone posted a video on YouTube in which Guillen appears to be shouting “Viva Chavez!” in the middle of the post-victory euphoria.