MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A humbled Ozzie Guillen met the press at Marlins Park Tuesday morning to try to atone for the damage he did when he praised Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Guillen blamed the controversy on a misinterpretation from Spanish to English, but took full blame for the controversy.
Before the Marlins manager took the podium in his own defense Tuesday morning, the Marlins announced he has been suspended for five games due to his comments about Fidel Castro.
Guillen, who is Venezuelan, told Time magazine that he respected Castro for being able to stay in power so long. When Guillen read his comments Friday, he said he felt sick because he knew how people would react and apologized.
“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the Marlins said in a Tuesday statement. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
When Guillen started to speak, he said he was very embarrassed and very sad over everything that’s happened because of his comments about Castro. He also said he agreed with the people who were protesting, “I hurt a lot of people and I know that right now.”
“The last couple of days have been pretty difficult,” Guillen said. “Only God and my family know how difficult. I regret what is happening.”
Guillen started his press conference in Spanish and choked up at one point and stopped speaking. He said he was meeting the press and the Latino community “on bended knees.” He continued saying, “The things I said I didn’t mean to say.”
Guillen, whose primary language is Spanish, said that part of the problem with his comments were the interpretation done by Time magazine and that he doesn’t love Fidel Castro. He also called it a “personal error,” but never backed down from taking the full blame for his statements.
“What I mean in Spanish, I was talking Spanish, is to say is I can’t believe someone who has done so much damage, who has caused so much pain, could still be in power,” Guillen told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
Guillen told the gathered press that he respects the Marlins’ decision to suspend him and acknowledged that he has a lot of work to do to try to win back the support of the Cuban community in Miami.
“It’s not what will happen today, it’s what will happen in the future,” Guillen said. “I live in Miami. My family is in Miami. I will do everything I can do to get things better. I will do everything in my power, and the Marlins power, to believe and help this community.”
Guillen said that as a result of the suspension, he will not be paid for the five games he misses. Guillen said that the money was “the last thing I’m thinking about right now.”
“I will talk to the team tomorrow. I will express the way I feel,” Guillen said. “I will apologize because we have everything going on right now and things are going well. I expect the ballclub to play the same way they’ve been playing lately. I’m very sad I let those guys down.”
When asked if he expected the controversy would become what it has over the last few days, he said he did expect a firestorm.
“I don’t think I’m surprised it became this big. I hurt a lot of people,” Guillen said. “I only apologized in my comments twice. That means when I’m here, I mean it. We need this, especially myself.”
“I think I did the wrong thing, that’s what I’m here for, I did the wrong thing and I want to clear up to the Cuban community that I am truly behind them,” Guillen continued. “To me it’s more important how I will make this thing better. I gotta show the community that I’m there and I support them 100 percent. I gotta show people later what it’s all about, I promise them that, I will be behind them 100 percent.”
Guillen said Tuesday about the dictator of his home country that he would “rather be dead than vote for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.”
The original comment and Guillen’s previous apology did not sit well with some in Miami’s Cuban-American community.
Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman wrote a letter to Marlins owner Jeffery Loria asking him to fire Guillen.
“In light of his comments regarding Fidel Castro, I ask for the resignation of the Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. I ask for the support of all those who have suffered cruelty and violation of human rights anywhere in the world. Mr Guillen should be ashamed of feeling respect for Fidel Castro or any dictator that oppresses the citizens of a country,” Martinez wrote.
Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño said he’s like to see the Marlins impose some sort of penalty on Guillen.
“Just when our community begins to recover from the bad stadium deal negotiated with the Marlins, the Cuban community gets hit with the insensitive comments made by Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen,” said Maroño. “Guillen should be penalized by the Marlins administration for his insensitive comments that have insulted our residents and muddied the new face of what can be a stellar organization.”
Protesters were in Little Havana and some were outside the stadium during Guillen’s comments.
Guillen said near the end of the press conference that “I have never been so hurt in my life over anything.”
Based on the upcoming schedule for the Marlins, Guillen’s first game back will be Tuesday, April 18th for a game at Marlins Park against the Chicago Cubs.