Marlins suspend coach for Castro comments

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Marlins suspend coach for Castro comments

MIAMI - The Miami Marlins baseball team suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for five games after he praised Cuba’s Fidel Castro in a magazine interview, the team said on Tuesday.

The outspoken Guillen held a bilingual news conference on Tuesday in Miami - home to a large Cuban exile community - to apologize for a second time, and said there were translation problems with the interview.

Guillen, who is in his first season as manager of the Marlins, has come under attack after saying he had “respect” for Cuba’s ailing former leader.

“I love Fidel Castro,” the Venezuelan-born Guillen told Time magazine’s online edition. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years but that mother- is still here.”

He later apologized for the comments from Philadelphia, where the Marlins are playing the Phillies, saying he was deeply embarrassed by having offended Miami’s large Cuban exile community.

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

In an effort to make amends, Guillen traveled to Miami where he held a lengthy press conference on Tuesday, speaking in Spanish and English to further apologize to those he offended.

“I’m here on my knees, apologizing to all the Latin American communities,” said Guillen, who will not be paid while suspended.

He added that he was “very, very, very sorry” and felt “very embarrassed, very sad.”

Known for making colorful and often controversial comments, Guillen blamed problems in translation in his interview.

“I was thinking in Spanish and said it wrong in English. I didn’t say it correctly,” he said. “What I wanted to say was I was surprised Fidel Castro stayed in power so long, considering what he’s done. It was misinterpreted. I said I cannot believe someone who has hurt so many people is still alive.”

Guillen said his Castro comments were “the biggest mistake so far in my life” and that he had not slept well for three days as a result.

Struggling for words at times and frequently switching between English and Spanish, Guillen said he would learn from his mistake and make it up to the community. He said he planned to make Miami his permanent home, not just for the remainder of his baseball career.

“I’m going to be a Miami guy for the rest of my life,” he said. “I want to walk in the street with my head up and feel not this bad the way I feel right now.”

Several local Cuban-American politicians and civic leaders called for Guillen’s resignation, but Miami’s Cuban-American mayor said he accepted his apology and urged the community to move on.

About 100 protesters gathered outside the Marlins’ stadium waving Cuban and American flags, calling Guillen a “communist,” and shouting in Spanish, “Get rid of him.”

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