On Tuesday, April 10, the Miami Marlins suspended general manager Ozzie Guillén for the “I love Fidel Castro” remark he made during a recent interview with TIME magazine.
The five-game suspension came on the same day that the Venezuelan-born former ballplayer delivered an apology to the team’s Cuban-American fans at a press conference at Miami Stadium, coincidentally located in the famous Cuban neighborhood of Little Havana.
It’s a bit shocking that an utterance as innocuous as “I love Fidel Castro” could bring the free-wheeling former White Sox manager to his knees – this coming from the same man who shouted “¡Viva Chávez!” after his team won the World Series in 2005.
It’s likely Ozzie wouldn’t have incurred so much wrath had he been managing a clubhouse somewhere far away from anti-socialist, anti-Castro crowds of South Florida, maybe in a city where the Latinos have more nuanced political opinions and a clearer understanding of the past.
In the same interview with TIME, Ozzie seemed to remember what team he’s now steering and immediately understood that he had invited the condemnation of crotchety Cuban exiles and their descendants who dream of the days before Fidel and little brother Raúl (known to history as the Batista dictatorship).
“I respect Fidel Castro,” Ozzie quickly clarified. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of —— is still here.”
Cuban Americans who anxiously await the return of a pre-Castro Cuba (a brand of Cuban American particular to South Florida and similar to modern-day Confederate sympathizers) soon demanded Ozzie’s head on a plate.
It’s unfortunate to see a maverick like Ozzie – who has probably never had to apologize for something he’s said since he was nine – have to kowtow to people who want every American to paint the aging Cuban leader and his followers with a wide brush (they also seem oblivious to the glaring irony in their commitment to censoring rival political views).
The anti-Castro Cuban crew is staunchly opposed to even the slightly possible notion that – gasp! – there may be admirable and reprehensible aspects to the Castro regime. Sure the Castros detain people indefinitely in Cuba and likely torture them till they confess (truthfully or not) to crimes against the state, but so has the U.S. commander-in-chief since 2002. (They hate us because of our freedom-ishness.)
What’s best about Ozzie is that he’s not only a pinko supporter of Fidel and Chávez, he’s also an American patriot.
As manager of the White Sox, he instituted a controversial policy of fining players $500 each time they missed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“If you’re not from this country,” Guillén explained then, “you should respect the anthem even more than Americans because you should feel pleased you’re here. And if you’re from this country, you should have respect for people who are dying for it.”
So for the record, let me declare that I love Ozzie Guillén, a patriot and a dissenter.