In his eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen was known for his colorful, sometimes profane, language. But fresh into his new gig with the Miami Marlins, Guillen went too far.
After telling a Time magazine reporter that he loves and respects Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Guillen was slapped with a five-game suspension without pay. This morning, Guillen offered a heartfelt public apology at a televised news conference. “I was thinking in Spanish and I said it wrong in English,” he said, “I’m very, very, very sorry.”
Guillen, who is Venezuelan, says he meant to express surprise that despite numerous attempts to oust him, Castro has remained in power for the last 60 years. Guillen’s remarks provoked immediate public outcry, especially in Miami, home to nearly 900,000 Cuban Americans. Those who suffered under the hands of the dictator, or have family members there who still do, are understandably horrified by Guillen’s remarks.
But there’s a whole new generation of Cuban Americans who may have only a second-hand knowledge of life under Castro’s regime – if at all. Guillen’s unfortunate choice of words proves that mention of Castro’s name still stirs up a firestorm – even though he stepped down as Cuba’s president in 2008. Is Castro's hold on the country symbolic, and will it end when he dies?
Are younger generations invested in Cuba’s struggles, or is anti-Castro sentiment just a relic from the cold war? And should public figures be vilified for speaking their minds – even if they get it wrong?
Ann Louise Bardach, author of Without Fidel: Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington; she serves on The Brookings Institution's Cuba Study Project and is a special correspondent for CBS News
Leslie Berestein-Rojas, KPCC’s immigration reporter; she writes the Multi-American blog