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Cuba: Uproar Over Ozzie Guillen's “Love” for Fidel Castro

In an interview with the US-based Time magazine on April 9, 2012, Miami Marlins baseball team manager Ozzie Guillén told reporter Sean Gregory that he “loved” Fidel Castro.

I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still there.

Across digital and mainstream media, Guillén’s comments unleashed a perfect storm of searing debate between baseball fans, political junkies, Cuban-American Miamians, and Cubans themselves.

Blogging for Pajamas Media and Babalu.com, Cuban-American Miami resident Henry Gómez called Guillén’s comments “dumb,” but acknowledged that Guillén, who is originally from Venezuela, had the right to make them:

In our country Ozzie Guillen has the right to say whatever he wants, no matter how dumb. What he doesn’t have is a right to be popular. If you make unpopular statements or jokes that are in poor taste, you can’t expect to be loved. If you repeatedly make such statements and alienate your boss’s customers, you can’t expect to keep your job for long. That would be just plain dumb.

Indeed, Guillén was promptly suspended by the team’s owners for five games. Many have argued that the funding for the Marlins’ new stadium, which was drawn mainly from local tax dollars, should justify the team’s decision. Guillén gave an emotional mea culpa at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. In the following video, demonstrators denounce Guillén outside of the Marlin's stadium in Miami:

Numerous Cubans in Miami and in other parts of the world expressed outrage at Guillén's comments, accusing him of having no compassion for the hardships that they or their families had experienced living in Cuba under the Castro government.

On La voz del destierro, [es] Juan Carlos Herrera, a Cuban exile blogger resident in Spain, wrote:

12 millones de cubanos sufren de carencias de todo tipo y pobreza crónica, debido a un sistema castrador de iniciativas de prosperar y crecer como persona, trabajador o profesional. En ese mar de dolor profundo, heridas incurables, impotencia e indignación, cayeron las palabras de Guillén.

12 million Cubans suffer from shortages of all kinds and chronic poverty, because of a system that eliminates initiatives allowing people to prosper and grow as people, workers, or professionals. It was in this ocean of profound pain, intractable wounds, impotence and indignation, that Guillén’s words were heard.

On Twitter, many users pointed out that while Guillén’s comments may have offended many Marlins fans, he had the right to make them.

Cuba-American Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) tweeted:

RE: Ozzie Guillen saying he loves or respects Fidel Castro, my folks brought me to U.S. so I'd could speak my mind. Others get same right.

@CesarAugustoRH echoed Salguero’s comment:

Como acosan a #OzzieGuillen por expresar sus pensamientos en el pais mas democratico del mundo!

How can people accuse #OzzieGuillen of expressing his beliefs in the most democratic country in the world!

Meanwhile, some users mockingly compared Guillén to categorically “evil” figures in recent history:

@Viper_Tim: “#CharlesManson denied parole…#OzzieGuillen disappointed

@RickyHuston: “#ozzieguillen admired hitler for his open mind

Others took Guillén to task on his political stance. @Maruor33 tweeted:

Lamentable que un venezolano #OzzieGuillen se exprese de esta manera! Que fácil es hablar pero no vivir la situación.

Unfortunate that the Venezuelan #OzzieGuillen expresses himself this way! How easy it is to speak of but not live the situation.

Cuban state media took many opportunities to note the hypocritical nature of Guillén’s punishment. La Joven Cuba, [es] a collective blog written by young Cuban journalists, had this to say about the controversy:

Nos critican por una supuesta falta de libertad de expresión y sin embargo actúan como trogloditas cuando alguien expresa una opinión que vaya contra sus intereses.

[…]

La manipulación del término “libertad de expresión” está a la orden del día en la política anticubana, es algo así como ‘haz lo que yo digo pero no lo que yo hago’.

They criticize us for a supposed lack of freedom of expression, and yet they act like louts when someone expresses an opinion that goes against their interests.

[…]

The manipulation of the term ‘freedom of expression’ is the order of the day in anti-Cuban politics, it’s something like ‘do as I say but not as I do.’

Mambi Watch, a Miami-based blog, took this question a step further:

If they truly are believers of human rights (and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), then Cuban exiles should understand that punishing Guillen would constitute a violation (as interference) of his “right to freedom of opinion” (Article 19). […] If Guillen is punished for his personal opinions the example of hypocrisy would have negative effects for the entire Miami community.

Mambi Watch noted that some Cuban-Americans, as well as Cubans on the island, have a great deal of respect for Fidel.

Americans and Cuban-Americans will have to confront these opinions at some point in the future. They won't be able to condemn or punish all of them as easily as Ozzie Guillen.

 

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