Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen Suspended for Speaking Truthfully about Fidel Castro
The Miami Marlins have a new name, a new stadium, a new manager… and a new international controversy. That new manager, the outspoken Ozzie Guillen, found out just how powerful and irrationally blinkered South Florida’s Cuban exile community is after he voiced his opinion of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
“I respect Fidel Castro,” the Venezuela-born Guillen said in an interview with Time magazine. ” You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that motherfucker is still here.”
Perhaps Guillen, who has been referred to as the most unfiltered man in sports, did not realize what a hornet’s nest of controversy he would stir up by uttering such words. Almost immediately, South Florida’s sizable Cuban exile community was calling for Guillen’s head. The manager backed away from his comment and issued an apology, but his “offense”– speaking honestly about Castro and America’s 50-plus-year reign of terror against him— is quite unforgivable down in Miami.
And so it was, only five games into his Marlins managerial tenure, that Guillen was slapped with a five-game suspension, effective immediately.
Addressing the suspension, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he supports the punishment because Guillen’s remarks were “offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world” and “have no place in our game.”
The team issued this statement: “The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen. The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
The most troubling thing about the effort to silence Guillen’s speech is that the little he said about Castro is actually true. Since rising to power in a popular 1959 revolution, Fidel Castro has outlasted 11 US presidents, all of whom have waged a war of terror and economic sanctions against the regime and the Cuban people. President John F. Kennedy wished the “terrors of the earth” upon Cuba, and that’s exactly what the United States delivered, both through exile terrorist groups and covert CIA campaigns. Most Americans know about the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion carried out by exiled militants. But that was only one small part of the terror campaign against the small island nation.
The CIA launched Operation Mongoose, a secret assassination program that targeted Castro with poison pens and cigars, exploding cigars and seashells (he was fond of smoking and scuba diving), a toxic wetsuit and various poison pills. The Agency even hired an ex-lover to slip him one of these deadly pills but she balked; Castro also figured out what she was up to and handed her his own pistol. “I can’t do it, Fidel,” she informed him, laying the gun down.
There were strafing attacks by Miami-based Cuban exile terrorists against Cuban civilians and hotels where foreign tourists stayed, biological attacks against the country’s livestock, and dozens of bombings of US Cubans thought to be soft on Castro. There were so many attacks in Miami in the 1970s and 1980s that the FBI called the city the “terrorist capital” of the United States.
The US also harbored and supported many anti-Castro terrorists, chief among them Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, two unrepentant terrorists (and close friends of the Bush family) who are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people throughout the Americas. In 1976, the pair masterminded the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, a civilian airliner, an attack which killed 73 people including Cuba’s junior national fencing team. “A bus with 73 dogs went off a cliff and all got killed,” Bosch boasted. Instead of prosecuting those responsible for the worst act of air terrorism in the Western Hemisphere up until 9/11, Bosch and Posada were hailed as heroes in Miami. The city of Miami even threw an official “Orlando Bosch Day” to celebrate the terrorist.
Over the course of Castro’s 50-plus-year reign, exactly ZERO Americans have been killed by Cuban or Cuban-backed terrorists. Over that same period, more than 3,000 Cubans have been killed by US or US-backed anti-Castro forces.
Sure, Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator, especially in the early decades of his rule. But a little context is sorely needed here. In the 1950s, US economic interests had been firmly in control of Cuba for half a century. Almost all the country’s railways as well as its electric and telephone companies were US- owned. A handful of American sugar companies owned millions of acres of the country’s most productive farmland. Havana was a vice-filled playground for hundreds of thousands of Americans who visited each year, and stateside organized crime groups thrived there. Gambling, prostitution and drugs were all readily available in the libertine’s paradise just 90 miles south of Florida. This all occurred with the approval and encouragement of Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s brutal, bullying dictator. Batista was in cahoots with US corporations as well as notorious American mobsters like Meyer Lansky, who made a fortune from Cuban gambling operations.
Needless to say, the man who turned Cuba into a Yanqui whorehouse was extremely unpopular, and Fidel Castro was widely hailed as a hero of national liberation when he rode the crest of a successful popular revolution to power in 1959. Castro proceeded to clean house, closing brothels and casinos, opening American-only beaches to Cubans and, most fatefully, nationalizing American-owned businesses. This, combined with his increasingly communist ways and his cozying up to the Soviet Union, made him Public Enemy Number One in Washington.
The United States supported then and still supports far worse tyrants than Castro, including Saddam Hussein, the genocidal Indonesian general Suharto, the Islamic extremists of Saudi Arabia and Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s wicked ruler, a holdover from Soviet days who is fond of boiling his opponents alive. But these and other dictators tow Washington’s line and so their heinous crimes are forgiven. Castro, ever defiant, is not targeted for his brutality. He is targeted because he resists US hegemony. And anyone who can survive 50+ years of Washington’s wrath– and just 90 miles from American shores– is certainly deserving of a certain respect, especially when you consider that Castro has acknowledged the errors inherent in some of his earlier excesses.
Ozzie Guillen was right. What’s even more galling about his suspension is that other athletes who voice support for individuals, groups or causes that are arguably far more harmful than frail old Fidel Castro face no punishment for their words and actions. To the contrary, they are often encouraged and applauded when they do so. Case in point: Tim Tebow, the former Denver Broncos (and current NY Jets) quarterback, was hailed as an American hero for appearing in a 2010 Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family, a rabidly anti-gay fundamentalist Christian hate group that actively works to deny marriage equality to millions of LGBT Americans and reproductive freedom to hundreds of millions of American women.
The hypocrisy here is stunning, but not surprising. Moral Low Ground is outraged by Guillen’s suspension and saddened that the manager has walked back his comments about Castro. We are no fan of Castro. But in the grand scheme of things, the pain he’s inflicted on his own people pales in comparison to the immense suffering caused in every corner of the globe by rampant US imperialism. But history is written by the victors, and right now that’s US, so Ozzie Guillen would do well keep his political opinions to himself. Such is the reality of life in this, the Land of the Free.
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