Sean Penn Praised by Venezuela's Chavez

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By IAN JAMES
The Associated Press
Thursday, August 2, 2007; 9:20 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has praised Sean Penn for his critical stance against the war in Iraq, saying the two chatted by phone and soon plan to meet in person.

Chavez said Penn traveled to Venezuela this week wanting to learn more about the situation in the country and walked around some of Caracas' poor barrios on his own.

"Welcome to Venezuela, Mr. Penn. What drives him is consciousness, the search for new paths," Chavez said Wednesday in a televised speech. "He's one of the greatest opponents of the Iraq invasion."

Chavez read aloud from a recent open letter by Penn to President Bush in which the actor condemned the Iraq war and called for Bush to be impeached, saying the president along with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are "villainously and criminally obscene people."

The socialist president, who shares those views, said he and Penn talked by phone _ "with my bad English but we understood each other more or less."

Chavez said the two plan to meet Thursday. He called the actor "well-informed about what is happening in the United States and the world, in spite of being in Hollywood."

What's more, Chavez said, "he's made great films." The Venezuelan leader said he recently watched Penn's Oscar-winning performance in the film "Mystic River."

For his part, Penn on Wednesday toured Venezuela's new film studios on the outskirts of Caracas. Penn, whose visit was unannounced, did not speak publicly.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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