Sean Penn: Socialist Hugo Chavez Is ‘Warm’ and ‘Friendly’ Man

By Nicholas Ballasy | April 23, 2009 | 8:56 PM EDT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (AP Photo)

( - Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn said in a Huffington Post blog entry this week that the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is a “warm” and “friendly man” with a “robust sense of humor,” who daily “risks” his own life for his country in ways former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney “could never imagine.”

 Penn also wrote that conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity “hate” the principles upon which America was founded.
Chavez, a frequent critic of the United States, is a military officer who supports neo-socialist policies and tried to take over Venezuela in a failed coup d’etat in 1992. He was elected president there in 1998, 2000 and 2006.
“I know President Chavez well,” Sean Penn said in his blog entry.  “Whether or not one agrees with all his policies, what is certainly true of Chavez is that he is a warm and friendly man with a robust sense of humor (who daily risks his own life for his country in ways Dick Cheney could never imagine).”
Penn’s blog entry was addressed in part to Cheney’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas last week.
Penn himself met with Chavez in August 2007 in Venezuela.
"Welcome to Venezuela, Mr. Penn. What drives him is consciousness, the search for new paths," Chavez said of Penn in Caracas. "He's one of the greatest opponents of the Iraq invasion."
Chavez has been the subject of harsh criticism from many experts and world leaders since he took office over allegations that he has divided Venezuela with his policies. Thousands of Venezuelan citizens have protested the high homicide rate in the country and Chavez’s failure to address the problem.
“Many of the protesters have suggested that Chavez has divided Venezuelan society with his frequent criticism of the country's upper class, rhetoric they say has incited lower classes to violence against the wealthy. They also argue that crimes against the poor have been overlooked by a police force tainted by widespread corruption,” The Washington Post reported in May 2006.
“Venezuela, a country of 26 million, has recorded an average of nearly 10,000 homicides a year since Chavez took office,” reported The Post.  “The homicide rate, 37 deaths per 100,000 people, is more than double what it was in the 1990s.”
In his blog entry, Penn also criticized conservative pundits Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.
“To treat such a man [Chavez] coldly is akin to spitting on him,” wrote Penn. “As a country, we've done enough of that. Say what you will, but it has only resulted in the self-celebration of our smirking spitters, while costing us international respect, American lives, and left wounds in the hands of our children's future.”
“The Cheneys, down to the O'Reillys and Hannitys and Limbaughs, effectively hate the principles upon which we were founded” Penn wrote. “They are among the greatest cowards in all of American history. I applaud an American President who's tough enough ... to smile."
Penn also knocked the criticism by Cheney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to President Obama smiling during his conversations with Chavez.
“This is a pattern of bad acting advice from bad actors. (All wimps think playing a tough guy is done in one-note coldness),” Penn blogged. With a friend, or an enemy, our president will gain greater strategic position with a smile.”