Sean Penn has sparked fresh political controversy by heaping praise on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for supporting his Haiti relief charity JP Haitian Relief Organization. The movie star and activist met with Chavez in Caracas on Saturday, March 5 and later told reporters the politician's aid has helped his humanitarian work in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Penn has sparked protest in the past by meeting with and befriending Chavez, who is considered a diplomatic outcast in the U.S. The U.S. and Venezuela have been without ambassadors since December 2010, when Chavez formally rejected the White House's nominee for envoy in a diplomatic dispute. The U.S. government revoked the visa of Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez in response.
But Chavez's thoughts and feelings do not extend to Penn. Speaking outside the presidential palace after their latest meeting, the Venezuelan leader complimented his friend for his "new plans" and ideas, and said, "Sean is an activist of the struggles for the world's oppressed peoples, and he's leaving for Haiti right now."
Penn is preparing to meet another controversial figure in Haiti when Charlie Sheen flies out to offer a publicity boost next week. Sheen has been all over the media in the last few weeks as he battles personal and professional problems and he recently revealed he is set to put his raised profile to good use by jetting to the Caribbean nation on a humanitarian mission with Penn.
Penn has confirmed Sheen plans to help boost publicity for the JP Haitian Relief Organization, which Penn set up in the aftermath of last year's earthquake, and the "Milk" star insists his friend will be an asset to the team. A statement from Penn reads, "I think his energies, intelligence and passion could be both of service and servicing to him, as it is to all who are touched by the struggle of the Haitian people. Charlie is one of the very few public people who cannot be accused of using the media to his own benefit. I would very much like to show my old friend the world of needs on the ground in Haiti, and introduce him and his tremendous wit to our hard working Haitian staff."