A Letter to Sean Penn

Dear Mr. Penn:

Although I am not a frequent moviegoer in this stage of my life, I understand that you are an excellent actor. Good for you. I also understand that, as an American citizen, you are fully entitled to exercise your civic rights of free political expression.

As a senior Venezuelan residing in your country, I admire and respect the U.S., among other things, because this freedom exists and can be exercised without restrictions or fear of retaliation by those in power. I have nothing to say in connection with your political activity in the U.S. However, I have something to say to you in relation to your two visits to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and the friendship you have established with this man that we, freedom-loving Venezuelans, despise.

The essence of my argument is this: you cannot assume that the enemy of your enemy must be your friend. It is obvious you have embraced Hugo Chavez because he is a violent anti-Bush opponent, just as you are. Embracing Chavez just because of this coincidence, without evaluating what Chavez represents for Venezuela and for our hemisphere, is very wrong on your part.

You have demanded real democracy from Bush, and yet you have become friends with a man who has violated most of our political and human rights in Venezuela. There are dozens of political prisoners in Venezuela. Between 13,000 and 14,000 Venezuelans die violently every year in the streets of our cities, many killed by the regime’s own police. Venezuela has become the most violent country in the Western Hemisphere. Riding next to Chavez in a plane, seen with your friend in the streets of Caracas, makes you a silent accomplice of the Venezuelan tragedy.

Hugo Chavez has pilfered over $600 billion in less than ten years, without attacking the structural roots of Venezuelan poverty — ignorance and ill-health — and replacing policy with monetary handouts, throwing fish at the poor without teaching them how to fish. He has pursued a policy of indoctrinating our children to convert them into men and women without freedom to choose.

He has openly intervened in Latin American political processes in an effort to become the Latin American leader of an anti-American coalition. He has given billions of dollars to other political leaders in Latin America in exchange for his loyalties. He is trying to become president for life in my country.

This is the man you are a friend of, only because he hates the man you hate. I say this is wrong. We do not like you in Venezuela. Stay in your own country and do not bring your political poisons to our country. Venezuela is already saturated with the poison Hugo Chavez has created.

Sincerely,

Gustavo Coronel

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