Source AP ©

Sean Penn to meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas

U.S. famous actor Sean Penn praised by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for his opposition to the war in Iraq came to Caracas to visit him privately on Thursday.

Penn sat at the front of a packed auditorium to hear Chavez speak to supporters shortly after meeting the Venezuelan leader at the presidential palace. Penn, who has kept a low profile since arriving earlier this week, did not speak publicly.

In a speech Wednesday, 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 conscience, the search for new paths," Chavez said. "He's one of the greatest opponents of the Iraq invasion."

Chavez read aloud from a recent open letter by Penn to U.S. President George W. 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."

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."

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