Actress Maria Conchita Alonso, who starred with Sean Penn in the 1998 movie “Colors,” has written an impassioned open letter to Penn setting him straight about recent remarks he made praising Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. In the letter, titled “An Open Letter to Sean Penn,” Conchita Alonso expresses her disappointment at Penn’s statements made on the March 5th, 2010 episode of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.” During that show, Penn praised the Venezuelan president, saying Chavez had been elected in “14 of the most transparent elections in the globe, and been elected democratically.”
Conchita Alonso, who was raised in Venezuela, offered a different assessment of Venezuela under Hugo Chavez:
“Dear Sean, WHY?” she begins. “Even though I have great respect for your artistic talent, I was appalled by a recent television interview where you vigorously showed support for the regime of Hugo Chavez. Therefore, I’ve decided to set the record straight for you regarding the Chavez regime, supporting my case based not only on my political ideologies, but on proven facts you choose to ignore. Otherwise, I believe your position would be different.”
In a fervent yet respectful tone, Conchita Alonso goes on to lay out her case against Chavez, citing lack of free speech, disputed elections, international posturing, and escalating violence and poverty, among others, as issues facing Venezuela under and because of Chavez. “My intention isn’t to convince you,” Conchita Alonso writes, “but to let you know what is truly happening in this beautiful country of noble people, Venezuela. I would encourage you to investigate in depth the ‘inside story’ and realize for yourself the dark side behind the person you choose to idolize.”
During that same appearance on “Real Time,” Penn also opined that prison might be a good solution for members of the media who refer to Chavez as a dictator:
“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it” said Penn, winner of two Best Actor Academy Awards. “And this is mainstream media, who should — truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”
While there’s no denying Hugo Chavez isn’t a dictator along the lines of someone like Saddam Hussein, Venezuela certainly seems to be moving towards authoritarianism, so a full-fledge dictatorship might not be far off. While Sean Penn’s entitled to his opinion – however misguided and clouded it may be – suggesting that members of the media be imprisoned for daring to express an opinion contrary to the one held by Penn crosses a big line.