AFP via Newscom
People Staff
August 06, 2007 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Actor Sean Penn traveled to Venezuela last week to learn of conditions there and to visit a poor neighborhood in Caracas, the country’s capital.

While there, the 2003 Oscar winner for his role in Mystic River flew to the border state of Tachira aboard the presidential plane with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly.

Chávez praised Penn, 46, for his efforts in Hollywood, for his critical stance on the war in Iraq and his anti-Bush position.

“He’s a brave man, too quiet,” Chávez told the AP. “But he carries a fire within.”

The 53 year-old Venezuelan president read an open letter written by the star of Dead Man Walking to George W. Bush, 61, in which the actor condemns the war in Iraq and demandS Bush’s impeachment.

In the letter, Penn states that vice-president Dick Cheney, 66, and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, 52, are “Villains and criminally obscene.”

Robin Wright-Penn’s husband also took time out to visit new movie studios built just outside of Caracas.

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