It is utterly astounding that Time magazine published an op-ed by clueless actor Sean Penn, lecturing President Trump on compassion and justice in Latin America and the Caribbean. Who is Sean Penn to lecture anyone about compassion?
After all, it is Sean Penn who enabled and befriended the repressive and ruthless Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, using his Hollywood clout to lend credibility to Chavez and to spread lies about the “successes” of Chavez’s disastrous socialist revolution.
Of course, Penn was not alone. Actor Danny Glover and filmmaker Michael Moore also lavished Chavez and his successor, Nicholas Maduro, with praise and support as Venezuela spiraled into chaos and poverty.
So did Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders’ website once stated that the American Dream was dead and more likely to be found in Venezuela than the U.S. He has since quietly removed this passage from the site.
What has Sean Penn said about the horrible indignities and abuses suffered by the Venezuelan people? Nothing. Where is his “compassionate” op-ed to show concern for the victims of Venezuelan socialism and repression?
Under Chavez and Maduro, Venezuela went from being the economic envy of Latin America – rich in oil and with a vibrant economy – to being one of its poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Today, thanks to the nationalization of oil production and government-imposed price controls, Venezuela is a country of hunger, deprivation, food shortages and humiliations that proud Venezuelans never thought they would be forced to endure. As a result of terrible food shortages, 75 percent of Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds last year.
The Miami Herald, in one of the saddest articles I have ever read, chronicled the plight of Venezuelan mothers with degrees in medicine and engineering prostituting themselves in neighboring Columbia to afford groceries for their families. Others are eating their pets or have to give away children they can no longer feed.
The political repression in Venezuela is equally alarming. Hundreds of dissidents have been imprisoned, including Maduro’s most threatening competitor – the handsome, young and courageous former mayor of Caracas, Leopoldo Lopez. Lopez was sentenced to 14 years in prison on trumped up charges, though he is currently under house arrest due to health concerns.
On top of all this, Venezuela’s brave citizens risk being attacked or killed by their own government when they protest against elections and institutions rigged by the regime.
So what has Sean Penn said about these horrible indignities and abuses suffered by the Venezuelan people? Nothing. Where is his “compassionate” op-ed to show concern for the victims of Venezuelan socialism and repression? Silence.
Meanwhile, President Trump – whom Penn calls “an enemy of compassion” over his reported use of vulgar language to describe some parts of the world in a closed-door Oval Office meeting – has been unequivocal in voicing his support for the Venezuelan people.
President Trump has condemned Venezuela’s socialist oppressors and made the quest of the Venezuelan people for freedom and prosperity one of his top three international concerns, behind North Korea and Iran.
I do agree with Penn on one thing. Immigrants and refugees who have escaped the corrupt, dysfunctional, crime-ridden, socialist and communist regimes of Latin America are precisely the kind of hard-working and grateful people we should be welcoming to the U.S. They truly appreciate the blessings that Penn takes for granted.
Unlike Penn, these immigrants understand that it is democracy and American free-enterprise that have made our country the best and most prosperous in the history of the world. They know that nothing has lifted more people out of poverty than entrepreneurial capitalism. And they resent the ignorant complicity of members of the Hollywood elite, like Sean Penn, in the destruction of their country and the misery and poverty it has wrought.
A few months ago I attended the graduation ceremony of a group of Latin Americans who had attended an English language course sponsored by the LIBRE Initiative, a nonprofit that educates Hispanics about how to achieve the American Dream.
A Venezuelan man stood up. He told us he was one of the lucky ones who was able to leave that nation. He expressed deep gratitude to America and to the LIBRE Initiative, which was empowering him with language skills to succeed in his new home.
Holding a small American flag in one hand and a Venezuelan flag in the other, he addressed this small group of immigrants gathered inside of a cramped Honduran restaurant. He didn’t mince words.
“We need to educate our children to be wary of those who promise us ‘free’ things,” the man said. “I don’t care if it’s a bag of rice or a washing machine. Nothing is worth your freedom. It’s priceless.”
This new immigrant knows more about America, freedom, and the fruits of free enterprise than Sean Penn and socialist Hollywood pals will ever know.