- Associated Press - Saturday, March 5, 2011

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - Sean Penn thanked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Saturday for supporting the actor’s relief organization in Haiti, saying the aid has helped its humanitarian work in distributing medicines.

Chavez met with Penn at the presidential palace and praised the actor’s efforts with his J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which was founded in response to the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Neither provided details about how much financial assistance Venezuela has provided to the group.

The Oscar-winning actor noted that in addition to Venezuela’s financial help, his organization has also received support from the U.S. military.

Penn called that ironic, adding: “We hope that this kind of collaboration can be an example for future approaches to many other issues” _ in spite of limited U.S.-Venezuelan diplomatic contacts.

The U.S. and Venezuela have been without ambassadors since December, when Chavez formally rejected the White House’s nominee for envoy in a diplomatic dispute. The U.S. government revoked the visa of Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez in response.

Penn has met four times with Chavez in recent years. Chavez has praised the actor for his critical stance toward U.S. foreign policy.

The leftist president said their meeting Saturday was productive in discussing “new plans and ideas.”

“Sean is an activist of the struggles for the world’s oppressed peoples, and he’s leaving for Haiti right now,” Chavez said outside the presidential palace when they emerged from their meeting.

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