Transposing Sean Penn's strong but silent film character to his private conversation with President Chavez, these are the questions one imagines he asked:
"I like what I see. You are the new Che. And you sure talk right about Bush. But are you walking the talk?
"Why are 1.8 million poor families waiting for houses while you are spending $5 billion on surface-to-air missiles, naval frigates, submarines, fighter jets and killing machines?
"Why are the military guys hiding their Rolexes up their sleeves when they shake hands with me?
"What's this about cocaine deliveries from Venezuela to the US going from 50 to 250 tons per year? Who's profiting from all that?
"Why do you have to produce all this black excrement for California SUV's? That's hard to take. Isn't there a way you could get into solar power? You've got some big time sun here.
"Why are you giving $200 million in discounted oil to Americans when half these poor Venezuelans wearing red shirts and screaming your name are living on $1 a day?
"What's so smart about putting 100,000 assault rifles in the hands of untrained teenagers wearing a uniform for the first time? Crap like that got the US in big trouble, especially in Columbine High School and Virginia Tech.
"How come I see bootlegged DVD's of my movies selling for a few Bolivars on the street? That's stealing the labor of a comrade, my man, not exactly what Marx had in mind, right?.
"What I'm hearing is a lot of talk about peace in Iraq but also, war in Venezuela. I'm here writing for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. So this part is getting hard for me to play. Mind if I ask Danny Glover to stand in for me on this one? I mean, Danny's got $20 million coming his way from you, isn't that right, I mean, doesn't he owe you one?"
We don't know if the real Sean Penn asked the questions Sean Penn the actor might ask, but we do know what President Chavez said to him: "Sean Penn came here in search of the truth, to see the reality with his own eyes, tired of them (the Americans) lying to him. Sean Penn, thank you, thank you, thank you." These last words Chavez actually uttered in the language of the Empire.
Michael Rowan is the author of Getting Over Chavez and Poverty. This column originally appeared in El Universal, Caracas. Republished with permission from the author.