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Sean Penn prodded Hugo Chavez into helping free U.S. hikers from Iran

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Actor/humanitarian Sean Penn now has another notch on his do-gooder belt. It turns out that Penn flew to Caracas to get in the ear of his friend, Venezuela's socialist president Hugo Chavez, and push him to urge Iranian President Ahmadinejad to release hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer from prison. Chavez, who you might remember called President Bush "the devil" at a U.N. General Assembly speech in 2006, had been lobbied by friends in "intellectual circles," among whom was Penn.

Fattal and Bauer were released from Tehran's Evin prison on Wednesday, after the Sultan of Oman generously footed their $1 million bail. If they weren't fans of Penn's movies before, they will be now, even Shanghai Surprise. Chavaz is certainly a fan, after having previously joked about possible U.S. ambassadors to Venezuela, "I hope they name Oliver Stone. I'll suggest a candidate. Sean Penn, Chomsky. We have a lot of friends there. Bill Clinton." (Stone, by the way, interviewed Chavez for his documentary about South American politics, South of the Border, which was derided by some as a propaganda piece.).