He was an early backer of right-leaning Martelly, a charismatic pop star who had never held political office. He's no fan of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president and darling of the international left. And he sounds neutral about Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the former dictator responsible for the deaths and torture of thousands.
In a January interview on "The Tavis Smiley Show," he said that he met Duvalier, who returned from exile last year, and doesn't think he poses a threat. "It's really not for us as Americans coming in or foreigners coming in to make that moral judgment about whether or not a culture is willing to reintegrate people into it," he said. Penn doesn't dwell much on Haiti's troubled past, though.
"I'm not here to be a historian," he said in the interview. Instead, he wants to focus on the country's present, which he thinks is showing a rare glimpse of promise.
In making Haiti his second home, he said in his signature combative style, he's had many more successes than failures.
"When people say to me, oh you don't speak Creole yet? I say, yeah, 'have you moved 40,000 people?'"
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