La Paz, Bolivia – It was Sean Penn's "worst performance" ever.
At least that is what Bolivia's Culture Minister, Pablo Groux, thinks of the actor-activist's proposal to a U.S. congressional subcommittee that the country be cut out of the Dakar motor sport rally unless it frees a U.S. citizen currently under house arrest.
Jacob Ostreicher, a flooring contractor from Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested and jailed in June 2011 in a money-laundering probe. Five months ago he was released from prison on $14,000 bail and put under house arrest.
Penn suggested that unless Ostreicher is freed, Dakar sponsors should drop their backing for the January event — which is to include Bolivia for the first time.
The New York man invested in a rice-growing venture and, once jailed, fell prey to an extortion ring that allegedly included the Interior Ministry's top lawyer.
Penn helped get Ostreicher out of prison, but the case is stalled in court.
Penn has become well known for his support of a number of left-leaning Latin American governments as well as his criticism of U.S. foreign policy. The actor joined late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez during his presidential campaign last year and has met personally with Bolivian leader Evo Morales.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.