Actor Jared Leto made the first mention of the crises in Ukraine and Venezuela during last night’s Academy Awards as he accepted an Oscar for best supporting actor in the movie Dallas Buyers Club.
“To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight, in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we’re thinking of you tonight,” Leto said.
Venezuelans are protesting to win freedom from an oppressive government “fueled by communist, Cuban ideology,” as The Heritage Foundation’s Peter Brookes says.
In the Crimea region of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian troops have invaded with the aim of countering European influence there. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally, previously fled and the conflict has resulted in hundreds being injured or killed.
Asked why he mentioned Ukraine and Venezuela in his speech, Leto said it was “because you have an opportunity when you stand on this stage…you can make it about yourself or you can hold up a mirror and shine a light, and that’s what I chose to do tonight.”
“We have a show in the Ukraine in a couple of weeks. We have a show in Thailand in a few weeks. We had a show in Venezuela in the works. So, these things, social unrest, you know, social issues like this affect us in a really immediate way. So, I felt on behalf of the people that I interact with on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, and my own interests as, you know, a global — being a person in a global band, it was important to address those things.”
Ariel Cohen, a Heritage Foundation expert on Russia, said the United States has a “goal of a renewed, prosperous, democratic and independent Ukraine.”
The Oscars, hosted this year by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, attract a worldwide audience as well as nearly every A-List movie star in Hollywood and offer a major platform for actors to sound off. While in years past the show often has taken a political turn, last night only Ukraine and Venezuela received explicit mention.