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Sean Penn on Hugo Chavez's death: 'I lost a friend'

Leo Ramirez / AFP/Getty Images file

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Sean Penn together on Feb. 16, 2012.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 58.

The controversial leader had a slew of Hollywood heavyweights supporting him throughout his reign, with the most vocal two being actor Sean Penn and filmmaker Oliver Stone.

"Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion." says Penn in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela."

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"Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro," adds Penn.

Penn, who has been a longtime supporter of Chavez, made a surprise appearance in Bolivia in December to attend a candlelight vigil for the health of the leader. Said Penn at the vigil: “He’s one of the most important forces we’ve had on this planet, and I’ll wish him nothing but that great strength he has shown over and over again. I do it in love, and I do it in gratitude."

Earlier in August 2012, Penn had joined Chavez at an election rally in Venezuela. The two first met in 2007 in Venezuela.

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Stone first met Chavez in December 2007. The filmmaker championed Chavez in his 2009 film "South of the Border," which explored the political and social changes occurring in South America, and credited Chavez for many of those changes.

''I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place," says Stone in a statement to THR. "Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history."

"My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned," he adds.

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