Actor-activist Sean Penn released a statement Tuesday evening expressing grief over the death of his friend Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who passed away after a long battle with cancer.
"Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion," Penn said 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."
"Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President [Nicolas] Maduro," Penn continued.
Penn has been well known as a supporter of Chavez’ presidency and policies. The two first met in Venezuela in 2007 and maintained a close relationship over the years. Penn has frequently spoken out in support of Chavez, and in December 2012, he attended a candlelight vigil to support his battle with cancer.
“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,” Penn said at the vigil for Chavez, held in Bolivia.
“I just want to say, from my very American point of view, of my friend President Chavez,” he continued. “It is only possible to be so inspiring as he is, as a two-way street. And he would say that his inspiration is the people.”
Previously, Penn had condemned media organizations that he believed set out to unfairly criticize Chavez’s policies. The actor has also expressed fervent support for Chavez’s efforts to relieve poverty in the country and has for years referred to him as a friend.
Penn was not the only Hollywood figure to offer a public eulogy of Chavez. Director Oliver Stone, who praised Chavez in the 2009 documentary “South of the Border,” echoed Penn's sentiments.
“I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place," Stone told THR. "Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history."
"My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned," he added.