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    Sean Penn Mourns Death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez

    Sean Penn, Hugo Chavez AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

    Sean Penn is mourning a friend. And the Oscar winner maintains that he's not the only one who's suffered a loss.

    "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 in response to the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whom the actor first met in 2007.

    The controversial world leader died today at 58 following a long battle with cancer.

    Colors costar Maria Conchita Alonso called Penn a "communist a--hole" over his association with Chávez

    "I lost a friend I was blessed to have," continued Penn, whose relationship with the nationalist Chávez made him the target of much scorn—and the butt of many a tweeted joke about being on suicide watch today.

    "My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela," he said. "Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro."

    Penn, who appeared alongside Chávez at an election rally last August, attended a vigil for the ailing leader in December during a trip to Bolivia.

    Sean Penn goes to Venezuela to discuss release of American hostages in Iran

    "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," Penn said at the time. "I do it in love, and I do it in gratitude...I just want to say, from my very American point of view, of my friend President Chavez. 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."

    Oliver Stone, another longtime friend and support of Chávez's politics (and co-butt of some of those Twitter jokes), tweeted today, "I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. #Chavez 1/2."

    Oliver Stone called Hurricane Sandy "punishment" for Obama and Romney ignoring climate change

    "Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chávez will live forever in history," the filmmaker continued. "My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned 2/2."

    "54 countries around the world allowed the US to detain(& torture) suspects," tweeted Michael Moore. "Latin America, thanks 2 Chavez, was the only place that said no."

    See more pics of celebs hobnobbing with controversial leaders

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