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Sean Penn and Oliver Stone pay tribute to Hugo Chavez

WENN

Sean Penn and Oliver Stone were among the first celebrities to pay their respects to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday. Actor and humanitarian Penn, one of Chavez's most vocal supporters in Hollywood, has written a tribute to the Venezuelan President, calling him "a friend I was blessed to have."

In a statement, he said, "Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion. 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 Maduro."

Bing: More on Hugo Chavez

Director Stone, who endorsed Chavez in his 2009 documentary "South of the Border," offers, "I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place. Hated by the entrenched classes, Hugo Chavez will live forever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned."

The late leader courted controversy throughout his 14 years in power for his anti-America stance. A state funeral will be held on Friday. Vice President Nicolas Maduro will take over the presidency until a new election can take place.

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