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

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right, greets actor Sean Penn after a meeting in Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 5, 2011. Penn, who was visiting Caracas, thanked Chavez for the funding that his government gave to an NGO based in Haiti that assists the victims of the earthquake that shook the country in January 2010.

Sean Penn has paid tribute to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez following his death Tuesday at the age of 58 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."

The actor added, "Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro."

Penn, who first met Chavez in 2007, attended a candlelight vigil for the health of the Venezuelan leader in Bolivia in December, reports said.

Statements about Chavez also came Tuesday from filmmakers Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.

Stone, who produced the 2009 documentary "South of the Border" about Chavez and his leftist allies, wrote on Twitter:

On his Twitter account, Moore said:

Of their meeting at the Venice Film Festival in 2009, Moore added: