Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images
Emily Rome
March 06, 2013 AT 08:01 PM EST

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died yesterday at age 58, Venezuela lost a polarizing political leader, but Sean Penn lost a friend, the actor said.

Penn has voiced his support for Chávez in the past, describing him as “one of the most important forces we’ve had on this planet” and condemning American media outlets for calling Chávez a dictator.

Here is Penn’s statement about Chávez’s death that the actor’s reps released to EW:

Venezuela and its revolution will endure under the proven leadership of Vice President Maduro. 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 Chávez and the people of Venezuela.

Chávez, who was president of Venezuela for nearly 14 years and was head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, died Tuesday afternoon following a two-year battle with cancer. Elections will be held in 30 days, and Vice President Nicolas Maduro will assume the presidency in the interim.

Chávez’s other Hollywood supporters have included Danny Glover and Oliver Stone.

Read more:

Sean Penn defends Hugo Chavez, calls Maria Conchita Alonso a ‘pig’

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