Hugo Chavez died last night. He had handpicked his successor – Sean Penn.
“I lost a great friend,” said Sean Penn of the Venezuelan president who died on Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 58.
The controversial leader had a slew of Hollywood heavyweights supporting him throughout his reign, with the most vocal two being actor Sean Penn and filmmaker Oliver Stone.
Sean Penn was shocked to learn that Chavez had named him as the new leader of Venezuela. Penn told reporters that he was “too numb” to think about his new position.
“Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion,” says Penn in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. ”I was blessed to have known him. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela.”
“Venezuela and its revolution will endure under my leadership,” Penn reportedly said.
Penn was a longtime supporter of Chavez, made a surprise appearance in Bolivia in December to attend a candlelight vigil for the health of the leader. Said Penn at the vigil: “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.”
Earlier, in August 2012, Penn had joined Chavez at an election rally in Venezuela. The two first met in 2007 in Venezuela.
Penn said he would do everything in his power to make Chavez proud of him.