Leaders, Hollywood React to Chavez Death

'I lost a friend I was blessed to have' says Sean Penn

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 6, 2013 3:49 AM CST

(Newser) – Reactions to the death of Hugo Chavez range from the jubilant to the devastated, with the most heartfelt tributes to the late Venezuelan leader coming from his allies in Latin America—and Hollywood.

  • "Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation," said Bolivian President Evo Morales. Cuba's Raul Castro spoke of his country's "deep and excruciating sorrow" and declared two days of national mourning, the AP reports. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has declared three days of mourning and Ecuador's Rafael Correa, one of Chavez's closest allies, spoke of Latin America's "irreparable loss."

  • In Russia, Vladimir Putin described Chavez as "an uncommon and strong man who looked into the future and always set the highest target for himself" while China's foreign ministry issued a statement describing the late leader as a "great friend of the Chinese people," Al Jazeera reports. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also praised Chavez—and called his illness "suspect."
  • Eyes were a little drier in Washington, where President Obama's statement focused on America's "support for the Venezuelan people" instead of on Chavez himself, the New York Times reports. Jimmy Carter praised Chavez's efforts to help the poor, while the GOP's Ed Royce, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, described Chavez as a "tyrant who forced the people of Venezuela to live in fear," adding, "Good riddance to this dictator."
  • Over in Hollywood, longtime Chavez pal Sean Penn says he is mourning "a friend I was blessed to have," and "the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had," E! Online reports. Praise for Chavez also came from Michael Moore and from director Oliver Stone, who tweeted, "I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place."

Hugo Chavez greets Sean Penn in Cumana, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008.   (AP Photo/Marcelo Garcia, Miraflores Press Office)
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