BUENOS AIRES – Academy Award winner Sean Penn on Friday attended the state funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias, who died Tuesday of a heart attack after a long struggle with cancer.
Penn arrived in Caracas with Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra director Gustavo Dudamel, who led the Simon Bolivar Young Symphonic Orchestra as they played Venezuela’s national anthem during the service, held at the Venezuelan Military Academy.
A strong advocate of Chavez’s administration, Penn said Tuesday that "today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion."
He addded: "I lost a friend I was blessed to have. My thoughts are with the family of President Chavez and the people of Venezuela."
Guest speaker Rev. Jesse Jackson said: “We gather today not because Chavez died but because he lives. Venezuela cries today. God, reassure them. Venezuela is not left alone," he added, wishing God would grant acting President Nicolas Maduro “wisdom and support as he keeps hopes and dreams alive."
Delegations from dozens of countries included regional presidents Dilma Roussef (Brazil), Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Jose Mujica (Uruguay), Raul Castro (Cuba), Sebastian Pinera (Chile), Ollanta Humala (Peru), Enrique Pena Nieto (Mexico) as well as Spanish Prince Felipe de Borbon and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadineyad. Maduro also welcomed the U.S. delegation, which included former Rep. William Delahunt, Rep. Gregory Meeks and U.S. Charge d'Affaires James Derham.