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After a prolonged battle with cancer, the polarizing socialist leader Hugo Chavez has died. Chavez leaves behind a country in deep economic and political crisis. What's next for the people of Venezuela?

Venezuela

Chavez's strange circle of famous friends

The late Hugo Chavez made himself a lot of enemies, but he also kept some well-known friends.

The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had many enemies and a colorful circle of celebrity friends.

(Maybe not quite as colorful as those of North Korea's Kim Jong Un, but that's some stiff competition.)

Here are a few of Chavez's most notable amigos:

Sean Penn

Chavez's biggest celebrity supporter was actor Sean Penn, who recently called the leader "inspiring." At a recent candlelight vigil for Chavez, Penn said, according to Politico, “He’s one of the most important forces we’ve had on this planet.” Penn has been an ardent supporter of the Latin American leader for years and has maintained that the US press was running a smear campaign. Penn notoriously said that journalists who refer to Chavez as a "dictator" should be jailed.

Noam Chomsky

MIT professor and prolific leftist intellectual Noam Chomsky first met with Hugo Chavez in 2009, when he declared that Chavez was creating a "better world." Prior to the meeting Chavez had promoted Chomsky's 2009 book, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance." Chomsky later criticized Chavez for imprisoning a female judge who drew the president's ire.

Jimmy Carter

Carter's relationship with Chavez dates back to a recall elections vote in Venezuela in 2004. The Carter Center monitored the elections that Chavez was expected to lose but won by a large margin. Carter also accused the US of helping orchestrate a coup against Chavez in 2002, reported Al Jazeera. Carter was one of the first US officials to react to Chavez's death stating that he will "be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments" said the BBC.

Jesse Jackson

Jackson may not have the most ardent supporter of Chavez, but he certainly didn't think the US should assassinate him. In 2005, after Pat Robertson suggested the US should kill Chavez, Jackson said the suggestion was "immoral" and "illegal," reported the BBC. Jackson said he believed both the US and Venezuela should tone down their rhetoric.

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey, along with Sean Penn, Henry Belafonte and Danny Glover, met with Chavez in 2007, apparently to talk politics and movie ideas. Spacey has not spoken since about his meeting, but the right-wing press was abuzz at the time.

Benicio del Toro

Okay, maybe they're not friends per se, but they certainly hung out. Del Toro, who played Che Guevara in a Steven Soderbergh film, met with Chavez on a visit to Venezuela in 2009. USA Today said Del Toro was tight-lipped about the meeting with Chavez, but did admit he had "a good time with the president."

Oliver Stone

In 2009, the famous Hollywood director created "South of the Border," a documentary explaining Latin America's political tilt leftward and the heroic rise of Hugo Chavez. The movie was panned by critics who said that it treated Chavez with kid gloves. Not to be deterred, Stone and Chavez appeared smiling together at the Venice Film Festival premiere.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/venezuela/130305/chavezs-strange-circle-famous-friends