Latin America

Mexico mulls calling Sean Penn in to testify over ‘El Chapo’ meeting

Hollywood actor met drug lord Guzmán in secret for ‘Rolling Stone’ interview last October

Jan Martínez Ahrens
Sean Penn and “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Sean Penn and “El Chapo” Guzmán.'Rolling Stone'.

Mexican authorities are studying whether to call US actor Sean Penn in to testify over his clandestine meeting last October with Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán for an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

Guzmán, the most-wanted drug trafficker in the world, spent seven hours talking with Penn and Mexican soap opera actress Kate del Castillo, who was reportedly interested in producing a film about the drug lord’s life.

The meeting took place at a secret location in the mountains of Durango state.

I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world” Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán

“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world,” El Chapo told Penn. “I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

The notorious drug kingpin, who was captured on Friday after being on the run since July following his escape from a high-security prison, met with Penn and Del Castillo over dinner. It was through these contacts that Mexican authorities were able to track Guzmán, officials have said.

In his article, which Rolling Stone published late Saturday, Penn said El Chapo was “wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black jeans” when they first met. They held follow-up conversations on an encrypted Blackphone and through anonymous emails at the same time as Mexican authorities were conducting a large manhunt for him.

Video: El Chapo answers Penn’s questions.

Del Castillo, who played a female drug trafficker in popular Spanish-language soap opera La reina del sur, had arranged the meeting between Penn and El Chapo. The drug trafficker was interested in making a film about his life.

But his hopes were dashed when Mexican authorities nearly captured him during a raid at a secret hideout in Durango last October.

While El Chapo was able to escape, the raid prevented the American actor from holding another meeting with Guzmán. Instead of conducting a second face-to-face interview with Penn, El Chapo responded to questions sent to him by the star via video message.

It was the first time that El Chapo had spoken in public.

“I don’t want to be portrayed as a nun,” the drug trafficker told Penn.

When asked about US Republican presidential contender Donald Trump’s offer to pay a $100-million reward for his capture, Guzmán replied: “Ah! Mi amigo!” (Oh, my friend!).

Actress Kate del Castillo in ‘La reina del sur.’
Actress Kate del Castillo in ‘La reina del sur.’Juan Manuel García

El Chapo appears in the video looking humbly at the camera, his face visibly altered by botox injections. He is clean shaven.

He explained that he was raised on a ranch in the municipality of Badiraguato, Sinaloa state. “Up until today, there are no job opportunities. The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana, and at that age [15], I began to grow it, to cultivate it and to sell it. That is what I can tell you,” El Chapo said.

He admitted that he had at one time used drugs, but had not touched them in the last 20 years.

“Well, it’s a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn’t a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living.”

“Do you think it is true you are responsible for the high level of drug addiction in the world?” he was also asked.

“No, that is false, because the day I don’t exist, it’s not going to decrease in any way at all. Drug trafficking? That’s false,” he responded.

“You saw how the final days of Escobar were. How do you see your final days with respect to this business?”

“I know one day I will die. I hope it’s of natural causes.”

English version by Martin Delfín.

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