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Sean Penn Interviewed Mexican Drug Lord Before Capture

Image: Sean Penn Interviewed Mexican Drug Lord Before Capture
(Rolling Stone)

Sunday, 10 Jan 2016 07:25 AM

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, was secretly interviewed by Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine, telling the actor that he began growing marijuana and poppies at age 15 for he and his family to survive.

They also discussed Donald Trump.

"I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world," he told Penn, according to The New York Times. "I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."

But the ruthless drug lord, whose fortune is estimated at $1 billion, said that he was not a violent man.

"Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more," he said. "But do I start trouble? Never."

Penn brought up Trump, the Republican presidential candidate. Guzmán reportedly had put a $100 million bounty on Trump after he made comments offensive to Mexicans. “Ah! Mi amigo!” Guzmán responded.

The interview, which lasted seven hours and included follow-up conversations by telephone and video, began in October while Guzmán was on the run from law enforcement in Mexico and America, the Times reports. Penn took a large number of precautions, changing cell phones often and using encryption. But he says he's convinced U.S. authorities were tracking him. At another point, he suggests that some Mexican authorities knew Guzman's whereabouts, since at one point he was waved through a Mexican military checkpoint.

Guzman, the infamous boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in northwest Mexico on Friday morning, and sent back to the prison he broke out of in July through a mile-long tunnel that led straight into his cell.

Mexico aims to extradite Guzman to the United States as soon as possible.

Penn's rare access to the capo was assisted by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. They were driven some of the way to the hideout by Guzman's son, who the Hollywood star says was waved on by soldiers when they apparently recognized him.

Another leg of the day-long trip through central Mexico was on a light aircraft allegedly fitted with equipment to evade radar detection, Penn said in a story published in Rolling Stone magazine on Saturday.

Two senior Mexican government sources said they were aware of the October meeting and monitored his movements.

That helped lead them days later to a ranch where Guzman was staying, one of the sources said. Mexican forces used helicopter gunships to attack Guzman's ranch during a siege that lasted days.

The kingpin narrowly escaped, with what he told Del Castillo was a minor leg injury, but the raid in the northern state of Durango was a major breakthrough in the manhunt.

Guzman was finally recaptured on Friday in the northern city of Los Mochis after a bloody action movie-like shootout. Mexican marines pursued the wily kingpin through storm drains before intercepting his getaway in a hijacked car.

Penn's seven-hour encounter with Guzman came about after Guzman became interested in making a movie of his life when he was inundated with requests from U.S. movie studios following his 2014 capture, the film star said.

Guzman's lawyer approached Del Castillo about the possibility of making a film but the project was dropped in favor of a magazine interview, Penn said. 

The encounter adds a new twist to the long and larger-than-life career of Guzman, whose nickname "Chapo" means "Shorty".

Penn unsuccessfully tried to set up a formal follow-up interview. Instead, as Mexican security forces closed in on Guzman, Penn and Del Castillo persuaded him to film a 17-minute tape answering pre-written questions, and ship them the footage.

The video clips show the drug lord in a colorful shirt and black cap at a different hideout, musing about his contribution to the narcotics trade and U.S. consumption. Rolling Stone called it the drug lord's first-ever interview outside an interrogation.

The meeting was made possible because Guzman struck up an unlikely friendship with Del Castillo, who herself played a Mexican drug queen in a well-known TV soap.

Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez on Friday said that the drug boss' yearning for the silver screen had helped bring him down.

"Another important aspect that helped locate him was discovering Guzman's intention to have a biographical film made. He contacted actresses and producers, which was part of one line of investigation," Gomez said.

The meeting with Penn and Del Castillo yielded insight into how Chapo may have continued to conduct business while he was incarcerated. Penn said some of Guzman's henchmen were certified as lawyers to allow them access to the boss while he was in prison.

Guzman, who has escaped prison twice, himself said he didn't believe his business had been impacted by his last spell in prison.

Penn said Guzman sent engineers to Germany for three months of training on how to avoid problems when excavating near a low-lying water table beneath the prison where he was being held in order to perfect the audacious escape plan.

Guzman also revealed to Penn that he had once met Colombian Pablo Escobar, perhaps the world's most notorious cocaine trafficker "at his house. Big house."

One Mexican government source said authorities were considering whether to investigate Penn and Del Castillo, possibly for money laundering. The source did not explain further.

Material from Reuters was used in this story.

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The actor and social activist Sean Penn conducted an interview at a jungle hideout in Mexico with Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, for Rolling Stone magazine, it was reveal late Saturday. The extensive interview, in which Penn and a Mexican...
sean, penn, interviews, el, chapo, rolling, stone
Sunday, 10 Jan 2016 07:25 AM
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