El Chapo: Mexican drug lord met for secret interview with Sean Penn while on the run

The interview took place last October and has been published in Rolling Stone magazine

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The Independent Online

As if there were not already enough twists and turns to the story of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, it has now been revealed that the Mexican drug boss met with actor Sean Penn for an interview conducted at his hideout while he was still on the run. And the scoop may have helped authorities evevntually recapture the nation's most wanted man.

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

Rolling Stone magazine said the seven-hour meeting with Penn was brokered by Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo who herself played a Mexican drug queen in a well-known soap. Among the revelations contained in the interview is a claim by Penn that Guzman sent engineers to Germany for three-months of training on how to avoid problems when excavating near “the low-lying water table beneath the prison”.

"I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats," he told the actor. "Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more. But do I start trouble? Never."

El Chapo was caught after a stand-off with soldiers and marines

The extraordinary twist comes as it was reported that Mexico has said it is willing to extradite Guzman to the US. This marks a reversal of its position after his last capture in 2014.

“Mexico is ready. There are plans to cooperate with the US,” a Mexican official told the Associated Press. But he cautioned that there could be a lengthy wait before US prosecutors can get their hands on Guzman.

“You have to go through the judicial process, and the defence has its elements too,” he added.

Guzman is a legendary figure in Mexico, where he went from being a farmer's son to the world's top drug drug supplier. Mexican officials say he even had dreams of having Hollywood do a movie based on his life. Some reports say some locals consider him a Robin Hood-type figure.

News of the interview with Penn, in which the two men discussed everything from drug trafficking to the midddle east, will likely add another layer to his celebrity. The actor describes the elaborate preparations and precautions he and Ms Del Castillo took to meet with the drug supplier at a jungle redoubt.

He also reports how he returned eight days after their meeting, as agreed, to conduct a formal two-day interview. As it was, the actor was unable to meet in person again with El Chapo and a subsequent interview was conducted by a third party and the drug lord's answers were sent to the actor on video.

Asked about who is to blame for drug trafficking, Guzman is quoted as saying: “If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells.” 

Penn said that as an American citizen he was drawn to explore issues that “may be inconsistent with the portrayals our government and media brand upon their declared enemies”.

“Not since Osama bin Laden has the pursuit of a fugitive so occupied the public imagination,” he wrote

Mexico presents recaptured drug lord 'El Chapo'

“But unlike bin Laden, who had posed the ludicrous premise that a country's entire population is defined by – and therefore complicit in – its leadership's policies, with the world's most wanted drug lord, are we, the American public, not indeed complicit in what we demonise.”

He added: “We are the consumers, and as such, we are complicit in every murder, and in every corruption of an institution's ability to protect the quality of life for citizens of Mexico and the United States that comes as a result of our insatiable appetite for illicit narcotics.”

On Saturday, “El Chapo’s” lawyers began the process of fighting the extradition requests, filing an injunction.

“Mr Guzman Loera should not be extradited to the United States or any other country,” said attorney Juan Pablo Badillo. “Mexico has just laws that are detailed in the General Constitution of the Republic.”

Guzman is included in at least seven indictments in various US jurisdictions.

Mexico said on Saturday that it received extradition requests on June 16 and August 31. Those requests resulted in courts in Mexico’s 3rd and 8th districts issuing arrest warrants with the purpose of international extradition, the AP said.

At the time the arrest warrants were issued, Guzman was on the run after escaping prison for a second time.

After his capture on Friday, it was reported that Guzman's desire to have a movie made of his life was a factor in his capture.

On Saturday night, reports suggested that it was the interview with Penn that had helped law enforcement officials trace the drug lord. One Mexican official told the AP that the interview with Penn had "led authorities to Durango state in October". NBC reported that Mexican officials were now investigating both Ms Del Castillo and Penn.