Fugitive drug boss ‘El Chapo’ located after meeting with Sean Penn

Joaquin Guzman arrested by Mexican forces on Friday, six months after prison escape

Actor Sean Penn shakes hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman in Mexico, in this undated Rolling Stone photograph. Photograph: Reuters/Rolling Stone

Actor Sean Penn shakes hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “el Chapo” Guzman in Mexico, in this undated Rolling Stone photograph. Photograph: Reuters/Rolling Stone

 

A secretive meeting that Hollywood star Sean Penn orchestrated with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in a jungle hideout late last year helped Mexico’s government to catch the world’s most wanted drug lord, sources said.

Guzman, the infamous boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in northwest Mexico on Friday morning and sent back to the prison he had broken 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 drug dealer 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 recognised him.

Radar detection

Rolling Stone

Two senior Mexican government sources said they were indeed 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 cartel boss 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 shoot-out. Mexican marines pursued him 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 US movie studios following his 2014 capture, the actor 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 “El 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 colourful shirt and black cap at a different hideout, musing about his contribution to the narcotics trade and US consumption. Rolling Stone called it the drug lord’s first-ever interview outside an interrogation.

Heroin empire

“One thing I will tell you is that this braggadocious action about how much heroin he sends around the world, including the United States, is maddening,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“We see a heroin epidemic, an opioid addiction epidemic, in this country. We’re going to stay on top of this with our Mexican counterparts until we get that back in the box. But El Chapo’s behind bars – that’s where he should stay.”

McDonough would not comment on any repercussions for Penn. The meeting was made possible because Guzman struck up an unlikely friendship with Del Castillo, who played a Mexican drug queen in a well-known TV soap. – (Reuters)