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Actor Sean Penn secretly met with Joaquin Guzman Loera, the wanted Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo,” while he was on the run from Mexican authorities.
Penn conducted the interview for Rolling Stone, but it is unclear whether he asked or was approached by the publication. The story went live Saturday night.
The Oscar-winning actor gave a detailed account of all the preparation for the October meeting with Guzman, including using “burner” phones, “one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous email addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form,” Penn wrote.
Guzman, who had twice escaped jail, was recaptured by Mexican authorities Friday, thanks in part to his reaching out to actors and producers in an effort to make a film about his life, authorities said.
It is unclear if Penn was specifically one of those persons referred to, but he did write in the Rolling Stone piece, “There is no question in my mind but that DEA and the Mexican government are tracking our movements.”
News agency AFP on Sunday quoted an anonymous Mexican official saying it has yet to be determined whether Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo committed a crime in interviewing El Chapo. The official said reporters can interview drug cartel suspects, but “they (Penn and del Castillo) are not journalists.”
Penn detailed meeting Guzman in person after riding in the car for hours to reach the drug lord’s secret, secure jungle compound.
Penn described the moment he saw Guzman: “My mind is an instant flip book to the hundreds of pictures and news reports I had scoured,” Penn wrote. “There is no doubt this is the real deal. He’s wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black jeans, and he appears remarkably well-groomed and healthy for a man on the run.”
Penn said he ate and drank with Guzman and his family, surrounded by security guards while they talked for seven hours, touching on numerous topics, according to the piece.
Del Castillo is the person who helped Penn arrange the interview as it was she who was first contacted by Guzman’s people after she posted supportive messages about Guzman on social media, Penn wrote. She also acted as interpreter for Penn on their journey.
One of the first things Guzman wanted to know, according to Penn’s piece, was whether people in the United State were aware of him.
“[I] inform him that the night before leaving for Mexico, I had seen that the Fusion Channel was repeating its special-edition Chasing El Chapo. He seems to delight in the absurdity of this, and as he and his cohorts share a chuckle, I look to the sky and wonder how funny it would be if there were a weaponized drone above us,” Penn wrote.
Guzman also boasted to Penn about his empire, the actor wrote.
“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats,” Guzman said, according to Penn’s piece.
During that same time, Guzman quizzed Penn about the entertainment business.
“He is interested in the movie business and how it works,” Penn wrote “He’s unimpressed with its financial yield. The P&L high side doesn’t add up to the downside risk for him. He suggests to us that we consider switching our career paths to the oil business.”
There is even a brief back and forth about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and the rumored $100 million bounty put on his head by Guzman.
“I mention Trump. El Chapo smiles, ironically saying, ‘Ah! Mi amigo!’
ABC News reported Saturday night that Mexican government sources said Penn and del Castillo “are under investigation for their ‘interview’ with Guzman.”
It is unclear if Penn led authorities to Guzman.
Rolling Stone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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