“El Chapo” captured following 7-hour interview with Sean Penn

On Jan. 8, the Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was recaptured by Mexican security forces with the assistance of Mexican marines in his home state of Sinaloa.

It had been six months since his escape from Centro Federal de Readaptación Social Número 1, which is Mexico’s highest security prison and was thought to be inescapable until Guzmán’s escape in which tunnel was dug under the shower in his cell that was rigged with a motorcycle on a monorail. This inventive escape was a huge embarrassment to Mexican authorities not only because this was the second time Guzmán had escaped a maximum security prison, but also because right after his 2014 capture the US had pressured Mexico to extradite him in order to prevent such a potential escape. The Mexican government declined this offer as it wished to show its capacity to handle its own problems . Yet, this six month stint of freedom was much shorter than his previous escape from prison, which lasted a span of 13 years from 2001 to 2014. What is most interesting is the supposed reason behind Guzmán’s recent “downfall”.

According to the New York Times, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, and star of one of Guzmán’s favorite television series about a female drug lord, La Reina Del Sur, “had been sympathetic to him on social media and Mr. Guzmán instructed a close associate to contact her”. Del Castillo met with associates of Guzmán in order to discuss the possible creation of a biopic film on Guzmán’s life – which greatly excited Guzmán. Guzmán and Ms. del Castillo began an intensive correspondence which was, unknowingly to them, being monitored by Mexican authorities whom, according to the New York Times, took note of the, “odd and unexpectedly tender exchanges between him and the actress”.

El Chappo captured by marines / Tribepix

El Chappo captured by marines / Tribepix

The infatuation Guzmán had with Del Castillo led to some sloppy decision making. According to BBC, Guzmán routinely sent her messages such as: “You’re the best thing in the world. We’ll be really good friends.” His enamoration proved to be his downfall as before their initial meeting, Ms. del Castillo asked Guzmán if she could bring American actor Sean Penn to interview him for Rolling Stone Magazine. He quickly agreed to this interview without even knowing as to who Penn was. According to BBC, after granting Del Castillo’s request he asked his lawyer, “’What’s that actor called?’… A day later he asked his lawyer again what ‘that director is called?’”.

Penn later met up with Guzmán, a man that Mexican authorities had been fervently trying to capture for the past 6 months, for a 7-hour interview which has been mocked across the web and various media outlets as a journalistic blunder. According to CBS, “Penn and Rolling Stone also took heat for allowing Guzman to review Penn’s article before it was published in the magazine”. Essentially, this interview was derided both for its lack of professionalism (in it, Penn claims that he forgot to bring pen and paper to the interview, and doesn’t know how to use a laptop) and because Penn allowed Guzmán to go over and approve the article before releasing it. This resulted in an article lacking in substance in which Guzmán brags about the strength of his cartel and the fact that he has sold, “more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana than anybody else in the world.”.

Even though Penn arguably failed in his journalistic endeavors, he unwittingly helped take down the world’s most wanted drug dealer. According to a BBC article, “unnamed Mexican officials say Penn’s secret meeting helped lead them to the boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel”. This bizarre story fits well within the classical framework of the rags-to-riches drug dealer who “grows too big for his breeches.” Being the leader of one of the world’s largest drug cartels has its opportunity costs. Once you rise to the top, and escape from maximum security prisons on two separate occasions, you should probably start hedging your bets by not getting into regular contact with well-known celebrities and conducting Rolling Stone Magazine interviews while you are trying to stay incognito.

Robert Smith
Assistant External News Editor

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