In a shocking interview posted Saturday by Rolling Stone, Sean Penn details how he met and interviewed the notorious drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo, more than two months before Guzmán was captured again on Jan. 8 by Mexican authorities.
Penn wrote about meeting the kingpin in a jungle somewhere in Mexico, where he was surrounded by cartel troups. He was joined in the interview by Kate del Castillo, a telenovela actress who had been working with Guzmán to make a movie about the drug lord’s life.
“I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men,” Penn wrote. “But I’m in my rhythm. Everything I say to everyone must be true. As true as it is compartmentalized. The trust that El Chapo had extended to us was not to be f—ed with. This will be the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room, leaving me no precedent by which to measure the hazards.”
Penn goes on to reflect about his childhood and how wildly different life Guzmán’s upbringing was in Mexico. “While I was surfing the waves of Malibu at age 9, he was already working in the marijuana and poppy fields of the remote mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico,” Penn wrote. “Today, he runs the biggest international drug cartel the world has ever known, exceeding even that of Pablo Escobar. He shops and ships by some estimates more than half of all the cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana that come into the United States.”
Penn also describes Guzmán, who broke out of prison in July, as a “businessman first, and only resorts to violence when he deems it advantageous to himself or his business interests.” Guzmán was recaptured for a third time by Mexican authorities on Jan. 8; a Mexican official told the Associated Press that Penn’s interview with Guzmán played a part in his arrest.
The photo of Penn shaking Guzmán’s hand was taken on Oct. 2 to verify their clandestine meeting. Per Rolling Stone, Guzmán was given “approval” of the piece before it was published. According to the magazine, “The subject did not ask for any changes.”
To read the full interview, go to Rolling Stone.