Drug lord found thanks to Sean Penn interview

Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The recapture of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman took a surprise, Hollywood twist when a Mexican official said security forces located the whereabouts of the world’s most-wanted trafficker thanks to a secret interview with US actor Sean Penn.

Penn’s interview with Guzman, who has twice escaped from Mexican maximum security prisons, appeared late Saturday on the website of Rolling Stone magazine. It was purportedly held at a hideout in Mexico in late 2015, several months before Guzman’s recapture last Friday in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, after six months on the run.

In the interview, Guzman defends his work at the head of the world’s biggest drug trafficking organisation. When asked if he is to blame for high addiction rates, he responds: “No, that is false, because the day I don’t exist, it’s not going to decrease in any way at all. Drug trafficking? That’s false.”

In the article, Penn describes the elaborate security measures he took ahead of the clandestine meeting. But apparently they were not enough.

A Mexican federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to comment on the issue, told the Associated Press it was the Penn interview that led authorities to Guzman in a rural part of Durango state in October.

Authorities decided not to open fire on Guzman at the time because he was with two women and child. He was able to escape, but they were able to later track him to a house in Los Mochis where Mexican marines nabbed him after a shootout that left five people dead.

The official said the meeting between Penn and Guzman was held in Tamazula, a community in Durango state that neighbours Sinaloa, home of Guzman’s drug cartel. Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said that Guzman’s contact with actors and producers for a possible biopic helped give law enforcement a new lead.


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