Notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman broke out off a high-security Mexican prison, six months ago (July 2015) and went off the radar. The world’s most wanted drug trafficker was arrested back on Jan 8th (Friday) following a deadly gun fight. And, in an interesting turn of events, the Mexican officials cited that American actor Sean Penn’s secret assignment (for ‘Rolling Stone’) in October 2015, made possible for the law enforcement officials to track down Guzman. Actor Penn’s meeting with the drug lord was only made known on Saturday, Jan. 9th as the magazine posted the interview (titled ‘El Chapo Speaks’). On the internet landscape, Sean Penn is being equally lauded and accused of glorifying drug smuggler.
In 2012, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo is said to have posted a sympathetic message (on Twitter) to Mr. Guzman (the head of the Sinaloa Cartel), regarding his imprisonment. The tweet has led to a series of conversations between the actress and drug lord, where the later wanted Kate to help make a movie about his life. After Guzman’s escape from the prison, Sean Penn met Kate in Los Angeles and talked about the film project. The American actor, who believed that a film would be impossible to make, opted to do a magazine story on the notorious criminal. Penn took a self-funded charter flight from Los Angeles to Guzman’s Mexican jungle hide-out.
The actor also vividly describes (in the article) how a convoy he traveled with ushered him through a military checkpoint. Under a heavily guarded arena, Penn’s interview with Guzman went on for nearly seven hours. Although, the drug lord promised another interview, he was unable to keep up with his commitment. Guzman instead sent a 17 minute video-tape as well as called Mr. Penn a few times. In the Oscar winning actor’s article, the drug lord is portrayed as a relaxed, unapologetic man, who casually states “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats”.
Various American media outlets have reported that the actor himself could face investigation for take part in such a clandestine interview. Journalists are also mocking over Penn’s writing style in the article. Few have drawn comparison of Penn’s meeting with that of ABC journalist John Miller’s 1998 interview of deceased terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Nevertheless, a majority agrees on that Miller worked as a credentialed & legitimate journalist, whereas actor Penn is accused of making a grandstanding, in the name of an interview. As for the vital question ‘Did Penn’s conversation with Guzman lead to the later’s capture?’, only a simple ‘don’t know’ is provided as an answer. Despite Mexican authorities citing connections between the in-person interview and the capture, there are also theories that Guzman himself surrendered after negotiating an ultimatum with his government. The timing of releasing the interview imbues a general view that it’s all just a distractive, media stunt.