In a Rolling Stone interview that took place in a jungle compound at the top of a mountain, actor Sean Penn spoke with with Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as El Chapo, for seven hours.
Penn, clearly a method actor, went to great lengths to maintain security when arranging his meetings with Guzmán. He described a procedure where cheap burner phones were used for each contact before destroying them and repeating the process. Despite all these precautions, Penn said, “there is no question in my mind but that DEA and the Mexican government are tracking our movements.”
The interviews took place in a jungle clearing with 100 cartel troops surrounding Guzman, Penn, and Kate Del Castillo, a soap opera actress who had written supportive tweets about Guzmán and who he “trusted.”
Guzmán spoke about his childhood, recounting how he started out in business shortly after turning six years old by selling oranges and soft drinks. By 15, he had started growing marijuana and poppies, because was no other way for his family to survive their extreme poverty.
“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have the fleet submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats,” El Chapo said.
He defended the brutality of his career, stating, “Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more. But do I start trouble? Never.”
From the New York Times:
The story provides new details on his dramatic escape from prison last summer, when he disappeared through a hole in his shower into a mile-long tunnel that some engineers estimated took more than a year and at least $1 million to build. The engineers, Mr. Penn wrote, had been flown to Germany for specialized training. A motorcycle on rails inside the tunnel had been modified to run in the low-oxygen environment, deep underground.
At one point Penn brought up GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, mentioning to Guzmán the reports that he had put a $100 million bounty on Trump after he made racist comments about Mexicans.
“Ah! Mi amigo,” Guzman replied.
Guzmán mentioned that he had tried drugs during his life but was never an addict and had not touched them for 20 years. When Penn asked him about the moral implications of his business, Guzman admitted that “drugs destroy.”
Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn’t a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living,” Guzman said.
Despite the torture and depravity he inflicted on people, Guzmán said that violence occurs because “some people already grow up with problems, and there is some envy and they have information against someone else. That is what creates the violence.”
Days after the meeting took place, Mexican troops attacked Guzmán’s hideout. He escaped again yet again and continued to communicate by blackberry messenger to Penn and Castillo, producing an 11,000-word document of his narcissistic ramblings.
Mexican authorities stated that Guzmán was caught partly because he was planning a movie about his life and his contact with potential actors and producers helped authorities track him down. Penn echoed the story, saying Guzmán had fielded Hollywood offers while in prison but had elected to make his own movie.
When Penn brought up the final days of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug boss who died in a shoot out on the rooftops of Medellín, El Chapo replied blandly, “I know one day I will die. I hope it’s of natural causes.”
Watch two minutes of Rolling Stone’s El Chapo interview below:
Featured image via Rolling Stone