Sean Penn's interview helped us catch El Chapo, say Mexican sources

Joaquin Guzman, the world's most wanted-drug trafficker, is escorted by Mexican security forces at a Navy hangar in Mexico City, on Friday.
Susana Gonzalez | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Joaquin Guzman, the world's most wanted-drug trafficker, is escorted by Mexican security forces at a Navy hangar in Mexico City, on Friday.

Actor Sean Penn's interview with drug boss Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman was one factor that led to Mexican security forces capturing the kingpin, a government source told Reuters.

Mexico's government was aware of the October interview with the legendary boss of the Sinaloa drugs cartel and was closely monitoring Penn's movements, a second government source told the news agency.

The interview, in which Penn visited Guzman in his Mexican hideout, was published by Rolling Stone magazine on Saturday evening local time, a day after Guzman's arrest.

In the article, Penn describes the subterfuge he undertook to obtain the interview with Guzman, writing of the cheap phones he was using and discarding: "One per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous email addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form."

Penn also wrote that he was aware the Mexican government and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration likely knew of his movements.

In the interview published by Rolling Stone, Guzman told Penn that he started growing marijuana and poppies as a teenager because there was no other employment opportunities that allowed him to make money to buy food.

But he went on to say that, now "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."

Guzman added that he did not feel responsible for enabling drug addiction worldwide because " the day I don't exist, it's not going to decrease in any way at all."

The drugs baron also revealed to the actor that he had sent his tunneling experts to Germany for three months' additional training before they began digging the mile-long tunnel that he used to escape from a maximum-security Mexican prison last July.

The escape was a major embarrassment for the Mexican government, particularly as it was Guzman's second successful prison break.

Mexico now aims to extradite him to the United States to face drug smuggling charges as soon as possible, after recapturing him on Friday following a bloody shootout in his home state of Sinaloa.

Security forces had identified a tunnel expert in Guzman's circle who was outfitting houses in Sinaloa, and that helped lead to the drug baron's capture, Mexico's Attorney General Arely Gomez said.

After tracking Guzman down to a house in Los Mochis, in the northwestern state, Mexican Marines chased Guzman and his chief assassin through a drain and then nabbed them as he tried to flee by car.

Guzman's yearning for the silver screen also helped bring him down, Gomez said.

"Another important aspect which helped locate him was discovering Guzman's intention to have a biographical film made. He contacted actresses and producers, which was part of one line of investigation," Gomez said.

According to the Rolling Stone story, Penn's interview with the drug lord was brokered by Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo, who Penn wrote was helping Guzman bring his biopic dreams to fruition.

Guzman has been returned to the same maximum security prison in central Mexico that he broke out of in July.

- Reuters contributed to this report.

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