Mexican official says drug lord Guzman’s interview with actor Sean Penn led Mexican forces to his whereabouts.
Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, started out in business not long after turning 6, selling oranges and soft drinks. By 15, he said in an interview conducted in a jungle clearing by the actor and director Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine, he had begun to grow marijuana and poppies because there was no other way for his impoverished family to survive.
Now, unapologetically, he said: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
Though his fortune, estimated at $1 billion, has come with a trail of blood, he does not consider himself a violent man. “Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more,” he told Mr. Penn. “But do I start trouble? Never.”
A photo released on Friday by a Mexican website, Plaza de Armas, of Mr. Guzmán, who was recaptured in Los Mochis.Mexico May Extradite Drug Kingpin Known as El ChapoJAN. 9, 2016
Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug kingpin known as El Chapo, was made to face the press as he was escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers and marines at a federal hangar in Mexico City on Friday.El Chapo, Escaped Mexican Drug Lord, Is Recaptured in Gun BattleJAN. 8, 2016
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The seven hours Mr. Guzmán spent with Mr. Penn, and the follow-up interviews by phone and video, which began in October while he was on the run from the Mexican and American authorities, marked another surreal turn in his long-running battle to evade Mexican and American authorities. Mr. Guzmán, one of the world’s most wanted fugitives, who had twice escaped jail, was captured in his home state of Sinaloa in northwest Mexico on Friday after a gun battle with the authorities.
Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn conducted the interview.
It also marks a stark admission that he has operated a drug empire. Interviewed by a group of reporters in 1993 after a previous arrest, Mr. Guzmán denied that he engaged in drug dealing. “I’m a farmer,” he said, listing his produce as corn and beans. He denied that he used weapons or had a significant funds.
The interview with Rolling Stone, believed to be the first Mr. Guzmán has given in decades, was conducted over several sessions. It was scheduled to be published online Saturday night.
The interviews were held in a jungle clearing atop a mountain at an undisclosed location in Mexico. Surrounded by more than 100 cartel troops, and wearing a silk shirt and pressed black jeans, Mr. Guzmán sat down to dinner with Mr. Penn and Kate del Castillo, an actress who once played a drug kingpin in a soap opera.
Even though Mexican troops attacked his hide-out in the days after the meeting, necessitating a narrow escape, Mr. Guzmán continued the interview by BlackBerry Messenger and in a video delivered by courier to the pair later.
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.
Mr. Penn’s account is likely to deepen the concern among the Mexican authorities already embarrassed by Mr. Guzmán’s multiple escapes, the months required to find him again and his status for some as something of a folk hero. Mr. Penn describes being waved through a military road checkpoint on his way to meet Mr. Guzmán, which Mr. Penn suggested was because the soldiers recognized Mr. Guzmán’s son. Mr. Penn said he was also told, during a leg of the journey taken in a small plane equipped with a scrambling device for ground radar only, that the cartel was informed by an insider when the military deployed a high-altitude surveillance plane that might have spotted their movements.
In the end, the Mexican authorities said Friday night that Mr. Guzmán had been caught partly because he had been planning a movie about his life, and had contacted actors and producers, which had helped the authorities to track him down. Mr. Penn’s story says that Mr. Guzmán, inundated with Hollywood offers while in prison, had indeed elected to make his own movie. Ms. del Castillo, whom he contacted through his lawyer after she posted supportive messages on Twitter, was the only person he trusted to shepherd the project, according to the story. Mr. Penn heard about the connection with Ms. del Castillo through a mutual acquaintance, and asked if he might do an interview.
In the rain and darkness Friday morning, Mexican marines crept up in trucks with their lights out and jumped between rooftops on Boulevard Jiquilpan, surrounding a little white house in this coastal city where their country’s most-wanted fugitive, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was hiding.
When the shooting started, neighbors woke terrified. Marines went door to door rousting people from their beds, desperately trying to keep the billionaire drug lord — who had escaped twice from federal prison — from slipping away again.
Then he did just that. Famous for his Houdini-like disappearing acts, Guzmán vanished down an escape hatch and into the sewer. It wasn’t until he popped up four blocks away, stole a car, and sped out of town that Mexican authorities finally captured him on the highway and ended six months of national humiliation for letting the world’s top drug lord go free.
“I never thought they’d catch him again,” said José Carlos Castro, a 29-year-old auto shop employee who worked across from the raided house. “Much less right here.”