The world’s most wanted drug fugitive has been thrown back into prison thanks to the assistance of a Hollywood celebrity and a rock and roll magazine.
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the leader of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel, was recaptured in north-west Mexico on Friday and sent back to the jail he escaped from in July last year.
The day after his arrest it emerged that Guzman had sat down for a seven-hour interview with Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn in October while he was on the run.
Penn’s interview was published in Rolling Stone magazine on Saturday (AEDT), a day after the rearrest.
But as the world reacted in astonishment to the fact that Penn had gained access to the drug lord’s top secret jungle hideout, Mexican authorities announced the interview had played a significant part in them locating El Chapo.
It was also revealed that El Chapo had sounded out several Hollywood producers and actors to make a biopic on his life – another move which led to his arrest, according to Mexico’s Attorney-General Arely Gomez.
Of his many startling insights, Penn wrote that Guzman had told him he had sent engineers to Germany for three months of training in tunnelling to practice for his July escape.
“I will discover that his already accomplished engineers had been flown to Germany last year for three months of extensive additional training necessary to deal with the low-lying water table beneath the prison,” Penn wrote.
“A tunnel equipped with a pipe-track-guided motorcycle with an engine modified to function in the minimally oxygenized space, allowing El Chapo to drop through a hole in his cell’s shower floor, into its saddle and ride to freedom.”
Guzman escaped from the Mexican prison in July last year through a tunnel that led straight into his cell, embarrassing authorities.
He had been charged with a series of drug-related offences including narcotics trafficking, weapons offences and organised crime violations.
The Mexican government is now considering extraditing Guzman to the United States, something the drug kingpin wants to desperately avoid.
After his first capture in Guatemala in June 1993, Guzman was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
He reportedly made his 2001 escape from the maximum-security prison in a laundry cart, though some have discounted that version.
In his second escape last July he slipped down a hole in his shower stall in plain view of guards into a mile-long tunnel dug from a property outside the prison.
In 2012 Forbes estimated Guzman’s fortune to be worth more than $US1 billion.
Drugs, violence all for ‘self-defence’: Guzman
Penn wrote that Guzman was unrepentant, quoting him as saying: “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 has been involved in trading drugs from the age of 15, and believed it was the only way to survive.
“The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana,” he said, speaking in Spanish.
“It’s a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately … 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.”
Asked if he was violent, Guzman responded: “Look, all I do is defend myself – nothing more.”
About the perceived risk of interviewing one of the world’s most wanted drug lords, Penn said he took comfort in knowing that “unlike many of his counterparts … El Chapo is a businessman first and only resorts to violence when he deems it advantageous to himself or his business interests”.
The interview was brokered by “one of the most famous actresses in Mexico”, Kate Del Castillo, who herself played a Mexican drug queen in a well-known soap opera.
Penn also noted the surprising lack of hostility in the crew of people who surrounded El Chapo at the hideout.
“My impression of his crew is more in sync with what one would imagine of students at a Mexico City university. Clean-cut, well-dressed and mannered. Not a smoker in the bunch,” he wrote.
“Only two or three of the guys wear small shoulder bags that hang low beside their waists, where I assume small arms are carried.”
He even raised some career advice with Penn, one of Hollywood’s most renowned actors.
“We eat, drink, and talk for hours,” Penn wrote. “He [Guzman] is interested in the movie business and how it works. He’s unimpressed with its financial yield.
“The P&L high side doesn’t add up to the downside risk for him. He suggests to us that we consider switching our career paths to the oil business. He says he would aspire to the energy sector, but that his funds, being illicit, restrict his investment opportunities.”
Penn took a series of videos of the interviews he conducted with Guzman – all of which have been generating a mass of interest around the internet.
Watch a video of Guzman speaking to Penn below:
– with AAP and ABC