A short time before he was apprehended by Mexican marines, drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán granted his first interview in decades to actor Sean Penn. Rolling Stone published their extensive conversation on Saturday evening, which you can read here.
As you’ll read, Penn secretly traveled to Mexico in October and spoke with Guzmán for seven hours. He later conducted follow-up interviews via telephone and video. All of this while Guzmán was on the run from Mexican authorities after he successfully escaped prison in July.
As fate would have it, Guzmán was arrested on Friday. Mexican authorities say they were tipped off of his whereabouts when Guzmán contacted actors about appearing in a biopic he intended to make about his life. Whether or not his communication with Penn led to his arrest are unclear, though Penn maintains that he took great care in maintaining his and Guzmán’s security. Penn used burner phones, “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.”
In his piece, Penn acknowledges the obvious moral questions that arise from him secretly meeting with a wanted man responsible for the death of thousands. He writes, “I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men. But I’m in my rhythm. Everything I say to everyone must be true. As true as it is compartmentalized. The trust that El Chapo had extended to us was not to be fucked with. This will be the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room, leaving me no precedent by which to measure the hazards. I’d seen plenty of video and graphic photography of those beheaded, exploded, dismembered or bullet-riddled innocents, activists, courageous journalists and cartel enemies alike. I was highly aware of committed DEA and other law-enforcement officers and soldiers, both Mexican and American, who had lost their lives executing the policies of the War on Drugs. The families decimated, and institutions corrupted.”