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Column 011816 Wall

Monday, January 18, 2016 

The Spectacle of Sean Penn and the Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Guzman: A Review

By Allan Wall 

Hollywood actors make lots of money pretending to be other people.  But movie star Sean Penn has become part of a news story himself.

In a bizarre truth-is-stranger-than-fiction scenario, Sean Penn involved himself with – and he may have inadvertently led to the capture of – Mexican drug lord Chapo Guzman.

In case any of our readers weren’t aware of it, Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman Loera, the billionaire drug lord of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, has been captured for the third time.

To back up a few decades, in 1993 Guzman was captured in Guatemala, extradited to Mexico, and sentenced to prison for a twenty-year term.  In 2001, Chapo escaped from the Jalisco state’s Puente Grande prison.

In February of 2014, Chapo was captured in Mazatlan without a shot being fired. (See Mexican Drug Lord 'Chapo' Guzman Captured in Mazatlan, Sinaloa and Mexican Drug Lord 'El Chapo' Guzman remains in the Limelight.)

Then, in July of 2015, Chapo escaped from Mexico’s Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1, "Altiplano," the famous prison near Almoloya in the State of Mexico.

Chapo escaped through a mile-long tunnel, the construction of which had been going on for quite some time and right under the noses of prison authorities.  That of course strongly indicates some heavy-duty collusion with some prison officials.

That escape was especially embarrassing to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was out of the country at the time.  (See Our 2015 Summer Visit to Mexico and Could Mexico's Escaped Drug Baron Chapo Guzman be Back Home?)

On January 8th, 2016, Chapo was captured by the Mexican Navy in the city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa.  This time it was a real shootout, with five of Chapo’s henchmen killed and a Mexican marine wounded.  Besides Guzman, six other prisoners were taken.

(Click here for a helmet cam video of part of the operation, in a house from which Chapo escaped before  being captured later.)

On the evening of the next day, my wife and I were watching a report of the capture on the Univision channel. And they began talking about Sean Penn.  Sean Penn? 

Yes, that Sean Penn, star of various movies through the years and a sometime political activist.  That Sean Penn. 

It emerged that, back in October, Sean Penn traveled to Mexico along with Kate del Castillo, an actress with dual Mexican/U.S. citizenships currently residing in Los Angeles.  And they secretly met with Chapo Guzman.

Sean Penn wanted to interview Chapo for an article in Rolling Stone.  They ate together, and agreed to a formal interview later.  As it turned out, the formal interview was later done, not in person by Sean Penn but by means of a BBM device. 

Fast forward to January 8th, when Chapo was captured. The very next day, Sean Penn’s Rolling Stone article (including the interview) was published with an update about the capture.

That might indicate that either Sean Penn or Rolling Stone either wasn’t ready to publish it or was waiting to publish it.  I suppose when the news of Chapo’s capture came out, they figured they better publish it right away when the story was hot.

If you’d like to see Sean Penn’s article and judge it for yourself, click here.  Sean Penn describes in detail how the meeting was set up, how he and Kate and a few others went to Mexico, how they were taken to see Chapo, and of course various personal reflections of Sean Penn and the drug war in general. Although entitled “El Chapo Speaks,” the article really has more of Sean Penn than Chapo Guzman.

And, if you want you can Watch El Chapo’s Exclusive Interview in Its 17-Minute Entirety, just click the hyper-link.  It’s a video of Chapo Guzman outside, answering Sean Penn’s questions. These questions had been sent by the BBM device, translated into Spanish, and posed to Chapo by a Spanish-speaker offscreen.  English subtitles are provided. 

Throughout the video there are distractions: people and a dog walking in the background, the sounds of background conversation, a machine, and a frequently crowing rooster.

Ironically, Sean Penn says in his article that he didn’t want to betray Chapo’s whereabouts to authorities.  But according to Mexican officials, it was precisely the visit of Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo to Mexico that helped them locate and later capture the drug lord.

Sean Penn denies this, but how can he know for sure?

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.

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