Sean Penn Interview Released Day After El Chapo's Arrest

By John Lavitt 01/11/16

In October, Mexican officials raided a hideout occupied by the drug lord days after the lightning rod actor interviewed him.

Sean Penn

Now we know that Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera can blame his recapture on Hollywood, thanks to an interview he did with Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn. After being free for only six months, El Chapo is back in custody. On July 11, Guzman escaped from prison and humiliated the Peña Nieto government.

From a hole in the floor of his private shower stall in the Altiplano maximum security prison, Guzmán climbed down onto a motorcycle mounted on rails. He escaped through a mile-long tunnel to freedom. At that moment, the invincibility of the “Lord of the Tunnels” seemed unquestioned. Despite this aurora of invincibility, only six months later, the world's most wanted drug baron was arrested in a military raid that left five suspects dead in Los Mochis, a coastal city in his native northwestern state of Sinaloa.

According to Mexican attorney general Arely Gómez, his narcissism knew no limits and Guzmán wanted to amplify his fame. The drug lord wanted Hollywood to make a Robin Hood-like biopic about his life. Gomez explained, “He established communication with actors and producers, which formed a new line of investigation.”

Perhaps the strangest part of the story is Sean Penn’s interview of El Chapo. Arranged by Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo, famous for playing a drug boss in a telenovela, Penn flew from Los Angeles to a Mexican jungle to meet with the drug kingpin. "He is interested in the movie business and how it works," Penn wrote in his Rolling Stone story.

Near the end of the interview, when asked by Penn how his life had changed since his escape, Guzmán replied, “Happy, because freedom is really nice, and pressure, well, for me it's normal ... I don't feel anything that hurts my health or my mind. I feel good ... Lots of happiness because of my freedom.” That happiness has now come to an end. Unless he escapes again.

Despite the media glitz and Hollywood glamour, the governments of Mexico and the United States really only care that Guzmán is back in custody. As the DEA stated, "The capture of Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán-Loera is a victory for the rule of law and the Mexican people and government ... It is further evidence of our two countries’ resolve to ensure justice is served for families who have been plagued by Guzmán-Loera’s ruthless acts of violence."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.