Breaking News Emails
The extraordinary tale of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman took a surreal twist late Saturday when Rolling Stone published a secret interview that the drug kingpin apparently gave to actor Sean Penn while on the run.
Penn wrote that he met Guzman face-to-face in a jungle clearing, along with Mexican film and television star Kate del Castillo who had been interested in making a film telling the fugitive’s story.
The encounter took place in October, as Mexican authorities searched for Guzman following his escape from a maximum-security prison in July, Penn wrote.
"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 boasted, according to Penn’s article.
Guzman was arrested Friday during a dawn raid in the town of Los Mochis, Sinaloa. Mexico's attorney general said the government plans to extradite him to the United States, where he is wanted on drug charges.
The magazine said some names in the article were changed, locations not named, and "an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject's approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes."
Authorities were aware Penn and del Castillo were in Mexico to meet with Guzman, but it was not immediately clear Sunday whether their presence helped or hindered efforts to recapture him.
A planned arrest sweep was delayed to assure the two would not be harmed, a source told NBC News.
When Friday's raid finally took place, Guzman and his security team are believed to have escaped on all-terrain vehicles, having been alerted by local residents. Authorities now believe that delay may have cost them the element of surprise.
Penn's reps say he is not available for comment and NBC News has been unable to ask for his response to these claims.
A Mexican official told the Associated Press that it was the Penn interview that led authorities to Guzman’s exact whereabouts.
Penn wrote that he was not involved in any film project, but wanted to interview Guzman for the magazine.
During the October interview, and in a video sent later, Guzman described how he got into the drug business and told of his childhood in a poor area of Badiraguato where there are no job opportunities.
"The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana, and at that age, I began to grow it, to cultivate it and to sell it. That is what I can tell you," Guzman said, Penn wrote in the article.
NBC News was unable to independently verify the contents of the article, or Guzman's reported comments.
In his article, Penn described landing in a Mexican city on Oct. 2, then being driven by Guzman’s 29-year-old son to an airfield and being flown to the jungle. He, del Castillo and two others were then driven hours to the jungle where the met Guzman, Penn wrote.
They were served tacos and shared a toast of tequila, Penn wrote in the article. There were 30 to 35 guards, Penn wrote, and it was later learned there were around 100 more of Guzman’s soldiers in the general area.
When Donald Trump’s name came up in conversation, Guzman sarcastically said, "Ah! Mi amigo!" according to Penn's article. Trump has made controversial comments about Mexico sending criminals to the U.S.
Penn wrote that when he asked Guzman about his dynamic with the Mexican government El Chapo responded: "Talking about politicians, I keep my opinion to myself. They go do their thing and I do mine."
Guzman had agreed to a two-day interview after the October meeting, Penn wrote, but opted to send a video response to questions instead over security concerns. The video was sent to del Castillo weeks after the October meeting, Penn wrote.
Asked if drugs destroy humanity, Guzman admitted in the video that “it’s a reality that drugs destroy," Penn said in the article. But he said that if there were no desire for drugs there would be no sales, Penn wrote.
Guzman said in the video that he doesn’t believe he is responsible for drug addiction in the world, according to Penn.
"The day I don't exist, it's not going to decrease in any way at all," he said, according to Penn.