By Lyndsey Cole
In an event described to CNN by Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez as crucial to the capture of the notorious drug lord, actor Sean Penn conducted a secret interview of Joaquín Guzmán, better known as El Chapo. At the time, Guzman was believed to be hiding in his hometown of Sinaloa.
According to an article in Rolling Stone, Penn initially met with Guzman on October 2, a day before Mexican Marines conducted raids in the area. Guzman was able to escape these raids using storm drains, about which Penn later questioned him over the course of several days via text and video messaging.
Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo, who was brought to Guzman’s attention in 2012 when she advertised her mistrust of the Mexican government on Twitter, arranged the meeting with Penn. According to Slate, Guzman was looking to make a film about his life and reached out to Castillo to get the project off the ground.
Penn’s questions centered on Guzman’s start in the drug business and how his life has been changed by running one of the largest drug cartels in Latin American history. When asked what he believed would occur if he were to be caught and whether he thought death was a possible outcome, Guzman stated, “No, I think that if they find me, they’ll arrest me, of course.”
It turned out that the fugitive’s words were prophetic. On January 8, El Chapo was found in Sinaloa and arrested, placed in the same high-security prison that he had escaped from in July 2015. Mexican officials told CNN that reaching out to people in the hope of a film was ultimately what allowed them to track him down.
With El Chapo’s arrest and escape history from Mexican prisons, the United States government has requested that he be extradited. The request was made before Guzman’s latest escape from prison in July, and El Chapo’s extradition is widely believed to be the best course of action in taking down the Sinaloa cartel.
In August, CNN reported that Mexican authorities confirmed a court order wherein “Joaquin Guzman would be extradited to the United States if he happens to be caught again.” It is currently unclear as to whether Guzman be turned over by Mexico to face charges in the U.S.
The people of Mexico fear that a sharp increase in crime and violence will follow Guzman’s arrest. Analysts predict that with the absence of leadership from the Sinaloa cartel, smaller cartels will start fighting for a place at the top, causing an inevitable rise in violence. A fruit vendor from the Mexican city of Los Mochis told the New York Times of Guzman’s reign: “If you leave your car open, no one takes it; a cell phone on the table, same thing.”
A 16-year-old Los Mochis resident said, “We were perfectly comfortable when El Chapo was here. Now we’re worried someone else is going to come here and try to fill his spot.”