Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico, Jan. 8, 2016. 
Photo by Henry Romero/Reuters

‘El Chapo’ gave interview to Sean Penn before arrest


Drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman gave an interview to actor and director Sean Penn months before his capture by Mexican authorities on Friday, according to an article published in Rolling Stone Saturday night.

Penn wrote that he and Guzman met in a clearing in a jungle face to face in October, along with Mexican film and television star Kate del Castillo, who had been interested in making a film telling Guzman’s story.

“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 said at the October meeting, Penn wrote.

RELATED: Mexico aims to fulfill U.S. extradition request for ‘El Chapo’

The article contained a disclosure that some names 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.”

The October face to face interview took place as Mexican authorities searched for the Sinaloa cartel leader after his escape from a maximum-security prison in July, Penn wrote.

Meantime, a source told NBC News that authorities were aware that Penn and del Castillo were in Mexico to meet with Guzman.

Weekends with Alex Witt, 1/9/16, 7:53 AM ET

“El Chapo” recaptured in gun battle

Todd Piro talks to Duncan Wodd, Director at the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center about the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the infamous leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.
Todd Piro talks to Duncan Wodd, Director at the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center about the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the infamous leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.

That raised concerns, because authorities were in the process then of trying to locate and capture El Chapo.

With Penn and del Castillo believed to perhaps be in the area, a planned arrest sweep was delayed to assure the two would not be harmed.

When the raid finally took place, El Chapo and his security team are believed to have escaped on all-terrain vehicles, having been alerted by local residents.

We’re told 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.

During the October sit down with Penn and in a video sent later, Penn wrote that Guzman described how he got into the drug business and how he enjoys freedom — adding that the pressure of being sought in a manhunt felt somewhat “normal.”

Guzman was arrested during a raid in the town of Los Mochis that was conducted before dawn Friday. Mexico’s attorney general said the government plans to extradite him to the U.S.

Penn wrote that he was not involved in any film project, but wanted to interview Guzman for the magazine.

During the interview in October, and in a video Guzman later sent to del Castillo where he answered questions questions given to him earlier, “El Chapo” described growing up in a poor area of Badiraguato where there are no job opportunities, Penn wrote in the article.

“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, Pen wrote in the article.

NBC News was unable to independently verify the contents of the article, or Guzman’s reported comments.

Penn described in the article of 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.

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