Recently captured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was unapologetic for running one of the world’s biggest drug trafficking organizations in a Rolling Stone interview with American actor Sean Penn published late Saturday.
“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.” said Guzman
Three days after the interview, members of the Mexican Navy launched an operation to capture him, but Attorney General Arely Gomez said Friday that it was aborted because he was accompanied by two women and a young girl, whom they did not want to harm.
But he was later tracked to a home in Los Mochis that was under surveillance for a month before marines moved in Friday.
Penn had the first-ever interview with Guzman in October while the world’s most wanted drug lord was on the lam, having escaped in an elaborate tunnel from Mexico’s maximum security prison in July. Guzman was later recaptured Friday in the city of Los Mochis in his home state of Sinaloa in a shootout that killed five of his associates and wounded one marine.
“He was interested in seeing the story of his life told on film, but would entrust its telling only to Kate,” he wrote.
Penn describes an elaborate travel itinerary of private planes and a seven-hour truck ride through mountainous jungle in a two-truck convoy. They were never blindfolded along the way. They spent seven hours eating and drinking with the kingpin until he went off with his men at 4 a.m. and Penn and company went to sleep.
Penn asked for a photo shaking Guzman’s hand to prove to his editors that he actually saw him. An M16 was on the couch opposite them, Penn wrote.
Penn said he received credible information that the DEA was on the trail of the actors, as raids intensified after their first meeting. He asked Guzman for a formal interview during their initial encounter that was supposed to happen a week later. But with the pressure of federal forces, Guzman instead videotaped his response to Penn’s questions and sent it to Del Castillo.
In the video, Guzman said he grew up poor, selling oranges, soft drinks and candy as a child. He took care of his grandmother’s cattle and chopped wood.
He said he is not responsible for the epidemic of illegal drug use in the U.S. and around the world.
“The day I don’t exist, it won’t decrease in any way at all,” he said.
When asked whether his activities impact Mexico, he responded, “Not at all.”
“Drug trafficking does not depend on just one person. It depends on a lot of people,” Guzman said.
He said he hasn’t done drugs in 20 years and is a person “who’s not looking for problems in any way.”
Penn, reminding him of the gun battle that killed another famous drug lord, Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, asked Guzman how he sees his final days in the drug business.
“I know one day I will die,” Guzman said. “I hope it’s of natural causes.”