Sean Penn meeting, silver screen dreams help Mexican drug lord's downfall
Updated: 2016-01-11 05:43
Actor Sean Penn (L) shakes hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman in Mexico, in this undated Rolling Stone handout photo on January 10, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]
MEXICO CITY - A secretive meeting that Hollywood star Sean Penn orchestrated with Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman in a jungle hideout late last year helped Mexico's government catch the world's most wanted drug lord, sources said.
Guzman, the infamous boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in northwest Mexico on Friday morning, and sent back to the prison he broke out of in July through a mile-long tunnel that led straight into his cell.
Mexico aims to extradite Guzman to the United States as soon as possible.
Penn's rare access to the capo was assisted by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. They were driven some of the way to the hideout by Guzman's son, who the Hollywood star says was waved on by soldiers when they apparently recognized him.
Another leg of the day-long trip through central Mexico to meet Guzman was on a light aircraft allegedly fitted with equipment to evade radar detection, Penn said in a story published in Rolling Stone magazine on Saturday.
Penn said in the article that he was sure the Mexican government and the US Drug Enforcement Administration was tracking him.
Two senior Mexican government sources said they were indeed aware of the October meeting and monitored his movements.
That helped lead them days later to a ranch where Guzman was staying, one of the sources said. Mexican forces used helicopter gunships to attack Guzman's ranch during a siege that lasted days.
The kingpin narrowly escaped, with what he told Del Castillo was a minor leg injury, but the raid in the northern state of Durango was a major breakthrough in the manhunt.
Guzman was finally recaptured on Friday in the northern city of Los Mochis after a bloody action movie-like shootout. Mexican marines pursued the wily kingpin through storm drains before intercepting his getaway in a hijacked car.
Penn's seven-hour encounter with Guzman came about after Guzman became interested in making a movie of his life when he was inundated with requests from US movie studios following his 2014 capture, the film star said.
Guzman's lawyer approached Del Castillo about the possibility of making a film but the project was dropped in favor of a magazine interview, Penn said.
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