Sean Penn took meeting in jungle with ‘El Chapo’ – USA TODAY
Sean Penn stunnedÂ Hollywood again, and not for his acting.
Penn, the Oscar-winning movie star, political and humanitarian activist, rebel with many causes, writer and globetrotter,Â says he took a secret meeting late last year in a Mexican jungle withÂ JoaquÃn “El Chapo”Â GuzmÃ¡n, the fugitiveÂ kingpin of the Sinaloa drug cartel andÂ two-time escapee from Mexican jails.
Penn says this in an 11,000-word article,Â headlined “El Chapo Speaks,”Â published inÂ Rolling StoneÂ late Saturday,Â complete with a picture of Penn and GuzmÃ¡n (known as Shorty in Spanish)Â shaking hands, and a video of the paunchy-and-short drug lord answering questions about his sprawling drug business.
Penn says their meeting started with a warm hug. WhenÂ it ended hours later, Penn had aÂ scoop and the possible script for aÂ different movie: Call itÂ Sean and Shorty.
“I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men,” Penn writes. “But…this will be the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room, leaving me no precedent by which to measure the hazards.”
Penn says GuzmÃ¡n agreed to a meeting because he wantedÂ some Hollywood jefe to make a movie about his lucrativeÂ life of drug-dealing, which also includes mass murder,Â torture and power-grabbing in Mexico.
So, with some Hollywood producer-types that Penn only semi-identifies, plus aÂ Mexican soap-opera star, Kate del Castillo, to broker the introduction, he setÂ off late last year on a long, secret trip to an unnamed area of northern Mexico to meet El Chapo and interview him for a possible bio picÂ whileÂ surrounded by platoons of the drug lord’s men armed to the teeth and edgy.
“Had we really just been where we were? With whom we’d been?,” Penn writes towards the end of his article, once he’s back in Los Angeles. “It seemed such a strange dream. Somehow, with all the planning and the travel, I still hadn’t believed that we’d actually gotten to El Chapo.”
Penn’s article landed with a bangÂ because it came just a day after GuzmÃ¡n, until then the world’s most wanted drug lord,Â was recaptured for the second time in his home state of Sinaloa, next door to Durango state where Mexican officials say the Penn-El Chapo meeting took place.
On Friday, Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said that GuzmÃ¡n’s interviewÂ with Penn helped give law enforcement a lead on tracking and capturing El Chapo, leading authorities toÂ GuzmÃ¡n in a rural part of Durango in October.
AFP reported Sunday that authorities in Mexico nowÂ want to talk to Penn and del Castillo.
Penn, through his publicist Mara Buxbaum, declined Sunday to comment on this.Â Nor would he comment onÂ the media and legal furor his article caused, and whether he could be in dangerÂ â from the Sinaloa cartel or from Mexican or American law enforcementÂ â as a result of his tete a tete with GuzmÃ¡n.
And Penn said little Saturday night at his Help Haiti Home charity gala in Beverly Hills, where he arrived holding hands with ex-wifeÂ Madonna, according to Billboard magazine.
But in his article he said that there were already indications back in October, shortly after the jungle meeting, that law enforcement was getting close to El Chapo’s hiding place by trackingÂ a cellphone among his crew.
Authorities later raided the area but GuzmÃ¡nÂ escaped. Authorities finally caught him Friday at a house in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where Mexican marines grabbedÂ him after a shootout that left five people dead.
Penn has landed in news headlines before. He has publicly intervened to help victims of Hurricane Katrina,Â the 2010 Haiti earthquakeÂ and survivors of 2012 floods in Pakistan. He has campaigned for same-sex marriage and defended the late Venezuela president Hugo Chavez, who was known for his anti-American rhetoric.
Did Penn and companions break some law in either the U.S. or Mexico with their escapade? Not clear but CNN media-and-legal analystÂ Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday that he did not believe there would be legal consequences for Penn.