What El Chapo Revealed to Rolling Stone

January 10th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

One day after Mexican officials announced the capture of drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Rolling Stone magazine published an article that featured an interview with the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

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Actor and director Sean Penn conducted the secret interview — which involved a seven-hour meeting in a jungle clearing at an undisclosed location in Mexico, as well as phone and video interviews — and he talked to Guzmán about his childhood, his escape from federal prison last year, and his role in the international drug trafficking organization.

"I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana than anybody else in the world," Guzmán said. "I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."

Guzmán has escaped from two maximum security prisons since he was first arrested on charges of murder and drug trafficking in 1993. The latest escape, in July 2015, was achieved through an elaborate, underground tunnel system. Guzmán said he sent engineers to Germany for specialized training on how to construct the $1 million tunnel.

In the interview, the drug lord also described how growing up in poverty led him to grow marijuana and poppies (plants used to make heroin and other opiates) at 15 years old. 

el chapo

The article paints a picture of a man who has been one of the most wanted international fugitives since his first escape in 2001. He appeared to break several stereotypes attributed to drug kingpins in popular culture: Guzmán doesn't do drugs, or even drink alcohol on a regular basis. He puts his business first and doesn't consider himself a violent person. Rather, he views violence as a necessary but unfortunate means to an end.

"In part, it is because already some people already grow up with problems, and there is some envy and they have information against someone else," Guzmán said about violence in the drug trafficking industry. "That is what creates violence... Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more. But do I start trouble? Never."

As far as the illegal drug market is concerned, Guzmán said that trafficking was embedded in the culture of Mexico and that he doesn't see it going away any time soon. He denied responsibility for rising rates of addiction and drug abuse throughout the world — but proudly admitted that the Sinaloa Cartel "shops and ships by some estimates more than half" of the illegal drugs in the U.S.

Since the article was published, some have raised concerns about the legality of the secret interview, which took place months before Guzmán's capture. Mexican officials have said that the fugitive's capture was related to his "efforts to develop a biopic" about his life. It is unclear if the Rolling Stone article is associated with those efforts.

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"It was not immediately clear what the ethical and legal considerations of the article might be," The New York Times reported. "A Mexican official said late Saturday that all actors and producers who met with Mr. Guzman, which includes Mr. Penn, were under investigation."