A clandestine meeting that Hollywood star Sean Penn orchestrated with Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in a jungle hideout late last year helped the Mexican government catch the world’s most-wanted drug lord, sources said.
Guzman, the infamous boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in northwestern 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. It was his second prison break.
To avoid a repeat of that humiliation, Mexico’s government says it aims to hand Guzman over to U.S. justice as soon as possible.
Penn’s rare access to Guzman in October 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 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration were tracking him.
Senior Mexican government sources said they were indeed aware of the October meeting and monitored his movements.
That helped lead troops 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 showdown fit for the silver screen.
In a pre-dawn attack by Mexican marines who killed five of his henchmen, the portly capo survived by squeezing through a secret tunnel into the city’s grimy storm drains, only to pop out of a manhole near a Pollo Feliz restaurant hours later.