Sean Penn under pressure after meeting Mexican crime boss

Hollywood actor Sean Penn has found himself under pressure from the United States and Mexico after he did an exclusive, clandestine interview with fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Guzman was recaptured by Mexican police in his home state of Sinaloa on Friday, about six months after he escaped from prison for the second time. Rolling Stone magazine published the interview online on Saturday.

Several Mexican lawmakers have asked President Enrique Pena Nieto to demand materials related to the interview from Penn, including any video and audio material, Mexico's Milenio newspaper reported.

The lawmakers said it was important to find out exactly what was said in the interview, although Penn said that neither he nor Mexican actress Kate del Castillo - who brokered the interview - took any electronic devices to the meeting.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio described Penn in an ABC interview as fawning over a criminal and drug trafficker. "I find it grotesque," he said.

A top White House official was more circumspect and declined to speculate about whether Penn might face legal consequences.

"Chapo has been rearrested, which is good. He should stay behind bars," White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told CNN in an interview.

McDonough described the Mexican drug lord's "braggadocious" remarks about the drug trade as "maddening."

Rolling Stone magazine published Penn's article in which he describes the elaborate security precautions to take him and del Castillo to Guzman in a rural area in early October.

Penn and del Castillo spent several hours with the "world's most-wanted fugitive" at the modest home of a family sympathetic to Guzman. They arranged to meet again for a formal, taped interview eight days later, but pursuit by authorities kept Guzman on the run and unable to meet.

Back in Los Angeles several weeks later, the two actors received a 17-minute video of Guzman answering their written questions. The exchange is not deeply probing, focusing mostly on Guzman saying the drug trade is the only viable option for many rural poor people.

"Well, it's a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn't a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living," he says in the video.

He acknowledged his activities as a major smuggler, but said the lucrative industry would be the same whether he were involved or not, because of the appetites of US consumers.

"If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells," Guzman says.

"The day I cease to exist, it's not going to decrease in any way at all ... people who dedicate their lives to this activity do not depend on me."

Penn declined to comment on the interview at a gala in Los Angeles on Saturday night, according to industry publication Variety.

On Friday, Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said El Chapo had been planning to have a biopic made about his life and had contacted actors and producers. She suggested that tracking some of those unnamed individuals had helped authorities to locate Guzman.

But Penn's article makes clear that he and del Castillo did not bring any electronic equipment to the meeting, as part of the security precautions, and makes no mention of making a film together.

The clandestine October meeting was presumed to have taken place somewhere in the Golden Triangle region where the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua meet.

Mexican and US drug enforcement officials say the Sinaloa crime family that Guzman heads is the largest smuggler of illegal drugs into the United States, where he is wanted on federal charges.

Mexican officials said this weekend that they would cooperate with the extradition request, which Guzman's lawyers will challenge in court.

Last update: Mon, 11/01/2016 - 07:34
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