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Mexico says Sean Penn meeting was 'essential' to finding "El Chapo"

U.S. investigators will also examine Penn's interactions with Guzmán, but it was unclear if prosecutors would try to force the actor to turn over information about the interview.

(Photo: Screencapture from RollingStone.com)
English 12/01/2016 16:17 Reuters Actualizada 16:17
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A secret meeting Hollywood star Sean Penn held with the world's most-wanted drug boss, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, to discuss a magazine article was essential to finding the fugitive, Mexico's attorney general said on Monday.

Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was captured on Friday following a months-long manhunt after he tunneled out of a Mexican maximum security prison in July.

Mexico has said it plans to extradite him to the United States, where he is wanted for exporting hundreds of tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin across the border.

The media were on Monday granted access to the house where Guzmán was holed up before his capture. Yet again, he escaped into a tunnel for a few hours, leaving behind a building that was a shambolic mess of bullet holes, bloodstains and decaying food.

Mexican Attorney General Arely Gómez said while extraditing kingpins takes on average a year, it could take up to five years in Guzmán's case. Still, speaking on condition of anonymity, another senior Mexican official later said the government had no interest in letting the process drag out.

Rolling Stone magazine published an article by Penn on Saturday based on his interview with Guzmán. Gómez said a line of investigation had been opened into the meeting between Guzmán and Penn in early October at a jungle hideout, adding that any possible criminal investigation against the actor-director would depend on what, if any, deals he struck with Guzmán.

U.S. investigators will also examine Penn's interactions with Guzmán, two U.S. government sources said on Monday, but it was unclear if prosecutors would try to force the actor to turn over information about the interview.

Mexican actress Kate del Castillo accompanied Penn to the meeting at an undisclosed location. Mexico's government had been following a Guzmán lawyer who accompanied them. Mexican daily El Universal published photographs on Monday of Penn and del Castillo that it said showed the pair being tracked at the time.

"It (the meeting) was an essential element, because we were following (Guzmán's) lawyer, and the lawyer took us to these people and to this meeting," Gómez told local radio.

Penn, who has been criticized in the United States and in Mexico for visiting Guzmán, told the Associated Press on Monday: "I've got nothin' to hide."

Reuters could not reach del Castillo for comment.

In the interview with Penn published by Rolling Stone, Guzmán said he felt neither remorse nor responsibility for smuggling billions of dollars worth of drugs into the United States. Nor did he consider himself a violent man despite countless murders blamed on him, he told Penn.

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