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Mexico wants to question Sean Penn over 'Chapo' meeting

11 January 2016, 07:01

Mexico City - Sean Penn's interview with drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman caused a cross-border uproar on Sunday, with Mexican authorities seeking to question him while US critics lashed out at the American actor.

A federal official told AFP that the attorney general's office wanted to talk with Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo about their secretive meeting with Guzman in October, three months before his capture.

"That is correct, of course, it's to determine responsibilities," the official said on condition of anonymity, declining to provide more details, including a possible date for an interview with the stars.

A second federal official said it was unclear whether Penn and del Castillo, who brokered the meeting, had violated any Mexican law.

While a reporter could interview a drug cartel suspect, "they're not journalists," the official said.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough told CNN that Penn's meeting with Guzman "poses a lot of interesting questions for him and others involved in this so-called interview. We'll see what happens."

The US rock magazine Rolling Stone on Saturday published the interview that Guzman gave to the actors in an undisclosed jungle clearing in Mexico.

Despite Penn's cloak-and-dagger efforts to keep the gathering secret, a Mexican official told AFP that authorities found out about the meeting, which eventually helped them track down the Sinaloa drug cartel chief.

Guzman, aged 58, was arrested on Friday in a deadly military raid in the seaside city of Los Mochis, in his northwestern home state of Sinaloa.

Attorney General Arely Gomez said on Friday that Guzman had met with unnamed actors and producers to discuss making a biopic about himself and that it was part of a "new line of investigation".

Some legal experts, however, doubt that Penn could face charges in the United States or Mexico.

"I seriously doubt that charges will be brought against them even though Sean Penn took extraordinary steps to prevent authorities from using his phone to track the whereabouts of Chapo," said Mike Vigil, a former senior official at the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Floyd Abrams, a New York attorney known for his defense of journalists, said Penn did not violate any US laws.

'Grotesque' interview

The meeting sparked criticism in the United States, with Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio told ABC television that the interview was "grotesque."

Journalists questioned the ethical merits of the interview.

Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron tweeted a link to a December story about the dangers and death faced by Mexican journalists, commenting: "Good moment to remember what happens to real journalists who cover Mexican drug traffickers."

Rolling Stone posted an October 2 picture showing the Oscar-winning actor shaking hands with the mustachioed drug cartel leader.

Penn writes that Guzman gave him a "compadre" hug when they met. He said they had a seven-hour sitdown followed by phone and video interviews.

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

The White House said Guzman's boast about his trafficking exploits "is maddening."

Rolling Stone also posted a video showing Guzman without a mustache, saying he decided to go into drug trafficking after the age of 15 because there were "no job opportunities" and "no other way to survive."

Asked if he felt some responsibility for the high level of addictions in the world, he said: "It's false. The day that I don't exist, it won't reduce drug trafficking."

In a text message exchange after their meeting, Guzman discussed a marine helicopter raid in which authorities almost captured him on October 6. He played down injuries to his face and leg reported by the authorities, saying: "Not like they said. I only hurt my leg a little bit."

Authorities said the marines did not shoot Guzman during the raid because he was accompanied by two women and a girl, but that he hurt himself in a fall.



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