The actor breaks his silence on his controversial interview with the drugs baron that led to a much-publicised arrest.
Benjamin Lee and Scott Bixby, 15 enero 2016 / THE GUARDIAN
The actor expressed regret that his exclusive Rolling Stone interview with Guzmán had not achieved its true purpose – to start a conversation about the war on drugs.
The conversation that ensued ended up being mostly about the wisdom of the decision to let Guzmán, the most powerful drug trafficker in the world with the blood of thousands on his hands, have final approval over the profile before it was published.
Penn had met with the drug cartel kingpin for a Rolling Stone interview last October, and, on the same day the article was printed earlier this month, Guzmán was swiftly arrested.
“Let me be clear. My article has failed,” he told Charlie Rose on US TV.
“I have a terrible regret,” Penn told Rose. “I have a regret that the entire discussion about this article ignores its purpose, which was to contribute to this conversation on the war on drugs.”
He added: “There is this myth about the visit my colleagues and I made to El Chapo, that it was – as the attorney general of Mexico is quoted [as saying] – ‘essential’ to his capture. We had met with him many weeks earlier … on 2 October, in a place nowhere near where he was captured.”
When Penn’s 10,000-word piece was published in Rolling Stone last weekend, news coverage focused on Guzmán’s brazen admission of supplying “more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world”, and on the ethical and legal questions of Penn’s interview. According to Penn, the coverage missed the point.
“We’re going to put all our focus, all our energy, all our billions of dollars on the ‘bad guy’, and what happens?” he said. “You get another death the next day, the same way.”
“Let’s go to the big picture of what we all want,” Penn said. “We all want this drug problem to stop. We all want them – the killings in Chicago – to stop. We are the consumer. Whether you agree with Sean Penn or not, there is a complicity there. And if you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs.”
He added: “And how much time have they spent in the last week since this article came out, talking about that? One percent? I think that’d be generous.”
The actor believes the Mexican government released the idea that he was instrumental in Guzmán’s capture because they wanted to see him blamed and put at risk, but Penn said he does not fear for his safety. He thinks they are “clearly humiliated” that he found Guzmán before they did.
The interview took place in the middle of a manhunt to track down and capture the Sinaloa cartel leader. The printed piece contained many boasts from Guzmán about his empire. “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world,” he reportedly said. “I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
One of his lawyers has since claimed that the article contains falsities. “It’s a lie, absurd speculation from Mr Penn,” Juan Pablo Badillo said earlier this week. “Mr Penn should be called to testify to respond about the stupidities he has said.”
Penn had hoped that his 10,000-word article would help to bring about change. “I have a terrible regret…that the entire discussion abut this article ignores its purpose, which was to try to contribute to this discussion about the policy to the war on drugs,” he said. “Let’s go to the big picture of what we all want. We all want this drug problem to stop. We all want the killings in Chicago to stop. We are the consumer. Whether you agree with Sean Penn or not, there is a complicity there. And if you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs.”
Penn’s remarks, excerpted from a 60 Minutes interview set to air on Sunday, echo statements that Guzmán himself made in his Rolling Stone interview. When asked by Penn whether he feels responsible for the drug dependency suffered by his customers, Guzmán gave a rhetorical shrug. “No, that is false,” Guzmán said, “because the day I don’t exist, it’s not going to decrease in any way at all.”
“Drug trafficking does not depend on just one person,” he said later. “It depends on a lot of people … 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.”
Mexican authorities have said Penn’s meeting with Guzmán, arranged by the actor Kate del Castillo, helped lead them to the drug baron.