MEXICO CITY – Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a two-time prison escapee, surely is no stranger to flirting with danger.
His admiration for one particular actress apparently led to his capture and imprisonment with security measures tougher than a ball-and-chain.
The role of Kate del Castillo, a Mexican and American actress, in brokering the meeting between the fugitive drug trafficker and actor Sean Penn for a magazine interview has been reported.
Transcripts of text messages (Blackberry Messenger, to be precise) between Guzman, his associates and del Castillo were published Wednesday by the Mexican newspaper Milenio, adding a fresh layer of detail.
Guzman’s capture last week in his native Sinaloa state was huge news. So was the revelation that Penn secretly met with Guzman in the Mexican jungle for material for a Rolling Stone magazine article. Guzman bragged that he had supplied “more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.”
The Blackberry messages, which were intercepted by Mexican authorities, jibe with the official story: Guzman reached out to del Castillo, and a visit to the drug lord’s hideout by the actress and Penn was arranged.
What’s new is insight into the details that Guzman obsessed about before the visit, and his willingness to accommodate del Castillo in any way, including allowing her to bring Penn.
Guzman’s texts are filled with flattery for del Castillo, but also attention to details that would be downright boring except for the man whose thumbs typed them.
A man, even a murderous drug kingpin, is liable to make a mistake trying to impress a woman.
Blackberrys and code names
According to Milenio, the messages between Guzman, his representatives and del Castillo began on September 25 of last year and ended on November 9. (The quotes in this story are translations of what Milenio published, but are not necessarily verbatim. The newspaper edited the grammar and typos in the messages).
The first messages between Guzman and del Castillo, exchanged via the phone of one of the drug lord’s associates, are very cordial off the bat.
They use code names.
Guzman goes by “papá,” or dad. Del Castillo is simply, “M”.
Some snippets from that first conversation:
Papá: I really want to meet you in person, friend. M: Well, me too. (Guzman provides details on the journey needed to reach his location) Papá: You are the best of this world. We will be great friends … I will take care of you more than my own eyes M: I’m beyond moved that you say you will care for me. no one has ever taken care of me, thank you!
In the bigger picture, these messages are interesting but insignificant given the crimes Guzman is accused of. He was convicted of smuggling tons of drugs into the United States as the boss of the Sinaloa cartel. Guzman also is blamed for hundreds of deaths, through his own hand or his assassins. Money from the Sinaloa cartel and other drug trafficking organizations allegedly corrupts officials from the municipal level to the upper echelons of government. Mexican journalists who have reported on graft and corruption have died mysteriously.
What these messages reveal is how, for all the informants, the corrupt authorities, the money and technology at his disposal, Guzman finds himself back behind bars because of simple texts with someone he wants to befriend.
A warm invitation
The mythmaking that surrounded Guzman’s rise in the drug trade, and his subsequent escapes from prison, begins to fray when you read his entreaties to del Castillo.
He isn’t much of a drinker, Guzman writes to the actress, but when he does, he likes tequila and Buchanan’s. He tells del Castillo, if she brings a bottle of the tequila that she promotes, the Sinaloa cartel boss will drink it.
After their first conversation via messaging, Guzman asked his associate what the actress thought of their chat.
“Very excited,” the associate responded. “Surprised.”
Who’s Sean Penn?
Guzman’s men, the message transcripts show, tell their boss about del Castillo’s desire to introduce Penn.
Penn is “one of the most recognized Hollywood actors,” his associate explains, before asking Guzman directly if Penn can accompany del Castillo on a visit.
“Have her bring the actor, and if she sees the need to bring more people, let her bring them as she likes,” Guzman responds.
Only later does Guzman ask for details about Penn.
Papá: What is that actor’s name? Olvidado (Chapo associate): Sean Penn. He is the one in the movie 21 Grams Papá: 21 Grams. What year was it made? Olvidado: I’m checking to make sure I give you the exact information Papá: OK Olvidado: 21 Grams came out in 2003
More questions about the films Penn has acted in or produced follow.
The similar level of micromanaging is apparent in regards to a phone Guzman wants to buy for del Castillo to communicate with him.
There are more than two dozen messages between Guzman and his associates going over details about which phone is the best — iPhone, Samsung Edge or Blackberry.
Once they settle on a Blackberry Z30, Guzman repeatedly asks about the color choices. He asks that they get a “color for a woman.”
Guzman wants a pink phone for the actress, but when his associates call four stores with no luck, he concedes to getting a gray one.
‘Tell her we’ll dance’
“Tell Kate that when she comes we will drink tequila and dance. Tell her that,” instructs a message from Papá.
Penn’s story in Rolling Stone recounts what happened next. The journey, the visit, and weeks later, the capture of “El Chapo.”
On October 10 — after the visit — the conversation continued, with del Castillo identified as “Ermoza” and Guzman simply as “1”.
Ermoza: I haven’t been able to sleep much since I saw you. I’m very excited about our story. It’s true. It’s the only thing I can think of.
1: Let me tell you that I’m more excited about you than the story, my friend.
Ermoza: Ha, ha,ha! Knowing that makes me really glad. You make me blush.
Penn has said he has nothing to hide regarding the interview.
In her first public comments since Guzman’s arrest, del Castillo thanked her supporters on Twitter.
“Not surprisingly, many have chosen to make up items they think will make good stories and that aren’t truthful. I look forward to sharing my story with you,” the actress said.
El Chapo is moved around in prison
Since Sunday, Guzman has been moved from cell to cell as a way to ensure that he won’t escape a Mexican prison, a senior Mexican government official told CNN on Wednesday.
He is being held at Altiplano prison in Almoloya de Juarez, the same prison he escaped from in July.
Guzman managed to get out of the maximum security facility, authorities said, by making his way down a hole underneath the shower in his cell. Officials said he then hustled into a tunnel that had ventilation and lighting. He jumped on a motorcycle attached to rails and zipped out of the lockup. It was the second escape from a Mexican prison for the man responsible for untold carnage related to his billion-dollar illegal drug empire.
Heavily armed guards now monitor Guzman around the clock, the source said.
Mexico plans to extradite Guzman to the United States, where he faces drug trafficking charges connected to his cartel, authorities said.