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"Grotesque" Penn led police to "braggadocious" drug lord

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Mexican officials say Sean Penn’s contacts with drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman helped them track the fugitive down – even if he slipped away from an initial raid on the hideout where the Hollywood actor apparently met him.

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Penn’s article on Guzman was published on the weekend by Rolling Stone magazine, a day after Mexican marines captured the world’s most wanted kingpin in the city of Los Mochis.

Penn wrote of elaborate security precautions, but also said that as he flew to Mexico on October 2 for the meeting, “I see no spying eyes, but I assume they are there.”

He was apparently right.

…it poses a lot of very interesting questions both for him and others involved in this so-called interview

A Mexican federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to comment, told the Associated Press that the Penn interview led authorities to Guzman in the area of Tamazula.

They raided Guzman’s remote hideout a few days after the interview and narrowly missed capturing Guzman, whose escaped from Mexico’s top security prison in July.

Attorney General Arely Gomez said that investigators had been aided in locating Guzman by documented contacts between his lawyers and “actors and producers” she said were interested in making a film about him, though she did not name them.

Marines finally caught Guzman in a residential neighbourhood of Los Mochis, where they’d been monitoring a suspected safe house.

Five people died in a gun battle as troops moved in.

In the interview, Guzman defends his work at the head of the world’s biggest drug trafficking organisation.

When asked if he is to blame for high addiction rates, he responds: “No, that is false, because the day I don’t exist, it’s not going to decrease in any way at all.”

Penn wrote that Guzman was interested in having a movie filmed on his life and wanted Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who had portrayed a drug trafficker in a television series, involved in the project.

There was no immediate response from representatives for either Penn or del Castillo to the Mexican official’s comments.

Earlier, a federal law enforcement official said that Mexico is willing to extradite Guzman to the United States.

But he cautioned it could take at least six months to approve extradition through courts, where Guzman’s lawyers can battle a move to the US, where he faces drug trafficking charges in several states.

MEXICO, Mexico City: Infamous drug kingpin Joaquin El Chapo Guzman is presented to the media in Mexico City shortly after his arrest in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico on January 8, 2015. His arrest comes nearly six months after his escape from Mexico's Altiplano prison in July 2015 — his second prison break in 14 years. While El Chapo has been returned to Altiplano prison, he now faces numerous drug charges in the US. (AAP Image/NEWZULU/AMEYALLI DIAZ). NO ARCHIVING, CROWD SOURCED CONTENT, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman is presented to the media in Mexico City shortly after his arrest. Photo: AMEYALLI DIAZ, NewZulu, AAP.

A senior Obama administration official called the Mexican drug lord’s boasts about his heroin empire “maddening” but would not comment on repercussions for Penn.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, appearing on Sunday television news shows, said he had read news accounts of the interview in which Guzman said he was the world’s largest supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

“One thing I will tell you is that this braggadocious action about how much heroin he sends around the world, including the United States, is maddening,” McDonough said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“We see a heroin epidemic, an opioid addiction epidemic, in this country,” McDonough said.

“We’re going to stay on top of this with our Mexican counterparts until we get that back in the box. But El Chapo’s behind bars – that’s where he should stay.”

President Barack Obama plans to address the country’s heroin epidemic in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, the White House has said.

Guzman, boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in Mexico on Friday morning and sent back to the prison he broke out of in July.

A Mexican government source has said authorities are considering whether to investigate Penn and a Mexican actress who helped him.

McDonough would not say whether the US would hand Penn over to Mexico for questioning.

“Well, it poses a lot of very interesting questions both for him and for others involved in this so-called interview, so we’ll see what happens on that – I’m not gonna get ahead of it,” McDonough said.

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, on ABC’s This Week, had harsh words for Penn.

“If one of these American actors who have benefited from the greatness of this country, who have made money from our free enterprise system, want to go fawn all over a criminal and a drug trafficker in their interviews, they have a constitutional right to do it,” Rubio said.

“(But) I find it grotesque.”

AP/Reuters

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