World News Blog

Insight and analysis from around the world with Channel 4 News's team of international correspondents.

January 10, 2016 1 Comment

How did Sean Penn track ‘El Chapo’ down?

By Guillermo Galdos

In 2012 when I decided to try to find ‘El Chapo’ Guzman it took me months of negotiations before getting access to the heart of the Sinaloa Cartel. Around that same time Kate del Castillo – a Mexican actress that works in Hollywood – tweeted that she trusted more ‘El Chapo’ than the Mexican President.

Her words echoed all over Mexico. I remember talking with one of Guzman’s advisors about it. It was the best bit of publicity the cartel had ever got. They felt some sort of approval and blessing coming from one of Mexico’s most beautiful actresess. In a Macho country Kate del Castillo’s words were honey for Guzman’s ears and it helped strengthen his image.

Guzman could buy anything he wanted with his fortune but his ego was bigger than his billions.


Having completed only the second year of primary school. ‘El Chapo’ is not a man of many words. His interview shows that. It was clearly filmed at the top of the mountains in the golden triangle of Mexico, the same place where I spent months filming with his cartel. You can see he is nervous, even a bit uncomfortable as if he was being forced to speak, paying a favour to a woman that he admired and that ultimately will cost him his freedom.

The war to replace ‘El Chapo’ started before he escaped from prison last July. At least 15 of his people that I met filming the documentary have been killed in the last 6 months. Not by the authorities but by other factions within the same cartel. The king was not the king anymore. Things had changed.

For years ‘El Chapo’ did not run from the authorities but from his narco enemies, but since he ridiculed the Mexican government after his spectacular escape from a maximum security prison – ‘El Chapo’ was hunted by both. His detention means nothing for the war on drugs if the authorities don’t go after the lawyers, the bankers, the corporations and the politicians that allowed a peasant to turn into the most powerful criminal on earth.

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