Mexican-born American actress Kate del Castillo said she doubted that a visit she and Sean Penn paid to then-fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman’s hideout last year led to his capture and did not believe anyone in their group informed Mexican authorities of his whereabouts.
Instead, she told Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui in an interview with CNN en Español, the second part of which was aired Wednesday night, that the Sinaloa cartel chief was likely caught because he “got careless.”
A group comprising Del Castillo, Penn and some film producers met on Oct. 2, 2015, with Guzman after a small plane flight and a seven-hour car journey with one of the drug lord’s sons at the wheel.
At the hideout, Penn interviewed Guzman for a Rolling Stone article that was published on Jan. 9, a day after the fugitive was captured, and which named Del Castillo as the person who had arranged their meeting.
The actress says Penn misled her by keeping his plans for the article secret until they were at Guzman’s hideout, while Penn insists he was always up front with Del Castillo from the moment he approached her about visiting the drug lord.
The actress, who has lived for several years in Los Angeles and has dual Mexican and U.S. citizenship, told Aristegui there were holes in the Mexican government’s theory that their meeting with Guzman – and the text messages she exchanged with him both before and after the visit – helped authorities recapture him.
“I think that if it were really us, then why did they wait so long to catch him?” Del Castillo said.
She also vehemently denied providing information about El Chapo to the Mexican authorities and said she did not believe that Penn or the producers did either, because “that would be putting everyone at risk.”
Asked if it had occurred to her that the Mexican authorities might have known about her contacts with Guzman and been following her to the meeting, she acknowledged that if that were the case then she had been used as “bait.”
In the first part of the interview, aired Tuesday night, Del Castillo reiterated that her only objective in meeting with the Sinaloa cartel chief was to discuss a film about Guzman’s life, a project she says is still in the works.
Del Castillo said in a recent interview with The New Yorker that El Chapo got in contact with her through his attorneys before escaping from a maximum-security prison in July 2015 and gave her the rights to a potential biopic.
Guzman sought her out after Del Castillo posted a message on Twitter in 2012 expressing disgust with Mexico’s government and urging the drug lord to use his power and influence for the good of the country.
The actress reiterated in the interview that Mexican Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong had contacted her through a friend and told her not to move forward with plans for the El Chapo biopic, telling Aristegui the message was “rather intimidating.”
Nevertheless, Del Castillo said she had no plans to abandon the project, adding that Penn would definitely not be the lead actor and that the role would be a good fit for Mexican actress Bruno Bichir.
Del Castillo said she did not fear the Sinaloa cartel would blame her for capturing its leader and retaliate against her.
“Do you know why I’m not afraid? Because I know that (Guzman) was honest with me .. and I know he trusts me and … put his life at risk for me,” she said.
But the actress, who is being investigated by Mexican federal prosecutors for allegedly accepting illicit money from Guzman for a tequila company she represents, said she did fear the Mexican government wanted to “get back at” her and continue spotlighting her ties with the drug lord instead of “looking at really important problems.”
El Chapo escaped last July through a 1.5-kilometer-long (0.9-mile-long) tunnel dug to his prison cell but was recaptured on Jan. 8 in his home state of Sinaloa and sent back to the same prison outside Mexico City.
He had earlier broken out of a prison in the western state of Jalisco in 2001 and spent more than 13 years on the run before being recaptured on Feb. 22, 2014, in the Pacific resort city of Mazatlan.
Under his command, the Sinaloa cartel rose to become one of the main sources of illicit drugs entering the United States, and the Mexican kingpin’s wealth led to his name regularly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of global billionaires.
Guzman, who had been one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives, faces dozens of drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges in federal courts in Arizona, Texas, California, Illinois, Florida and New York.