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Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo in hot water over meeting with El Chapo

As the world digests the bizarre tale of Sean Penn and his mountaintop meeting with the recently recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, many are left wondering what comes next for the Hollywood actor and the woman who made it possible. 

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Sean Penn's trip to meet El Chapo

Rolling Stone magazine publish an interview with drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman along with actor Sean Penn's article describing his secret meeting with the fugitive last year.

The now-infamous story of Penn, Guzman and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, was the cornerstone of an exclusive article written by Penn for Rolling Stone magazine, and has dominated the gaze of US and Mexican authorities following Guzman's recapture last week. 

The tale has quickly become one of life imitating art for the Mexican actress, who is best known for her own role as a "drug lordess" in The Queen of the South, a television series based on a book by Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers ...
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is made to face the press as he is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers and marines. Photo: AP

Del Castillo is also known for her role as a mobster in the US television series Weeds.

An unnamed official said that Penn and del Castillo were wanted for questioning "to determine responsibilities" after the "seven-hour sit-down" with the drug lord, the culmination of months of negotiations led by del Castillo, who first came into contact with Guzman in 2012. 

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It was unclear whether they had committed a crime but the agency quoted a second official as saying: "They're not journalists."

However, legal experts say Penn is unlikely to face legal issues over the interview and article because merely speaking to the drug lord "would not provide a basis for any criminal action". 

Mexican actress Kate del Castillo is credited as having set up the secret meeting between Sean Penn and Joaquin 'El ...
Mexican actress Kate del Castillo is credited as having set up the secret meeting between Sean Penn and Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman. Photo: AP

"The fact that he's acting as a journalist, if anything, would be even more helpful in showing that he wasn't engaged in some conspiracy," New York free speech attorney Floyd Abrams told the ABC.

Mexican authorities say they knew about the meeting at the time and used it to establish Guzman's whereabouts, suggesting that Penn's attempts to "destroy, burn, buy" and maintain electronic anonymity were unsuccessful.

Sean Penn, who is wanted for questioning by Mexican authorities, following his secret jungle meeting with the world's ...
Sean Penn, who is wanted for questioning by Mexican authorities, following his secret jungle meeting with the world's most wanted drug lord. Photo: Getty Images

In the days following, an operation to capture Guzman was aborted, because he was with two women and a young girl.

The Mexican Navy later traced him to Los Mochis in his home state of Sinaloa, where they tracked him for about a month before Friday's shoot-out that led to his capture and the death of five of his associates.

<em>The New York Times </em>has published a <em>Rolling Stone</em> photo of Sean Penn with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
The New York Times has published a Rolling Stone photo of Sean Penn with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Photo: Rolling Stone

He was caught after trying to flee through a network of drains.

Mexican authorities said they would begin the process of extraditing Guzman to the US, reversing their previous refusal to send him to America.

First look at El Chapo

Drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is presented to media as he will likely be extradited to the US, according to an anonymous Mexican government official.

In the days following the release of the Rolling Stone article, the magazine has been criticised for allowing Guzman apparent veto power over the content of Penn's piece and for co-operating in keeping his location secret.

"An understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject's approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes," the magazine wrote at the top of the interview.

Del Castillo was critical to the eventual meeting of the two, because of a relationship she had struck up with Guzman in 2012. 

The drug lord reached out to the star after she tweeted a message revealing her support for Guzman over the Mexican government.

"Mr. Chapo, wouldn't it be cool that you started trafficking with love? With cures for diseases, with food for the homeless children ... Imagine trafficking with corrupt politicians instead of women and children who end up as slaves ... Come on, Don! You would be the hero of heroes. Let's traffic with love."

While he was imprisoned at the time, Guzman used his lawyers to contact del Castillo, and began communicating with her to ask her to help make a movie about his life.

In October last year, when del Castillo and Penn eventually met the drug lord after months of negotiations, Guzman welcomed her "like a daughter returning from college", Penn wrote.

The journey to the meeting involved a self-financed charter flight to mid-Mexico, a ride in an SUV convoy, another plane trip and a seven-hour drive in trucks through "dense, mountainous jungle".

"[Guzman] walks us to a picnic table; we are offered drinks. We sit in the low illumination of some string lights, but the perimeter falls into abrupt darkness. I see no more than 30 or 35 people. (El Chapo later confided to El Alto that, out of sight, another hundred of his soldiers were present in the immediate area)," Penn wrote.

On Sunday, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said he had read news accounts of Penn's interview and referred to Guzman's proud declaration in the article that he supplied "more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world".

"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," Mr McDonough said on CNN's State of the Union.

"We see a heroin epidemic, an opioid addiction epidemic, in this country," Mr 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."

Mr McDonough would not comment on repercussions for Penn, who interviewed him.

With The Telegraph, London and AAP