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Kate del Castillo Was 'Stabbed in the Back' by Sean Penn Over El Chapo

Despite remaining almost silent herself, people linked to the telenovela actress say she is being scapegoated by the Mexican government and was betrayed by Sean Penn as he desperately sought an interview for his article in Rolling Stone.
Photo by José Méndez and Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

The Mexican telenovela actress at the center of a storm over her links with drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán has said almost nothing herself, but those around her are insisting that she is being scapegoated by the authorities, and was betrayed by actor Sean Penn.

Kate del Castillo, who also holds US nationality and lives in Los Angeles, is currently under investigation in Mexico. The details of the possible charges have not been formally released, though it has been widely reported they would be linked to money laundering, either in connection with her intention of making a film about El Chapo's life, or more tentative evidence that she was seeking his backing for her tequila brand.


Related: Kate Del Castillo Wanted to Make Tequila With El Chapo

"Money laundering, it's absurd, there is no money laundering," her US lawyer Harland Braun told VICE News this week.

Braun admitted that while there had been "some talk" about the tequila brand — which was clear in the flirty mobile phone messages between the actress, the drug lord, and one of his lawyers that were leaked to the Mexican press last month — he insisted there was never any financial deal or transaction.

They lawyer said it was also obvious that no money had changed hands in the case of the film that he said was her only motive for her contact with El Chapo.

"It was going to be the Mexican equivalent of The Godfather," he said of the film. "He [El Chapo] wasn't going to make any money, he doesn't need any money, and he wasn't allowed to invest in it, she wouldn't allow him. She's smart enough to know you can't do that."

Watch VICE News: Cashing in on El Chapo

The communication between Del Castillo and El Chapo began before his spectacular escape from maximum-security prison last July, and continued during the six-month period he was on the run before his recapture on January 8.

It was first revealed in the article Hollywood actor Sean Penn wrote in Rolling Stone about meeting the drug lord in a mountain hideout in October that was published the day after he was arrested. Penn said that Del Castillo brokered the meeting and was close to the drug lord.


Her lawyer, however, says Del Castillo had no knowledge of the article "until it was too late."

Rather, he said, Penn had insisted on meeting the drug lord after hearing about the movie project, and only revealed his intention to write about it once they were in El Chapo's presence, along with two producers associated with Oliver Stone who he had told about his deal with Rolling Stone and who also traveled to meet the kingpin.

"He [Penn] concealed that from her completely as did the other two, who were producers that she had brought in on the project," Braun said. "They stabbed her in the back. She didn't know about it."

Related: How Kate Del Castillo Became the Rebel Celebrity Who Took Sean Penn to 'Chapo'

This version of events is also supported by a rather less likely source — the renowned investigative journalist and feminist Lydia Cacho who has talked to Del Castillo and said that the only thing she can be accused of is being a bit naive.

"It was Sean Penn who asked for and demanded the meeting because he desperately wanted an interview with El Chapo," Cacho told Univisión. "Once he'd used her to contact El Chapo, Sean got rid of Kate."

Cacho says that the subsequent article then fed into what she calls the "lynching" of Del Castillo by the Mexican government.

"Kate obviously feels very scared. She can't understand why the government is launching such vicious attacks against her," Cacho said of the actress whose highest profile role was in the TV series about a female drug boss called La Reina del Sur, or the Queen of the South.


The journalist speculated that the government, with the help of the media, is pursuing Del Castillo in order to divert attention from unanswered questions still hanging over the drug lord's arrest, such as the possibility that the authorities caught up with him because of luck, rather than because of sophisticated intelligence. Cacho also wonders whether the government is worried that the actress might reveal compromising information about corruption that she learned from the kingpin.

Meanwhile, Del Castillo obtained a preliminary injunction from a Mexican court on Wednesday that requires the attorney general's office to ensure that information about its investigation into the actress does not reach the public domain. The injunction argues that this would compromise her ability to defend herself.

Related: Here's Everything You Need To Know About What's Happened Since El Chapo's Recapture

The actress also received a show of support this week from one of El Chapo's lawyers.

José Refugio Rodríguez told Radio Fórmula on Thursday that he "was sure" that the kingpin would testify that he had never given any money to Del Castillo if asked to.

He said that during a recent meeting with Chapo in prison, they had talked about the actress being "in the eye of the hurricane" and the capo had commented, "It is a lie that she ever received one peso from me, I never gave her a single peso."

Del Castillo herself, meanwhile, finally broke her public silence on Wednesday for the first time since she tweeted on January 13 that people were making up lies about her in the name of a good story.

"I want to thank everyone for their support, it means the world to me during this time," she said in the new Tweet, in both Spanish and English.

I want to thank everyone for their support, it means the world to me during this time.
Gracias… — kate del castillo (@katedelcastillo)February 11, 2016

Related: After El Chapo: The World's 10 Most Wanted Drug Lords

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman