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El Chapo Wants a Say in Netflix's Series About His Life — or He's Suing

According to one of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s lawyers, the drug lord has the right to block both the unauthorized commercial exploitation of his image, and the airing of content that could prejudice his defence against multiple criminal charges.
May 26, 2016, 6:34pm
Foto del governo federale messicano, via AP

A lawyer representing Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán has said that the imprisoned Mexican drug lord will sue Netflix and Univision if they do not obtain his permission to air an upcoming drama series based on his life.

The lawyer said the legal action would reflect Chapo's right to halt the unauthorized commercial use of his name and image, as well as his client's legitimate interest in ensuring the series is not prejudicial to his defense against multiple criminal charges.

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"The señor is not dead and is not public property," lawyer Andrés Granados said of El Chapo during an interview on Radio Fórmula on Thursday. "They need permission to use his name, his alias, or his image."

Netflix and Univision announced on May 17 that they will co-produce a series titled El Chapo. The promotional video features an animation that runs through the history of drug trafficking in Mexico, and ends with a portrait of the kingpin — in red.

"We are thrilled to partner with the award-winning Univision Story House on the timely and globally relevant drama series based on the life story of El Chapo," Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos said on the day of the launch.

Granados said that the companies could easily avoid a "debilitating court battle" over the commercial side of the project by entering into a negotiation. He put most stress, however, over how his client is likely to be portrayed in the series.

"We need to know what they are going to broadcast, and if we don't we are going to fight, we are going to court," Granados said. "Our US lawyer will have to defend his [Chapo's] right to prevent Netflix putting something out there that could totally affect his defense."

Granados is part of the legal team that is currently seeking to get the best possible deal for the leader of the Sinaloa cartel as he faces probable extradition to face trial in US courts.

Screenshot form the Chapo series trailer via YouTube

Mexico's foreign ministry announced last week that it has granted two extradition requests, though appeals by the kingpin's lawyers could still hold the process up for months, or even years.

The Mexican government has been keen to hand Chapo over to the US authorities ever since he was recaptured on January 8, six months after he had escaped from the maximum-security Altiplano prison through a mile-long tunnel beginning in his cell.

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This was his second escape from a supposedly impenetrable Mexican prison. The first, back in 2001, gave him 13 years of freedom. In that time Chapo became the world's most notorious trafficker and a major protagonist in the violence that has ravaged large parts of Mexico over the last decade. That period ended with his first recapture in February 2014.

Related: El Chapo Really Liked to Visit His Mom in the Mountains, Locals Say

Back in prison and planning his second escape, Chapo reportedly began thinking about how he wanted his story told to a mass audience.

Via his lawyers, particularly Granados, the drug lord offered the rights to his biography to Mexican actress Kate del Castillo who made a major impression on him as the star of the telenovela La Reina del Sur, or the Queen of the South, about a female capo.

Del Castillo enthusiastically embraced the idea of making a movie about Chapo, and the project continued to develop even after his second escape from prison in July 2015.

The actress would later say that the movie project was behind her decision to take Hollywood actor Sean Penn to meet the fugitive kingpin in a jungle hideout in October. She said she then felt betrayed by Penn when it became clear that his hidden intention was to turn the encounter into an article in Rolling Stone, which was published the day after Chapo was recaptured.

Related: Sean Penn, Who? — The Leaked Messages Between El Chapo and Kate del Castillo

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman