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

A series of flirtatious mobile phone messages between the drug lord and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, when he was still a fugitive, appear to show him both somewhat careless with his security, as well as ignorant of Hollywood royalty.
Photo via VICE News

A series of flirtatious mobile phone messages between Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, appear to show the then fugitive drug lord being somewhat careless with his security, as well as ignorant of Hollywood pecking orders.

The messages date from before last Friday's dramatic recapture of Chapo after he spent six months on the run. They are spread over a period of weeks that begins a few days before his now notorious October meeting with Sean Penn that was brokered by Castillo and led to a controversial article in Rolling Stone.


A Mexican official confirmed the authenticity of the messages that were originally leaked to Mexican newspaper Milenio.

They suggest that Mexico's most notorious drug kingpin was less interested in speaking with the Oscar-winning actor — whom he doesn't appear to have heard of — than the chance to see Del Castillo in person.

"I really want to meet you and become very good friends. You're the best thing in the world," he writes in one message from September, using the handle Papa.

Guzmán urges the actress to visit him at his hideout in the hills of Sinaloa, less than three months after escaping from a maximum security prison in Mexico for the second time in his criminal career.

"Have faith that you'll be comfortable," the message reads. "I'll watch you closer than my own eyes."

The actress who, along with Penn, became surreally entangled in the hunt for El Chapo, says she feels "protected for the first time."

"I'm so moved you say you'll look after me. No one ever has," she writes in the thread that unfolds on September 25. "Thank you! I'm free next weekend!"

And the following Friday, October 2, she and Penn travelled to a safe-house in Sinaloa to meet with Guzmán — floridly described in the actor's 11,000-word story in Rolling Stone. The article was published last Saturday, the day after Chapo was captured in the coastal city of Los Mochis.

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


Guzmán's attorney, Andrés Granados, facilitates the first message exchange. When Del Castillo departs from the conversation the lawyer and his boss discuss getting her a special cellphone for her communications with the drug lord.

In the messages, Chapo and his lawyer extensively discuss which phone to buy — "the nicest to look at" for the best price.

They settle on a Blackberry. But the capo — who specifically asked for a phone "in a woman's color" — shows disappointment when his attorney repeatedly informs him that they don't make it in pink.

The same conversation shows Guzmán apparently not sure who Sean Penn is, after Del Castillo tells him the actor has a "very important message he wants to give you in person."

The lawyer informs the kingpin that, "This actor, fun fact, is the most well-known is the US," and that "He's the one who is drooling to come here."

Guzmán asks, several times, "What's that actor's name?" And his attorney rattles off a list of movie titles, and release years, none of which seem to register.

"Have her bring the actor," Chapo orders. "If she needs to bring more people, bring them. As she wishes."

Penn wrote that at the initial meeting, he and Del Castillo made plans to meet Guzmán again eight days later for an extensive interview. But the plan unraveled, as navy-led raids came sweeping through Sinaloa days after the clandestine meeting.

Guzmán narrowly escaped a swoop on a high mountain hamlet on October 6 in which the government said navy helicopters had him in their sights but did not shoot because he was with a woman and a child. The operation also caused hundreds of residents to flee their homes alleging that they had been directly shot at in their homes.


Related: The Actress Who Linked Up Sean Penn with El Chapo Was Under Surveillance Since 2014

The communication between Del Castillo and Guzmán published in Milenio resumes on October 10, after an 11-day interruption.

"Good morning, amiga," the drug lord writes. "Sorry, I was sleeping."

After weeks of messages, Chapo's tone with Del Castillo becomes notably less reserved. He calls her "the hottest and most beautiful woman in the world" in one message at the end of October. "My mom wants to meet you," he says in another. "I told her about you."

The text messages support other newly-leaked surveillance of Del Castillo's movements published in the El Universal on Monday. The paper included photographs that purportedly show Del Castillo meeting with Chapo's lawyers and then receiving a mobile from them on September 26. It also shows her and Penn said to be arriving at Guadalajara airport on October 2, ahead of their journey to meet Chapo that night.

The Mexican government has said that Del Castillo's communications and contact with Guzmán and his lawyers helped the security forces track him down in the manhunt that ended with him back in the same jail he escaped from in July.

The last text in the latest leaks came from Del Castillo on November 9.

"[Sean Penn] has already written the article, and guaranteed the cover we talked about," the message says. "Now you just have to approve it before it's published!"


Del Castillo released her first reaction to the furore unleashed by the Penn interview and the subsequent leaks of her communications with the drug lord on Wednesday evening.

"Thank you for your support over the past days," she tweeted in Spanish and English. "Not surprisingly, many have chosen to make up items they think will make good stories and that aren't truthful. I look forward to sharing my story with you."

— kate del castillo (@katedelcastillo)January 13, 2016

Related: In Photos: The Safe House Where the Navy Caught Up With El Chapo

Follow Andrea Noel on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk