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

In the week since Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was sent back to the prison from which he escaped in July, a cascade of revelations has shown drug trafficking infamy to be inextricably mixed up with Hollywood celebrity culture.

by Saana Ihamäki
Jan 15 2016, 8:55pm

Photo by Hans-Maximo Musielik

Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was recaptured exactly a week ago, almost six months after he escaped from a maximum-security prison through a mile-long tunnel from his cell.

Every day since then information has emerged about the hunt for the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, which has shown drug trafficking infamy to be inextricably mixed up with Hollywood celebrity culture. Meanwhile, the kingpin is back in the same prison he broke out of, fighting US efforts to extradite him to face trial in US courts.

Here is a timeline of an extraordinary week in which the potential impact of Chapo's arrest on either the movement of drugs, or the extreme violence associated with Mexico's drug wars, has hardly made the news.

Related: Why Chapo's Capture Won't Stop the Flow of Weed, Meth, Cocaine, and Heroin

Friday January 8: The Mexican navy tracks El Chapo to a safe house in a suburban area of Los Mochis, a northern city in the state of Sinaloa. A predawn raid on the house triggers a shootout in which five cartel hitmen are killed and one soldier is injured. Several other people are arrested.

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and his head of security flee the building through a hidden tunnel behind a mirror that leads to the city's storm drainage and sewer systems. The two fugitives resurface and hijack an automobile in which they attempt to leave the city. They are stopped thanks to a stolen car report. Officials take them to a nearby love motel while they wait for reinforcements.

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

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announces the capture of the world's most wanted drug lord with a tweet that begins "Mission Accomplished." Congratulatory messages from US authorities roll in.

After nightfall Chapo Guzmán is frog marched in front of the media at Mexico City airport and then flown in a caravan of helicopters to the maximum-security Altiplano Prison — the same prison that he had escaped from on July 11.

Attorney General Arely Goméz says the capture was the result of Mexican intelligence prowess. She reveals that Chapo wanted to make a biopic about himself, and that intelligence services had monitored meetings of his lawyers with actors and producers. She says this intelligence helped locate the fugitive drug lord.

Related: Chapo's Return to Prison: The Hunt, the Biopic, and a Weakness for Tunnels

Saturday January 9: The Mexican government says it wants to extradite Chapo to the United States but only after the full judicial process has been completed. The case will provide the drug lord's lawyers with multiple opportunities to halt the process with injunctions. The government clarifies that it is already processing two extradition requests received shortly before and after his escape in July.

Rolling Stone publishes an extensive article written by Hollywood actor Sean Penn about a seven-hour encounter he had with Chapo while the drug lord was on the run. He says they drank tequila and ate tacos while the kingpin boasted that he trafficked "more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anyone else in the world." Penn says they also chatted about the kingpin's mother, and reveals details about his own "minor traveler's flatulence."

Penn writes that the interview was brokered by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who is most famous for her role as a drug boss in the telenovela, La Reina del Sur. He says that Del Castillo and Chapo began corresponding after she published an open letter that some understood as sympathetic to the drug lord.

Chapo's meeting with Penn and Del Castillo took place on October 2, three days before navy special forces very nearly caught up with him in a mountain raid. A government official tells The Associated Press that surveillance of the actors triggered that operation. 

Related: Sean Penn Interviewed El Chapo — And It Helped Lead to the Drug Lord's Capture

Sunday January 10: Chapo is formally notified of the two extradition requests already in process that were put on hold until his recapture. The government says the crimes named in the requests include conspiracy to distribute cocaine, organized crime, money laundering, murder, and the possession of firearms.

Kate del Castillo tells Univision that "everything [will happen] when and how it should. Don't call me again."

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

Monday January 11: A high government official says that Chapo is likely to be able to fight off extradition to the US for years.

More details emerge about the surveillance of Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn ahead of their meeting with Chapo on October 2. Mexican newspaper El Universal publishes leaked photographs of Del Castillo and Penn that it says show them in the central city of Guadalajara before they head to their secret rendezvous with the drug lord. The paper also publishes pictures of Del Castillo at meetings with Chapo's lawyers a week before, and says the actress had been under surveillance for her communication with Chapo from at least August 2014.

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

Mexico's Attorney General Arely Gómez says that the meeting with Penn and Del Castillo on October 2 "put us right there where everything was happening" and paved the way for the navy operation that almost nabbed the kingpin on October 6.

Penn tells the AP that he has "nothin' to hide" during a brief email exchange.

Mexican TV network Televisa broadcasts a 15-minute GoPro video that shows navy operatives entering the safe house where Guzmán had been hiding before he slipped the raid by heading into the drains. The video includes shots of heavily armed personnel entering a room where Del Castillo's telenovela La Reina del Sur, appears to be playing on a television.

Related: Mexico Says It Wants to Extradite Chapo and Predicts a Long Legal Battle With His Lawyers

Tuesday January 12: The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property turned down an application to register "El Chapo Guzmán" as a trademark as part of the kingpin's biopic plans, according to the Televisa TV network. Others report that an earlier similar trademark registration was successful in 2011.

Wednesday January 13: Leaked mobile phone messages between Chapo and Kate del Castillo suggest the drug lord was developing an infatuation with the actress. The messages, published in the newspaper Milenio and dating from before and after their meeting in October, show that Chapo had not heard of Sean Penn before they met.

The government denies claims by Chapo's defense team that the drug lord is being held incommunicado without access to his lawyers or family.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong says Chapo will be returned to the cell where he was held at the time of his escape, but only after the tunnel leading a mile from his shower stall is completely blocked up.

Kate del Castillo promises that she is preparing to give her version of events in a tweet — it is her first statement since the Rolling Stone article appeared.

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

Thursday January 14: Mexican Newspaper El Universal cites anonymous intelligence sources to report that, in addition to the movie about Chapo Guzmán's life, Kate del Castillo and the drug lord were planning other types of joint business projects in Delaware. It claims that these are being investigated by the Department of the US Treasury and the Mexican attorney general's office.

The paper also reveals that the two film producers who accompanied Del Castillo and Penn to meet El Chapo on October 2 were Fernando Javier Sulichin and Jose Ibañez-Martín Pira. Sulichin has a history of collaboration with Hollywood director Oliver Stone.

Friday January 15: A week after the capture, Sean Penn appears in a clip from the iconic American news show 60 Minutes, ahead of a full interview to be broadcast on Sunday. The actor accuses the Mexican government of deliberately putting him at risk by overplaying the importance of his meeting with Chapo in the hunt for the fugitive. He also claims that his intention in writing an article was to "start a conversation" about the war on drugs.

A movie inspired by El Chapo's prison escape in July is released in cinemas around Mexico titled The Escape of the Century. Director Axel Uriegas says that the timing is coincidental and that nobody associated with the drug lord had anything to do with the movie.

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

Jo Tuckman and Gabriela Gorbea contributed to this report

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