While the world focuses on the surprising capture of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and the celebrity interview with actor Sean Penn prior to his arrest, there is one person that is credited with making it all happen: Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. Del Castillo has taken her portrayals of crime bosses on television, including a stint on American TV show Weeds, to real life with her alleged connection to the runaway kingpin.
In 2012, Del Castillo found herself in the centre of social media controversy when she tweeted a message that many took to be one of support for El Chapo. "Today I believe more in El Chapo Guzman than in the governments that hide the truth from me even though it is painful," she tweeted. The 43-year-old actress also asked El Chapo to instead do some good.
She would later tell The Associated Press, "[N]obody understands the irony, the sarcasm and the joke I was making" in the messages posted on Twitter. Apparently, El Chapo did not see the message as ironic, and instead decided to reach out to the actress with flowers.
According to Penn's Rolling Stone essay, El Chapo's representatives attempted to contact her again after his February 2014 arrest. The Sinaloa cartel chief and veteran actress began corresponding through handwritten letters and BlackBerry messages, Penn said. The two continued to communicate, which eventually led to the meeting between Penn and El Chapo.
Questions have arisen regarding Penn's meeting with El Chapo and Del Castillo's involvement. According to The Associated Press, it's unclear whether US and Mexican authorities are investigating the actress, who lives in Los Angeles and has US citizenship. While the two actors were secretive about their meeting with the cartel leader, Del Castillo's contact with El Chapo's attorneys were not as secretive and were detected by Mexican authorities.
"Another important lead that allowed us to locate him, was the discovery that Guzman intended to make a movie about his life," said Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said on 8 December. "To that end, he established communication with actresses and producers ... In fact, the surveillance allowed us to document the meetings between these people and his (El Chapo's) lawyers."