As a former Drug Enforcement Administration supervisory agent, I watched the Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman soap opera unfold with a growing sense of disbelief. As the uproar from Sean Penn’s misguided meeting with one of the world’s most wanted criminals begins to subside, I can only shake my head and wonder, in a contest between dumb and dumber, who is more misguided and who has the bigger ego?
El Chapo is supposedly a brilliant criminal mastermind. But I’m not sure that is an accurate description.
While on the lam, El Chapo was most worried about being treated for erectile dysfunction and who was going to portray him in the movies.
He is a stone-cold sociopath whose organization brutalized, tortured and killed countless men, women and children. The actions of his cartel not only terrorized the people in his home country, but exported misery and suffering all over the world.
He is certainly rich, commanding a cartel generating billions in a country where the average bank robbery nets about a hundred bucks. He also commands unquestioning loyalty. Most of his bodyguards got killed defending their boss when he was finally recaptured. Only El Chapo and his most trusted bodyguard escaped with their lives.
But was he a criminal mastermind? Please. With his unlimited resources, he pulled off the impossible great escape and managed to hide under the noses of authorities for months. While on the lam, El Chapo was most worried about being treated for erectile dysfunction and who was going to portray him in the movies.
El Chapo and Mexican television star Kate Castillo had been corresponding for quite some time about bringing the story of his life to the screen. So who did this brain trust come up with?
Sean Penn is the one actor in Hollywood who actually IS on the radar of many three-letter agencies.
Sean Penn is the one actor in Hollywood who actually IS on the radar of a number of three-letter agengies and pretty much every government agency you can think of, not to mention every counterintelligence agency on the planet. They all follow his travels with great interest, given his long-time desire to publicly align himself with third-world dictators and unsavory regimes in places like Venezuela, Iran and South America. The actor’s long-winded account of their meeting, complete with photo, appeared in Rolling Stone the day after El Chapo was captured.
The timing could not have been more convenient. It was immediately reported that this “secret” meeting was key to the eventual capture of El Chapo. Though this was hotly denied by all parties, I know it was true. Having been a DEA agent for years, I know exactly how these operations work. The truth is that the Mexican government had excellent intelligence on where the fugitive was back in October, when the actual meeting took place. The problem was that El Chapo was constantly in the close company of women and children, and the authorities held back in order to keep them safe. The release of the numerous flirty texts between the drug trafficker and the actor is proof enough he was always in their sights.
In the uproar that followed El Chapo’s capture and publication of his article, Sean Penn was forced to defend himself. His mindset appeared to be that the cartel guys don’t really do anything wrong, they’re simply fulfilling a demand. The real problem, he intimated, is the demand on the part of American consumers. His intention, he claimed, was to open a dialogue on how the U.S. conducts its war on drugs. Facing a huge backlash, the actor was eventually forced to admit, “my article failed.”
Mr. Penn has a point about the voracious appetite the American public has for illegal drugs.
During my career as a federal drug agent, I represented the DEA in over 60 foreign countries. I witnessed the devastation left in the wake of the drug trade in those countries, including the U.S. These experiences were not from afar, but up close and personal. There is nobody lower than a drug peddler. That being said, I will concede that Mr. Penn has a point about the voracious appetite the American public has for illegal drugs. I would acknowledge the need for serious and substantive discussion of our drug problem and policies. But did he really think the best way to tackle this was head down to Mexico to meet public enemy #1, shake hands with the guy, and cater to his ego with a discussion of his life story?
So I’m not sure who’s got the bigger ego here. Is it the Hollywood actor, who seriously didn’t think he was being carefully tracked after decades of activism? Or is it El Chapo, who seemed to actually believe that he could meet up with Sean Penn and no one would be the wiser?
In any case, the meeting didn’t end well for either, and cost El Chapo his freedom. The Mexican President recently announced that they are working to extradite him to the U.S. as soon as possible. It is my fervent desire that he is soon buried deep in the bowels of the toughest federal supermax prison there is… without a tunnel in sight.
2016 tax scams: Impersonating federal agents, police officers, & fake 911 caller ID