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Sean Penn regrets El Chapo interview failed to spur drug debate

January 15, 2016

WASHINGTON — Hollywood actor Sean Penn has expressed regret that the article he wrote after interviewing Mexican drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán failed to spark a debate about the U.S. war on drugs.

In an excerpt of the interview broadcast Friday, Penn said his goal in meeting with Guzmán was to shine a light on America’s role in the international drug trade.

“We are the consumer. Whether you agree with Sean Penn or not, there is a complicity there,” Penn told journalist Charlie Rose, in an interview scheduled to air in full Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes.”

“If you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs,” the actor said. “How much time have they spent in the last week since this article came talking about that?”

Penn added: “I have a regret that the entire discussion about this article ignores its purpose, which was to try to contribute to this discussion about the policy in the war on drugs.”

His interview was published last Saturday in Rolling Stone, triggering a barrage of criticism, including condemnation of Penn himself.

Among other things, the ire has centered on Penn’s letting Guzmán review the piece before it ran; seeming to glorify — or at least go easy on — a man blamed for thousands of deaths in Mexico’s drug-related violence and contributing to drug addiction in America.

Other critics fault him with having engaged in gonzo journalism while real reporters covering the drug trade in Mexico risk their lives daily.

Penn challenged the Mexican government’s assertion that the interview — held in an undisclosed location in Mexico — helped the authorities track down Guzmán, who was captured the day before the article was published.

“There is this myth about the visit that we made, my colleagues and I with El Chapo, that it was — as the attorney general of Mexico is quoted — ‘essential’ to his capture,” the actor said.

“We had met with him many weeks earlier … on October 2, in a place nowhere near where he was captured.”

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