Latin America

Spanish and Argentinean producers also met ‘El Chapo,’ says Mexico

Official sources believe filmmakers went with Sean Penn to meet notorious drug lord

A Spanish and an Argentinean film producer accompanied actors Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo last October during their secret meeting with Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán Loera, official sources in Mexico have revealed.

Spaniard José Ibáñez-Martín Pira and Argentinean Fernando Sulichin traveled to El Chapo’s hideout in the mountains of Durango state with the two stars to discuss the possibility of filming the drug lord’s story.

Neither Ibáñez nor Sulichin were mentioned in Penn’s firsthand account of his meeting with El Chapo published by Rolling Stone magazine on January 9.

Until now, it was believed that Del Castillo, who played a drug trafficker in the popular soap opera La reina del sur (The queen of the south), was the only other person who accompanied Penn during his seven-hour meeting with Guzmán, which included dinner.

United States treasury laws prohibit US citizens and other people with interests in that country from doing business with individuals or companies who have been put on a criminal watch list. Anyone convicted of breaking the sanctions could face up to 10 years in prison.

El Chapo is wanted on murder, drug conspiracy and other charges in at least six federal court jurisdictions in the United States. Mexico has begun extradition proceedings against him.

EL PAÍS has so far been unable to contact Ibáñez and Sulichin for comment.

Both producers are friends of Penn and have ample experience in biographical productions.

For many years, Sulichin was director Oliver Stone’s right-hand man, working with him on Comandante, his 2003 documentary on Cuba’s Fidel Castro, and Alexander, the 2004 epic about Alexander the Great.

Ibáñez, a producer at Spanish production company Pentagrama Films, is also Sulichin’s close friend. Born in Argentina, Ibáñez’s latest project is Stone’s Snowden, based on the life of wanted ex-National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA agent Edward Snowden. He also worked on Maradona by Kusturica (2008), Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s documentary about the Argentinean soccer star, and Comandante.

Last October’s meeting was reportedly set up by Del Castillo, who had been in contact with El Chapo since before the drug lord’s daring escape last July from the maximum security Altiplano prison, where he had been held following his capture in February 2014. Guzmán escaped through a 1,500-meter long tunnel dug beneath his cell.

Mexican authorities were able to track down Guzmán following his contact with Penn and Del Castillo and arrested him in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state on January 8.

Neither Penn nor Del Castillo, who has dual Mexican-US citizenship, have so far been called by Mexican authorities to give a statement. Both could also face a US investigation, but many legal experts have said that is unlikely to happen.

Sources from the Mexican inquiry have said that they could be investigated on charges of harboring criminals.

English version by Martin Delfín .

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