In Mexico City, El Chapo and Sean Penn are a Hollywood farce

In Mexico City, El Chapo and Sean Penn are a Hollywood farce
Photo by Teresa Puente

MEXICO CITY - The faces of actors Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo have been plastered all over the newspapers this week in Mexico City.

Castillo, a well known Mexican actress who played a drug queen in a telenovela, helped Penn arrange an interview with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman that was published in Rolling Stone magazine over the weekend.

In the United States, much of the controversy has been around whether Penn is a journalist and how Rolling Stone gave El Chapo approval to review the piece, an unethical practice in journalism.

Some journalists, including Alfredo Corchado, have said Penn insults the memory of Mexican journalists who have been slain by narcotraffickers  trying to cover that story.

But on the streets here most people think this is just the latest example of how the Mexican government has failed again.

They aren't surprised that the actors could communicate with El Chapo after he escaped through a $5 million tunnel from a supermax jail in July. The Mexican authorities reportedly recaptured the drug lord only after following Penn's trail.

"There is no faith in the government," Gustavo Flores, 34, told me. "I mean how do we even know if this is the real Chapo?"

Jorge Velazquez, 68, a newspaper salesman thinks it's all about money. El Chapo wanted to talk to Penn and Castillo about making a biopic of his life.

"All they wanted was to gain fame and to make money," Velazquez said.

Some question whether the actors should have communicated with a man who has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Mexicans. He also was named Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1 by the Chicago Crime Commission in 2013 and his network dominates the drug trade in Chicago.

"He doesn't deserve a movie. He's a delinquent, an assassin," said Saul Alvarez, 17, who was selling watches in the historic center of Mexico City.

But some Mexicans admit to admiring El Chapo.

Irene Ramirez, 32, a nurse, said El Chapo is one of the most important people in Mexico.

"He has done more for this country than Peña Nieto," referring to the current Mexican president. "I mean he helps people, economically speaking."

Mexicans are hurting as the peso is weak at almost 18 pesos per dollar.  They blame a corrupt government that hasn't done much to improve the economy. They complain about crime, kidnappings and lack of opportunity. The Mexican president's approval rating is around 34 percent, a new low after El Chapo's summer escape.

Cristian Alvarez, 26, thinks this latest El Chapo twist is almost comical and like a work of fiction.

"It's all a farce," he said of the story of El Chapo, his capture, escapes, recapture and brushes with Hollywood.

"It's like that movie, "The Perfect Dictatorship," Alvarez said about the 2014 film depicting how the media creates a distraction to benefit politicians.

"But this is real life," Alvarez said.

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