Drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was eager to set up a face-to-face meeting with Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, and had apparently never heard of Sean Penn, according to transcripts of over a month of text messages exchanged between the two.
The transcripts published Wednesday by the newspaper Milenio — and confirmed as authentic by a federal official — showed that Guzman's was less interested in making a movie about his life than he was in flirting with the actress.
"What's that actor's name?" the account identified as Guzman's writes in one message to Del Castillo. He later asks his lawyers to tell him what movies Penn has appeared in. Even when Guzman dedicated a video statement as an exclusive for Del Castillo and Penn, the drug lord stumbles over Penn's first name, pronouncing it "SAY-ahn."
Penn has acknowledged that he tagged along for the controversial Oct. 2 meeting at a mountain hideout originally set up by Del Castillo. The U.S. actor wrote a lengthy article for Rolling Stone magazine that recounted the secret trip to meet Guzman, who was recaptured by Mexican marines on Friday after six months on the run.
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The federal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the dozens of texts were authentic. Many expressed admiration and a longing for the next meeting, more than concern about the purported movie project.
"I'll tell you, I am more excited about you than the (movie) script," Guzman wrote to Del Castillo. He identified her identified in his chat or text account as "ermoza," a misspelling of the Spanish word for "beautiful." ''I'll take care of you," he adds.
Another text from the drug lord reads: "How is the best and most intelligent woman in the world, who I admire a lot?" At one point, Guzman — who is reportedly married to former beauty queen Emma Coronel, and has had children with her and several other women — writes "My mother wants to meet you. I told her about you."
"I want you with all my heart," he wrote.
Del Castillo responds in kind. "Apart from our (movie) project, I am very excited about seeing you eye to eye, in person," she wrote, adding later "we will embrace each other soon!"
Asked about the text messages at a public event on Wednesday, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong declined to say anything about them and said the Attorney General's Office would comment on the matter soon.
Del Castillo's representatives did not respond to email requests to comment on the texts. But on Wednesday evening via her Twitter account she thanked people for their support in recent days.
"Not surprisingly, many have chosen to make up items they think will make good stories and that aren't truthful. I look forward to sharing my story with you," she wrote.
In the messages, even Guzman recognizes that Mexican or U.S. intelligence officials were probably following or monitoring many of the people who knew him. The drug lord tells one of his lawyers in another chat, "the DEA has all her devices tapped, and at her house the DEA has cameras to see who visits her," apparently referring to a women who was to meet with the actress.
In light of that, it is surprising that Guzman, who spent years evading capture, would have continued in such constant contact with the actress. While authorities narrowly missed capturing Guzman when they raided the hideout where the meeting took place in October, they finally got him on Friday.
Mexican federal officials have confirmed that the drug lord appears to have been infatuated with the actress. And when Mexican marines raided the house where he had been hiding, they found injectable testosterone, a treatment sometimes used to boost the male libido. It was unclear, however, if the medication belonged to Guzman or one of his associates.
The explanation might simply have been infatuation — something that would not be out of character for Guzman.
"What's new about this? That Guzman has a weakness for women? He has 18 children, he's married to a woman 30 years younger than him," said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico City. "What's new about that?"
Hope cautioned that having leaked the transcripts might give Guzman's lawyers ammunition to argue the government had violated legal requirements to keep evidence in criminal cases confidential.
"They are giving El Chapo some magnificent grounds to appeal," Hope said.
In the end, whether it was his interest in the actress or the movie project, it appeared to be all about Guzman's ego. Federal officials also said they had detected recent efforts to register "El Chapo Guzman" as a commercial trademark, possibly by the drug lord's lawyers.
"It was an ego project, to make the movie or meet Kate del Castillo," Hope noted.