Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, started out in business not long after turning 6, selling oranges and soft drinks. By 15, he said in an interview conducted in a jungle clearing by the actor and director Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine, he had begun to grow marijuana and poppies because there was no other way for his impoverished family to survive.
Now, unapologetically, he said: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
Though his fortune, estimated at $1 billion, has come with a trail of blood, he does not consider himself a violent man. “Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more,” he told Mr. Penn. “But do I start trouble? Never.”
The seven hours Mr. Guzmán spent with Mr. Penn, and the follow-up interviews by phone and video, which began in October while he was on the run from the Mexican and American authorities, marked another surreal turn in his long-running battle to evade Mexican and American authorities. Mr. Guzmán, one of the world’s most wanted fugitives, who had twice escaped jail, was captured in his home state of Sinaloa in northwest Mexico on Friday after a gun battle with the authorities.
It also marks a stark admission that he has operated a drug empire. Interviewed by a group of reporters in 1993 after a previous arrest, Mr. Guzmán denied that he engaged in drug dealing. “I’m a farmer,” he said, listing his produce as corn and beans. He denied that he used weapons or had a significant funds.