'There was no other way and there still isn't': 'El Chapo' Guzman defends his role in the drug trade in exclusive interview


el chapo interview

Rolling Stone

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán during an interview with Rolling Stone, conducted sometime in October 2015.

In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone published on Saturday night, recently recaptured kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán described to American actor Sean Penn his worldview and, in a video interview, defended his role in the international drug trade.

"... From the age of 15 and on, where I'm from ... In that area, and up until today, there are no job opportunities," Guzmán said in a clip of the interview posted with the story.

A video clip of what Penn describes as "the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room," can be seen below, with a visibly relaxed Guzmán sitting near a pickup truck on a ranch, responding to questions calmly, as roosters crow in the background.

Guzmán, believed to be about 60 years old, was born in the town of La Tuna, in the Badiraguato municipality of northwest Mexico's Sinaloa state.


His hometown is the heart of a region know as the Golden Triangle for its extensive cultivation of marijuana and opium, and that has long been a stronghold of the Sinaloa cartel, which, under Guzmán's leadership, has grown to be arguably the most powerful drug-trafficking organization on the planet.

"Well, it's a reality, that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said, where I grew up there was no other way and there still isn't … a way to survive," Guzmán replied when the interviewer asks him about the affect drug use has on humanity.

el chapo


Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico, January 8, 2016.

Guzmán added that, as he sees it, there is no other way to make a living in the Mexican economy.

This viewpoint likely resonates with many of his countrymen, since, despite their country ascending to the status of second-largest economy in Latin America, many in Mexico subsist on wages so law that they violate standards set out in the constitution, according to one economist.


Guzmán also disputed the suggestion that he and his cartel are to blame for high rates of drug use and addition, arguing that, should he disappear from the scene, "it's not going to decrease in any way."

Guzmán's Sinaloa cartel is far from the only organization supplying narcotics to the lucrative US market. But, if DEA maps released in late 2015 are accurate, his cartel has a market share that far exceeds any other organization bringing drugs into the US.

mexican cartel map


Orange shading shows areas of Sinaloa cartel influence, with darker shading indicating greater population density.

Guzmán's interview with Penn and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo was reportedly conducted in person in October, with follow-ups by phone and messenger over the following weeks. 

Guzmán made it through the end of the year as a free man, but was apprehended on January 8 in the northwest corner of Sinaloa state, after a shootout between Mexican marines and several of his associates.


In the wake of his July escape, some observers doubted that Guzmán would survive his next encounter with Mexican authorities, suggesting that political considerations and Guzmán's own sense of self-preservation (that is, his desire to avoid a US jail) would prevent him from being captured alive.

For Guzmán, the matter was much more simple: "I think that if they find me, they'll arrest me of course."

NOW WATCH: Here's footage of El Chapo being escorted on a plane after being recaptured