Don Winslow, whose bestselling novel “The Cartel” was partially inspired by Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, has some words for would-be journalist Sean Penn. And they’re not kind ones.
Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, escaped from a Mexican prison last year in a dramatic exit that included an underground tunnel, rails and a special motorcycle. He was recaptured earlier this year after a shootout. Penn interviewed the drug lord in October, while he was still on the run.
Penn might not disagree with Winslow’s harsh assessment. In an interview with PBS host Charlie Rose last week, the actor and activist admitted, “My article has failed.”
“I have a terrible regret,” Penn said. “I have a regret that the entire discussion about this article ignores its purpose, which was to try to contribute this discussion about the policy in the war on drugs."
“The Cartel,” Winslow’s novel partially inspired by Guzmán, takes a graphic look at the violence associated with drug gangs. Ridley Scott is slated to direct a film adaptation of the novel.
Winslow heavily criticized Penn for not asking Guzmán about his crimes. “I would like to have heard about the people on [Guzmán’s] payroll who dissolved their victims’ bodies in acid, about the decapitations and mutilations, about the blood-soaked bodies displayed in public places as intimidation and propaganda,” he writes. “Those questions might have wiped the smile off Guzmán’s face, which Penn reported he had for over seven hours during their interview.”
"[Penn] should apologize and stop trying to explain it,” Winslow concluded. “Sometimes wrong is just wrong.”