(CBS Local)– At one time, Joaquín Guzmán aka “El Chapo” was one of the most powerful drug traffickers in the world. After escaping jail multiple times, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was sentenced to prison for life in 2019 for criminal charges stemming from his involvement in the drug trafficking business in Mexico.
Writer and author Noah Hurowitz spent years of his life covering the El Chapo saga for Rolling Stone and recently wrote a book for Simon & Schuster about how the 64-year-old built one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking operations called “El Chapo: The Untold Story Of The World’s Most Infamous Drug Lord.” CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith spoke to Hurowitz about spending time in Mexico to write the book, what he learned about Guzmán and the infamous interview he did with Sean Penn.
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“I got started covering this story on the trial of El Chapo for Rolling Stone and pretty much immediately I was completely immersed in it,” said Hurowitz. “It was every day, eight hours a day and hand writing notes. I was 20 feet away from El Chapo the whole time. Writing the book was my entire life for two and a half years. I was living in Mexico City and it was quite an experience. It was really important to me to go to Mexico and spend as much time as I could in the places I was writing about.”
“I set out to do more than just a biography. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t just interested in telling the story of one man,” said Hurowitz. I think he’s a very interesting guy and he’s done a lot of insane and interesting things. There’s a lot of information out there about his escapes and tunnels under the boarder. When I set out to do this, my goal from the beginning was to tell his story and make it interesting, but to go beyond that. What I found most fascinating about El Chapo was his early years.”
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Hurowitz wanted to use El Chapo’s story to explain how the drug trade expanded throughout Mexico and into the United States. One of the things the author wanted to nail down was how he went from just being a guy involved in the Mexican drug cartel to an internationally known figure. He also of course had to take a look back at the infamous interview between the former drug trafficker and actor Sean Penn in 2016.
“Right after he was captured for the last time, it came out that Sean Penn had met up with him,” said Hurowitz. “It was insane and I’ve watched it. Sean Penn sent a list of questions to El Chapo and they had him record a video. I was thinking about what I would ask El Chapo because in that video some of the questions Sean Penn asks are just overly general and it’s not the best interview, no offense to Mr. Penn. The reason that got me thinking about what I would ask El Chapo is that I’m not interested in El Chapo’s opinions on the drug trade because I think they’re self-serving. Ultimately I see El Chapo as a bad person involved at an executive involved in a bad business and I don’t see it as that different from a lot of Fortune 500 CEOs.”
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Hurowitz’s book is available now wherever books are sold.