Program: Al Punto with Jorge Ramos
Content: Interview with Journalist Lydia Cacho
Air Date: Thursday, January 21, 2016
JR: Jorge Ramos
LC: Lydia Cacho
JR: Lydia, thank you very much for coming back to the program.
LC: Thanks. Thank you, Jorge.
JR: Lydia, I just read your article “El gobierno y el miedo a que Kate del Castillo cuente su versión” (The government and the fear that Kate del Castillo will tell her version). When was the last time you saw Kate?
LC: A week ago.
JR: What did she tell you?
LC: Well, I spoke with her for a long time, precisely to be able to understand her story well in order to do a news piece and, well, precisely a large portion of what I wrote in that article is what I was able to understand based on a, on a -- on long conversations with her in a journalistic setting. Kate is obviously very scared. She cannot understand the reason behind the Mexican government’s very virulent attacks. She can well understand that there are people in society who are making a moral judgment over whether or not she should have pursued the possibility of making a movie, once El Chapo contacted her, but what she doesn’t understand is why this frontal attack by the government, the federal government, and I believe that it is a question -- that the question she is asking herself is a question being asked by most of us who are following this case.
JR: Kate has decided so far against granting interviews. She hasn’t offered her own version of the facts. Why hasn’t she?
LC: Well, first of all, because she has very good lawyers in the United States, very good lawyers in Mexico, who are already trying to deal with all the legal aspects because she, of course, has nothing to hide, so she must work with that, and you know that focusing on a defense when it is the government rather than law enforcement that is going against you, you must go into lockdown to get everything ready, and that is what she is doing. First and foremost is precisely her legal defense and then, perhaps -- when the time comes, how to speak, speak with the media and with society to explain her point of view and what she really knows and doesn’t know about the case, what the kingpin Joaquín Archivaldo Loera really told her or didn’t tell her, because people are doing a lot of speculating, and the Attorney General’s Office in Mexico is also speculating, which, it seems to me, is most is the most troublesome thing, right?
JR: Lydia, you write in the article that they’re afraid that Kate will speak out and tell what El Chapo revealed to her during the six or seven hours they spoke. What could El Chapo have told Kate that worries the Mexican government so much?
LC: Look, that’s precisely the issue, the issue about this whole thing. In this seven-hour-long meeting, El Chapo was absolutely – spellbound with Kate del Castillo. People forget that he truly believed that he was with The Queen of the South and not necessarily with the actress. That means their conversation was very shallow, very superficial, and if he told her some things that are sensitive, let’s say, in terms of national security, etc., she has not told me, only her lawyers. I could not be present, obviously, in the meetings with her lawyers. The truth is that Sean Penn’s revelation, that silly article published by Sean Penn, also shows that they know very little. And the other thing that nobody knows, including myself, of course, is what Sean Penn left out of his own article. That is, he did let Chapo Guzmán edit it, and Chapo Guzmán cut some things out. We don’t know what. Sean hasn’t said what, and, of course, Kate hasn’t either, because Kate didn’t write the article. Sean Penn got rid of Kate once he used her to contact the kingpin, and he didn’t even want her to have a byline on the article or in the magazine. There are other aspects that seem more important to me behind all of this, having to do with what the Attorney General’s Office itself is hiding and what it fears. On the one hand, Kate had already noticed, from the time Chapo Guzmán was in prison, before he escaped, clearly, which is when he sought out Kate del Castillo through his lawyers. Kate received a threat sent through an actress friend of hers by the Secretary of the Interior of Mexico, saying that there was not going to be a movie and that she shouldn’t get mixed up with the issue and shouldn’t get involved. That is, there is clear concern on the part of the Mexican government about what this man could reveal. I would think that yes, that if a public official faces the possibility of a producer, male or female, or a journalist getting information that eventually reveals aspects that are useful to law enforcement, of course he or she would be interested. Why was or is the Secretary of the Interior so insistent that Chapo Guzmán not reveal absolutely anything? I, as a journalist, had many questions for Kate and that even she could not answer.
JR: Lydia, why the government’s attack against Kate? Is it something, as you say, regarding a possible movie or documentary that she was trying to do along with Chapo Guzmán? Could it be the attacks or what could have been perceived as criticism by Kate of the First Lady, Angélica Rivera, regarding the 7-million-dollar house that Kate had previously said that she could have never paid for with her salary, or even Kate’s criticism of Peña Nieto himself, after he became president? What is behind all of this? That is, why, as Kate del Castillo’s father said, “Why this lynching of her?”
LC: Look, I believe that yes, indeed, it has to do with the criticism by Kate, because the Mexican government is not used to criticism from the world of the arts, particularly from Televisa, which is completely in league with the Mexican government, of the government being criticized regarding such -- issues
as corruption and, of course, conflicts of interests regarding the presidential mansion, criticism from such a well-known actress who has been not only on TV, but also in many movies in the United States, and whose voice echoes a lot further than that of any public servant. So, on the one hand, yes, the issues they have with the opinion the actress has every right to have. On the other hand, I believe that there is something very important here. It’s the Attorney General’s Office, Jorge, the first day that the Attorney General revealed that they had found El Chapo -- thanks to Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn, two days after that revelation, they were accusing her, they were leaking to the Mexican international press that they had given her money for the movie. Immediately, the FBI, which had been tracking her bank accounts for months, that has also been following her, let [Mexico’s] Attorney General’s Office know that they didn’t have any evidence whatsoever that El Chapo had given her money, and in addition, Kate had a whole group of lawyers in Hollywood behind her, making sure that there were no monetary exchanges. Then they went after the tequila issue, and they incriminated her with the tequila before the week was up, Jorge. That proves lynching. In a single week, from Monday to Friday, [Mexico’s] Attorney General’s Office started by accusing her of being an accomplice and of receiving drug money and ended by receiving a cell phone from the lawyers of the drug lord -- those are the dimensions of the operation of the Attorney General’s Office against her, of accusing her as likely [responsible] to responsible, and ending this -- this week saying that they’re calling her as a witness. Something else that is clear: she hasn’t received any official subpoenas. The Attorney General’s Office is trying to run a trial by media rather than acting within the bounds of law enforcement. I would say that the, the dark side of this whole case [will come out] in the investigations that we, another group of journalists, are doing throughout the country, that have to do with who allowed El Chapo to escape. And not only let him get away, but this group of people who worked for the Mexican government with public servant salary, used the resources of drug traffickers to let El Chapo get away. Not only that, there is another group of more important people from the Mexican government who helped El Chapo, and it will soon be revealed in the press by some colleagues. So this is important because it’s what the Mexican government doesn’t want to be known: the level of collusion by the government to free him and help him get out or the degree to which the Attorney General’s Office knew, for all this to become known. So it seems to me that there is a smokescreen to take all credibility away from –
JR: Lydia, the signal got cut off for a moment, but now we can see you again. Why -- another of the questions is why the government doesn’t want Kate del Castillo to talk. You say so in your article, and ask “Could it be that they are afraid that people might find out how the cartel’s system of investing money in elections works?” Is that another problem for the Mexican government?
LC: Absolutely. I think that is very clear, as well as the fact that they are afraid that, that El Chapo might have revealed it. We don’t know. Kate wasn’t able to tell me anything, you know? Her attorneys have asked her not to say anything, so we don’t know how much the--
JR: That is, the drug traffickers are investing--
JR: --in the Mexican elections. In other words, the drug traffickers--
JR: --making it clear who they want to win?
LC: So, that is one of the reasons, one of the things they’re afraid of. Now, I also think that one of the most important things they fear is that he may have talked in detail about all the people who collaborated in his escape, because it’s not just the people who have been detained who are being defended by one of the best law firms in Mexico from someone who was, who was President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s right-hand man. Let’s not forget that. That -- those, they haven’t lynched those people, those who let El Chapo get away. They haven’t put those people on display in the media, and they haven’t leaked anything about the case regarding them because they are public servants, whom they have under their control. What is the Mexican government trying to hide?
JR: Very concrete things. If Kate del Castillo tells what she knows, and, let’s say, that what Sean Penn’s story narrates about how they came to a military checkpoint and were allowed to go through it, if that is true, would that mean there is complicity between the Mexican army and the kingpin?
LC: Absolutely. Yes, clearly, clearly, and on top of that, in addition, you can’t forget that this would come on top of any statement that either Kate or Sean might make to the authorities, it would directly complement the testimony provided by the Mexican Navy, saying that there was no such operation, that in fact, it was by chance that they were able to arrest the kingpin. There is also another very important piece of information that doesn’t have to do directly with Kate, but does have to do with the case: it was federal police officers who stopped the drug dealer in the car, and they didn’t, they didn’t handcuff him. Rather than turning him in to the authorities, they took him to a hotel, to a short-term hotel. And at that hotel, the PFP, the federal police, who were, of course, in contact with the national security authorities in Mexico, didn’t want to turn the kingpin over to the Navy. So, why didn’t they want to hand him over? Because there is obviously something that they are hiding from us. The media can hypothesize about how there was probably some agreement by which, by which they weren’t going to detain him for the time being. And I am afraid that that is information that the government thinks Kate has, and that Sean has, and they want him to reveal it.
JR: Lydia, you mentioned the relationship between Kate and Sean Penn, and how Kate wanted to be included as co-author of the article that he wrote for Rolling Stone. What happened between the two of them? Did he betray Kate?
LC: Look, from my point of view, yes, clearly. In other words, Kate, since the Attorney General’s Office has leaked the few messages that existed between them, because in addition they are doing -- if it were a big com-- relationship in fact, there are 25 messages exchanged, that is, counted one by one, 25, in a single chat session. In that chat, in those chats -- note that Kate had already told the drug lord that she could no longer be in contact with them, that she could no longer -- that she had to break off that contact because she was convinced that she wasn’t going to be able to make the movie while he was on the run, okay? And by then, of course, she was very afraid: afraid of the authorities and afraid of the kingpin. And so it’s at that point that Sean starts to pressure her for a meeting, requesting and demanding that meeting in the mountains, or, well, wherever, and for a direct meeting with the drug lord, and Sean Penn because he absolutely wanted that interview with the drug lord. Kate had already agreed with the attorneys that she would eventually send a writer to interview him, or that the drug lord would send her a, all of his writings so that they could start to write the script. That is, Sean encourages this, along with Fernando Sulichín and José Ibáñez, who, we must not forget, are Oliver Stone’s producers, the capital partners in the film’s production, and who the Attorney General’s Office, for some reason, has not touched or mentioned. So they’re the ones who pressured her for this encounter to take place. They are -- I am the one who is going to publish -- I am an American, okay? That is, I also think there is a certain amount of sexism, of racism on Sean’s part. That is, he used her, he used her -- he got full of himself and then left her -- high and dry.
JR: Lydia, two more questions. You write in your article that Kate erred out of naiveté, wanting to make a movie as many others had done before.
LC: Yes, look, in the reports that the [Assistant] Attorney General’s Office of Special Investigations of Organized Crime, SEIDO, itself has, there is a very interesting page, to which I had access, and on that page it says that when El Chapo was [taken] prisoner, immediately after that, a week later, contacts started to show up, seeking to meet with him. They weren’t able to do so, and then six different producers from the United States met with the attorneys in an attempt to make the film. That’s how El Chapo got the idea that it might be possible in Hollywood, and then he decides that he isn’t going to do it with any of them, with Leonardo DiCaprio or with any other Hollywood producer, and that he is only going to do it with someone who he admires, and that person is Kate del Castillo. That’s why his attorneys first contacted her. She -- she didn’t even know who those attorneys were. It took her three months to figure out that they were the drug dealer’s attorneys, and in addition, she contacted her attorneys directly to ask them if it was -- with her attorneys in the U.S., if it was appropriate for her to meet with those attorneys, and they told her, “Yes, they are attorneys, aren’t they? They are legally defending a person who has a constitutional right to be defended, and you can meet with them, provided that you receive absolutely nothing from them.” And that’s what happened.
JR: Lydia, you write that the leaks to the media and the media reports taken out of context, and I quote, “could cost Kate and Sean Penn their lives.”
LC: Absolutely. I think that is the most relevant thing about this whole case. As you know, Jorge, I have been working with the Article 19 Council, the organization that defends and protects journalists under threat--
LC: -- and, later, even killed. Many of our colleagues --
LC: --have lost their lives for daring to tell these kinds of stories. So it seems to me that now she is running two risks. She is risking that at some point the cartel might feel betrayed. I don’t believe that. It may feel betrayed by Sean, who is the one who wrote the article, but I also believe that at some point, people in the Mexican government might go so far as harming the actress in order to silence her. And I have interviewed three national security experts, and all three have told me that she is at risk from both sides, because of the information she might have, or that they think she has, okay?
JR: And from your point of view, did Kate del Castillo’s contact with El Chapo have something to do with his capture?
LC: No. That strikes me as completely absurd. The Navy itself denies it. I mean, look, there are very important key points that, you know, are journalistically relevant. One of them is that the person who picks them up in Guadalajara along with another of the attorneys is Alfredo Guzmán Loera; that is, El Chapo Guzmán’s son, who is second in command. The two real bosses of the cartel are Alfredo and Iván, right? Mayo and El Chapo Guzmán have been leaving the whole business in the hands of their children for a long time. They have wanted to retire for a long time, and they have constantly made that known. So Alfredo and Iván, who are the two bosses, were at that meeting in the mountains, and they are comfortable travelling -- around. It turns out that El Chapo has been to the U.S. twice recently to see another part of his family. That is, they continue operating, from retirement. If Alfredo picked up Kate and Sean and the attorneys and writers in Guadalajara, and if they were already making videos and taking photos of them, why didn’t they arrest them? Why did they let them go, do interviews, and then let them return without anything happening? Why, if the exact locations of El Chapo’s houses in Mazatlán were already known, hadn’t they done absolutely anything? It’s the Navy that reveals, for me, the most important thing. It was by chance that they were able to catch El Chapo in Los Mochis. Everything else is a chase drama which, by all appearances, was involuntary on the part of the nation’s Attorney General’s Office.
JR: Lydia, thanks for speaking with us.
LC: Thank you very much, Jorge.
JR: Thank you, Lydia.