Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and Hollywood actor Sean Penn have been embroiled in controversy since the revelation that they met with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the most wanted drug lord in the world, in person while he was on the lam last year.
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Mexican authorities want to interrogate her as a witness in an investigation and have insinuated they could be potentially investigating her for allegedly taking money from Guzman for her tequila company, Honor del Castillo, according to the newspaper El Universal.
This past January, del Castillo’s private text messages with El Chapo were leaked to the media, suggesting another kind of scandal -- that the two of them could be romantically involved.
But del Castillo is now sharing her side of the story and insists in an interview with ABC News's Diane Sawyer that there was nothing romantic between her and the drug kingpin, whom she met in person last October.
“Oh, my God, no, not at all,” del Castillo told Sawyer. “It’s just so not like that, and that’s one of the frustrations I have. That I wish I could have every single text that I sent with me, you know, to tell everybody how out of context they are. There was no reason why we wouldn't be friendly.”
Del Castillo says the leaked messages were selectively chosen and released out of context.
“They have put them out of context. So it looks like I'm having an affair, almost, with a guy,” she said. “And that’s what makes me so angry.”
In what del Castillo says are parts of texts leaked out of context, Guzman wrote in one text message to del Castillo in Spanish on Sept. 25, 2015, “My friend, if you bring the liquor, I will try yours … I’ll tell you, I’m not much of a drinker but since your presence will be something beautiful, and because I am really looking forward to get to know you and become very good friends. You are the best of this world. We will be very good friends … I’ll have everything taken care of for you so you won’t have any issues – because I would feel really bad. Have faith that you will be comfortable. I will care for you more than I do for my own eyes.”
She wrote back the same night in Spanish, “I am so moved that you say you will take care of me, no one has ever taken care of me, thank you! I am free next weekend.”
Del Castillo, 43, became a superstar after she appeared as the lead character, Teresa Mendoza, an ordinary woman who transforms into a fearless drug lord in the telenovela “La Reina del Sur” or “The Queen of the South.”
She said Guzman first reached out to her in summer 2014 through his lawyer, who she said told her that Guzman wanted to give her the rights to make a movie about his life. The drug lord had been re-arrested in February 2014.
She claims she jumped at the chance and told almost no one about the project, except for two movie producers she brought on as she began to assemble her team.
When the drug lord escaped from prison in July 2015, disappearing through a hole in the floor of the shower in his prison cell and into a well-lit, ventilated tunnel nearly a mile long, del Castillo claims she was “stunned” and “devastated” because she thought her exclusive story was gone.
But on Sept. 25, 2015, del Castillo flew to Mexico to meet with El Chapo’s lawyers in person, where she said they handed her a Blackberry that the drug kingpin wanted her to use to communicate with him directly.
After she received the cell phone, initial texts show that she thanked Guzman for the device and commented on how “modern” it was.
“Independent of our project, I am so excited to be able to look you in the eyes, in person. THANK YOU,” del Castillo texted him in Spanish on Sept. 26, 2015. “For me the most important thing is that you feel comfortable, you are not obligated to anything, I want you to tell me what you think after we meet.”
Guzman wrote back in Spanish, “Have faith that everything is set if it wasn’t I wouldn’t invite you. I will take care of you, you will see that when you come, I will get to drink your tequila with you. As I told you, I’m not a big drinker, but I will drink with you and to the pleasure of sharing time with you. Thank you for being such a fine person. You are beautiful, my friend in every single aspect.”
But again, she argues that the texts were leaked out of context.
“We don’t know the text before, but I was like, it’s very scary to go down there,” del Castillo told Sawyer. “I mean, 'I don’t want to risk you or my life.' It’s like, you know, ‘So are you sure that we’re going to be OK?’ and by being OK means ‘I’m going to be alive,’ so I was really scared to go down there.”
“It’s just like, ‘Thank you,’ and like, reassuring that I am going to be taken care of in this particular meeting,” she added.
She believes Guzman is more an admirer of her telenovela character Teresa Mendoza, and not necessarily infatuated with her in real life.
“He's not being even romantic. I just think he likes me,” she told Sawyer. “I don't think it was necessarily me, Kate del Castillo. I think it was -- probably a little bit of both, as I said. It was more that he was-- probably had a crush on Teresa Mendoza in a way because he loved that series so much … But I think it was a little bit of both too because he said some beautiful things about my family.”
Some of the leaked texts included messages between Guzman and his lawyers. ABC News counted 37 texts between them just about what kind of phone they should buy for del Castillo so she can talk to him.
In one exchange, Guzman tells his lawyers in Spanish he wants to buy her a phone in pink, “a color for a woman,” but when the lawyers tell him the Blackberry they chose for her only comes in black and gray, he settles on black. In another exchange on Sept. 26, 2015, Guzman texts his lawyer, saying in Spanish, “Tell Kate that when she comes we’ll drink tequila and dance, tell her that.”
On Oct. 2, 2015, del Castillo, the two producers and Sean Penn flew to Mexico to meet with Guzman in a remote location in the mountains of Sinaloa. After their meeting, del Castillo and Guzman continued to text each other for weeks.
“Good afternoon. How is the most beautiful woman in this world and the most intelligent, that I admire very much? Here’s the phone number to the lawyer so you can speak to him,” Guzman wrote her in Spanish on Oct. 24, 2015.
“Hahaha, thank you!!! Hello my lovely friend, I will call him,” she wrote back in Spanish.
Still, del Castillo insists she was not flirting with the drug lord, nor did she wanted anything romantic with him.
“I was being nice because I wanted to get the story -- you know, access to the story,” she told Sawyer. “I was not flirting. I don't think I was flirting. I mean, I was not flirting with the guy. I was being amicable.”
“I wanted his trust also,” del Castillo continued. “And he was being nice with me. Why wouldn't I be nice back? But I never said anything romantic to the guy. Nothing ever. Actually, I will go back all the time to the project, because my relationship with him was always professional.”
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Mexican authorities are considering money laundering charges after the leaked text messages revealed exchanges between del Castillo and El Chapo’s lawyer in April 2015 about her “tequila project.” On April 13, 2015, the lawyer wrote, “I plan to tell him about your tequila project. You never know, he might be interested. You two could be associates.” Del Castillo wrote back “Incredible.” But del Castillo claims she never received money from the drug kingpin.
“For me it was like, I'm just-- you know, I didn't think about it,” she said. “I have not received one cent from the guy. Not one cent.”
The drug lord was re-arrested on Jan. 8, 2016. He is currently being held at a federal prison in Mexico, the same prison from which he escaped.