"Well, from the time I was 15 and after, where I come from, which is the municipality of Badiraguato (in Mexico), I was raised in a ranch named La Tuna, in that area, and up until today, there are no job opportunities. The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana, and at that age, I began to grow it, to cultivate it and to sell it. That is what I can tell you," Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, told Hollywood actor and director Sean Penn in an interview for the Rolling Stone magazine.
Penn is now reportedly under investigation for the interview.
The interview was also conducted by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and the duo personally met El Chapo once in a jungle clearing in Mexico. There were several follow up interviews over the phone.
While El Chapo does agree that drugs "destroy", he repeats that where he grew up "there was no other way and there still isn't a way to survive, no way to work in our economy to be able to make a living."
In the piece, which was published on Rolling Stone on Saturday, Penn calls the notorious drug lord "the owl who flies among falcons". "Whether he's standing in the midst of a slum, a jungle or a battlefield, his idiosyncratic elegance, mischievous smile and self-effacing charm have a way of defusing threat," Penn notes.
Establishing connections with one of the most wanted fugitives in the world came also came with its own risks and need to maintain security.
Penn writes about "labeling TracPhones (burners), one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous e-mail addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form. It's a clandestine horror show for the single most technologically illiterate man left standing."
The interview is said to be the first that El Chapo has ever given "outside an interrogation room".
"I don't want to be portrayed as a nun," El Chapo, who does not consider himself as a violent person, says.
An "unapologetic" El Chapo says, "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats."
El Chapo reveals that while he did try drugs many years ago, he is not an addict, and that he hasn't "done any drugs in the last 20 years."
Also known as "Shorty", El Chapo was recaptured by Mexican authorities on Friday, six months after he escaped from a high-security prison and was on the run ever since.
The Associated Press reported that "Part of the reason authorities tracked him down to a house in an upscale neighborhood in a coastal city was because he wanted to film a biopic and his people were communicating with actors and producers, Attorney General Arely Gomez said late Friday."