MEXICO CITY — Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is reading a Christian-oriented self-help book in prison after being denied the small television he used to have before escaping last July, an official said Friday.
Since he was recaptured in January, Guzmán has read the classic “Don Quijote,” and has now started a Spanish-language version of “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?” by Rick Warren, a California-based evangelical pastor. The book — which was given to him by prison authorities — contains illuminating quotes like “A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life,” and “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Guzmán’s food is tested by a dog that is given small portions of his meals; guards then wait 15 minutes before giving the meal to the man long considered the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.
A federal official who was not authorized to be quoted by name under official policy described to The Associated Press Guzmán’s life under special security measures drawn up after his escape through a tunnel. The official and a colleague granted the exclusive interview following a spate of complaints by Guzmán’s lawyers and relatives, saying his health was suffering in prison and that he couldn’t sleep.
The officials said Guzmán has gained a small amount of weight and lowered his blood pressure since he was taken back to the Altiplano prison west of Mexico City.
The officials said Guzmán sleeps regularly, although he is constantly monitored by two guards standing outside his cell, watching him 24 hours a day.
He is also under constant observation from a ceiling-mounted camera which — unlike the one in the cell from which he escaped — has no blind spots.
Guzmán’s associates tunneled him out of prison through the thin concrete floor of his shower stall last July, in a spot which surveillance cameras were not designed to reach.
The floors of the prison’s top-security cells have since been reinforced with a 16-inch (40-centimeter) bed of concrete with a double layer of rebar.
That is not the only thing that has changed. Before he escaped, Guzmán was allowed a four-hour conjugal visit every nine days. In addition, the officials said, he was supplied with Viagra. But Guzmán hasn’t been given Viagra since he was recaptured and returned to the prison on Jan. 8. Nor has he received any conjugal visits. He only applied for permission to renew them this week.
The officials said the tunnel through which Guzmán escaped has since been sealed by collapsing parts of it, and blocking other parts with steel and concrete.
Guzmán is not allowed to mingle with guards or other inmates, officials said, because his style of escape and intimidation relies on such contacts.
The officials said that in his last escape from another prison in 2001, Guzmán gained the confidence of one guard by giving him 20 pesos (at the time about $2) to buy a soda.
During his most recent time on the run, Guzmán met with Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, purportedly to discuss a project to document his life in a movie.
But Del Castillo said in interview with ABC aired Friday that Guzman may have just been infatuated with her, or the drug-trafficking character she played in a TV series, Teresa Mendoza.
“He probably had a crush on Teresa Mendoza,” Del Castillo told Diane Sawyer. “I think he was never interested in the movie.”
Prosecutors later said her contacts with Guzmán, and the October 2015 meeting with Guzmán and American actor Sean Penn in a remote area of northeastern Mexico, helped lead them to eventually recapturing the drug lord. A chain of leaked emails between Guzmán and Del Castillo suggest authorities were monitoring their text conversations.
Del Castillo said she didn’t know she was under surveillance.
“No, to be honest I didn’t think about it,” she said. “I thought he (Guzmán) knew what he was doing by texting.”
E. EDUARDO CASTILLO AND MARK STEVENSON