May 1, 2015, Jalisco attacks

May 1, 2015, Jalisco attacks
Part of Mexican Drug War
Jalisco en México.svg
State of Jalisco in Mexico
DateMay 1, 2015
6:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (approximately)
LocationJalisco (most attacks); some parts of Colima, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Guanajuato (in western Mexico)
Caused byAttempted capture of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (alias "El Mencho")
Parties to the civil conflict
10 (9 in helicopter attack; 1 in other clashes)
8 (0 in helicopter attack; 8 in other clashes)

On May 1, 2015, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) carried out a series of attacks in Jalisco, Mexico, and four adjacent states to prevent the capture of Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (alias "El Mencho"), their suspected leader. The operation began early that morning in Villa Purificación, where four Mexican Air Force and Federal Police (PF) helicopters spotted a CJNG convoy protecting El Mencho. As one of the helicopters flew over the convoy, the CJNG members shot it down using rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers. Nine law enforcement officers died as a result of the attack, and multiple others were wounded. This was the first incident in the Mexican Drug War in which organized crime groups shot down an aircraft.

As the government extended its crackdown on the CJNG, it issued its highest security alert level and coordinated municipal, state, and federal security forces. The CJNG responded to the offensive by hijacking 39 buses, trucks, and cars throughout western Mexico, setting them on fire, and using them to block roads and highways in multiple locations. They also burned several gas stations, banks, and businesses. Most of the attacks took place in Guadalajara, Jalisco's capital and the second-largest urban area in Mexico. According to the government, the scale and level of coordination by the CJNG in this attack had not been displayed by other crime groups in Mexico.

The attacks garnered international headlines and reactions from the highest levels of the Mexican government, including President Enrique Peña Nieto, who promised the dismantling of the CJNG's leadership structure. Mexico's National Security Commission placed significant attention on El Mencho, and publicly announced that they were making his arrest a priority. Over the course of a year, violence and homicides increased in Jalisco. However, as the government shifted its attention in 2016 to re-apprehend Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, once Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, the CJNG readjusted its strategy and toned down its violent methods.

Background and possible motives

According to the Mexican government, the attacks were one of the most brazen moves by organized crime against Mexican security forces in the ongoing Mexican Drug War (2006–present).[1][2] They were also unique in that a relatively new criminal group in Mexico like the CJNG was willing to confront the government head on.[2] Though organized crime groups in Mexico had used rocket launchers against security forces in the past,[3] it was the first time that one had shot down a military aircraft.[4][5] This showed the Mexican government that the CJNG had the manpower and operational capacity to respond to government crackdowns.[6][7]

The CJNG's influence in Mexico's criminal landscape had grown significantly since 2009–2010.[2] The group was formed as a splinter organization of the Milenio and Sinaloa Cartels after several of their leaders were arrested or killed.[8] Their international drug trafficking operations, specifically for heroin and methamphetamine, increased the group's financial power and capacity.[9] Their market share growth in Mexican territory was also correlated with the arrest and deaths of the leaders of rival criminal groups like the Knights Templar Cartel and Los Zetas.[2] The CJNG's stronghold, Jalisco, gave the group a strategic advantage since Jalisco ranks high in industrial output and gross domestic product (GDP).[10][11]

Logo with the Spanish acronym of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), the criminal group responsible for the attacks

The attack was covered in international media, prompting reactions at the highest levels of the Mexican government.[12] President Peña Nieto told the public that day through his Twitter account that the CJNG would be dismantled by the government.[13] Mexico's security commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido García (es) told reporters in an interview after the helicopter attack that the government would spend significant resources to capture Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (alias "El Mencho"), the top leader of the CJNG.[14] The government's urgency to confront the CJNG had intensified the month before, when the CJNG ambushed and killed 15 policemen in Jalisco.[15] The same day the attacks occurred,[16] the government inaugurated Operation Jalisco, a military-led campaign to combat organized crime groups in Jalisco and capture their leaders.[17] The new security operation was made up of the Army, the PF, the Attorney General's Office (PGR), and the Center for Research and National Security (CISEN), Mexico's national intelligence agency.[18] The main target of the operation was the CJNG.[19] Around 10,000 new troops and 300 armored vehicles were dispatched to the state for Operation Jalisco on May 10 and 11.[20]

The helicopter attack and the roadblocks were a response by the CJNG to the attempted capture of El Mencho.[a][22] The government stated that the violence in Jalisco was a reaction to Operation Jalisco.[7] According to sources from the PF, prior to the helicopter attack, El Mencho was spotted in Tonaya, Jalisco, which prompted a law enforcement offensive to apprehend him. His gunmen defended him from the PF and he was able to escape.[23] The helicopter that was shot down was equipped with parachutes that were intended to be used by the officers on board. They were planning to jump off and continue their operation on foot with the goal of capturing El Mencho.[b][25] Unconfirmed federal and state sources said that someone within law enforcement notified the CJNG of the surprise operation. They said the government confirmed this through wiretapping. The sources stated that the CJNG had detected unusual law enforcement activity in the area where El Mencho was hiding, but they did not have clear information on the operative against him until it was leaked by an insider.[26] When the roadblocks occurred, rumors circulated that El Mencho was arrested by security forces.[27] Law enforcement confirmed that they were close to capturing El Mencho,[c][28] but did not confirm him among the detainees arrested that day.[d][32] The government considers El Mencho the main suspect and mastermind of the May 1 attacks.[33]

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