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). They were also unique in that a relatively new criminal group in Mexico like the CJNG was willing to confront the government head on. Though organized crime groups in Mexico had used rocket launchers against security forces in the past, it was the first time that one had shot down a military aircraft. This showed the Mexican government that the CJNG had the manpower and operational capacity to respond to government crackdowns.
The CJNG's influence in Mexico's criminal landscape had grown significantly since 2009–2010. The group was formed as a splinter organization of the Milenio and Sinaloa Cartels after several of their leaders were arrested or killed. Their international drug trafficking operations, specifically for heroin and methamphetamine, increased the group's financial power and capacity. 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. The CJNG's stronghold, Jalisco, gave the group a strategic advantage since Jalisco ranks high in industrial output and gross domestic product (GDP).
The attack was covered in international media, prompting reactions at the highest levels of the Mexican government. President Peña Nieto told the public that day through his account that the CJNG would be dismantled by the government. 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. The government's urgency to confront the CJNG had intensified the month before, when the CJNG ambushed and killed 15 policemen in Jalisco. The same day the attacks occurred, the government inaugurated
Operation Jalisco, a military-led campaign to combat organized crime groups in Jalisco and capture their leaders. 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. The main target of the operation was the CJNG. Around 10,000 new troops and 300 armored vehicles were dispatched to the state for Operation Jalisco on May 10 and 11.
The helicopter attack and the roadblocks were a response by the CJNG to the attempted capture of El Mencho.[a] The government stated that the violence in Jalisco was a reaction to Operation Jalisco. 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. 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] 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. When the roadblocks occurred, rumors circulated that El Mencho was arrested by security forces. Law enforcement confirmed that they were close to capturing El Mencho,[c] but did not confirm him among the detainees arrested that day.[d] The government considers El Mencho the main suspect and mastermind of the May 1 attacks.