On June 12, 2020, "strong rumors" appeared on social media according to reports from anonymous citizen journalists that the purported head of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, aka "Mencho", had been killed by the military in Michoacán. The rumors began around 2:00 PM EDT, but an hour later, the rumors began suggesting that Mencho had died as a result of health problems rather than in a military operation. The scuttlebutt was even picked up on by international media, but officials in Mexico denied the rumors. Officials from the Mexican security forces suggested that if the news were true, blockades and violence would be seen across the country, which they pointed out was not observed.
This wasn't the first time that rumors spread about the demise of Mencho. Similar chatter appeared on social media and in the press between May and September of 2015 following a series of highly publicized arrests and confrontations, including the reported downing of a helicopter during an operation on May 1 in the Villa Purificación municipality of Jalisco. In that incident, SEDENA claimed that a helicopter was shot down with an RPG during operations supposedly to capture Mencho, killing 8 special forces soldiers and one member of the federal police. What actually happened in that operation isn't entirely clear and the military lies almost constantly.
Authorities were apparently very close on the trail of some of the highest value targets within the criminal organization in 2015. On March 2, Abigael González Valencia, aka "El Cuini", the leader of the financial arm linked to CJNG, Los Cuinis, was apprehended in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. On June 23, Rubén Oseguera González, aka “El Menchito”, was captured by the Mexican government in Zapopan, Jalisco. El Mencho's brother, Antonio Oseguera Cervantes, aka "Tony Montana", was captured December 4, 2015 in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga and several other important members of the group were also captured in 2015.
In March 2018, rumors that Mencho was killed in an aerial assault appeared on social networks. A video showing a helicopter shooting at several trucks was shared on social media but was apparently from an earlier incident.
According to Excelsior, on June 12, 2019 another rumor of Mencho's death appeared online without any additional details. In searches through social media and news articles from that day, the only mention of the death of someone with the alias "Mencho" was a case in Juchitán, Oaxaca where two men, interestingly nicknamed El Mencho and El Tripa, were killed by men wearing military uniforms. In August 2019, a supposed video message reportedly from Mencho himself was released addressed to the governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro, alleging financial impropriety and accepting money from the cartel. According to the journalist Anabel Hernández, the voice in the video was the real Mencho. Whether the voice in the video is Mencho is unclear, but the voice apparently matches another recording purportedly of Mencho's voice in a phone call to a municipal police department released in September 2016.
There have also been rumors of Mencho's failing health for several years due to kidney disease. In December of 2019, Infobae published a story which suggested that "CJNG" was in crisis due to Mencho's advanced renal failure. According to some analysts, the battle over the succession of the organization is already underway.
Despite the fact that some 6,341 arrests were made from 2015 to 2017 during Operation Jalisco, including the aforementioned high profile associates of the group, the operation was described in the media as a failure which did not accomplish its stated goals of diminishing the influence of the criminal organization. Nevertheless, almost all of the reported information about CJNG since then has been about the arrests, extraditions and financial sanctions of family members close to Mencho and important regional capos associated with the criminal organization. Almost all of the family members of Mencho and the Valencia family have been sanctioned, arrested, and/or extradited to the US. The reporting contrasts sharply with the popular portrayal of CJNG as an unstoppable criminal organization. If everyone but Mencho has been neutralized, how could the organization possibly continue operating at the level that the governments of the US and Mexico claim?
On June 2, 2020, Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) along with investigators from the US announced the seizure of $1.1 billion USD in assets supposedly associated with the CJNG in Mexico in Operation Blue Agave. Ten days later on June 12, "strong rumors" of Mencho's demise appeared on social media, coincidentally one year to the day after the last rumor of Mencho's death. The following month on July 27, a week or so after the release of the Grupo Élite videos filmed 4 km from a military base in Tomatlán, El Universal published a story about a supposed hospital which was constructed in the Sierra in El Alcíhuatl, Jalisco (less than 50 km from Villa Purificación, El Universal points out), supposedly for Mencho to undergo dialysis treatments. According to El Universal, "classified intelligence information" provided by government officials showed a hospital in "a wooded area between several houses and a dirt road".
But if Mencho is so unwell that he needs constant dialysis and so built a hospital for himself, and the government is aware of this, then couldn't they just, y'know, go get him…?
The hospital story was clearly a response to the most recent rumors about Mencho's demise. What is even more revealing, is the fact that government felt the need to release purportedly classified information proving Mencho was alive. There are several interpretations of why that might be, but the most likely explanation in my opinion is that they need him to be alive. If Mencho no longer existed then that would mean that the governments of the US and Mexico have been lying about many things.
If Mencho is dead then what's causing all the recent violence in Guanajuato, Baja California, Colima, Michoacán and Zacatecas? If Mencho is dead then who is responsible for the record quantities of illegal drugs coming from Mexico?
Mencho has to exist for the same reasons that no prisons could contain El Chapo: there must be narcos more powerful than the state. If elusive and powerful drug lords are not actually sending paramilitary troops into battle from remote locations high in the Sierra, then who is really responsible for all of the violence since December 2006? El Mencho must exist because without him, the logic of la guerra contra el narcotráfico falls apart.
Something else worth pointing out is the recent banners of "CJNG" featuring images of the purported leader of the organization. This is the first instance that I can find where a supposed Mexican criminal organization has used images of their leader's face in their iconography. The purpose of featuring the likeness of Mencho is to communicate the power and authority of the individual. Coincidentally, that's the same rationale behind the government's disclosure of proof of life for Mencho.
El Mencho is dead. I would bet money on it.