By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON, Associated Press
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican federal police caught one of Mexico's most-wanted drug lords, the alleged leader of the La Familia cartel, authorities said Tuesday.
Federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said police arrested Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias El Chango, or "The Monkey," in the central state of Aguascalientes without firing a shot.
A posting by Calderon on his Twitter account says the arrest "is a big blow" to organized crime. The government has offered a $2.5 million reward for his capture.
"With this arrest, what remained of the structure of this criminal organization has been destroyed," Poire told a news conference.
With La Familia's top leader killed in a shootout in December, Poire said Mendez was "the last remaining head of a criminal group responsible for homicides, kidnappings, extortion, corruption and even cowardly attacks on the authorities and the civilian population."
According to the reward statement issued by the Attorney General's Office, Mendez was "responsible for the transfer and sale of cocaine, marijuana, crystal methamphetamine in various states of Mexico and the United States of America. He is the alleged mastermind of kidnappings and killings, mainly of members of other criminal organizations."
La Familia, based in Calderon's home state of Michoacan, uses pseudo-Christian ideology while gruesomely decapitating foes and selling cocaine and methamphetamine by the ton. Leader and founder Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was killed in December during two days of shootouts between his gang and federal police.
After his death, the group split into warring factions, causing increased bloodshed in the state.
Mendez was believed to have remained the leader of the La Familia faction, according to federal police, while messages appeared in March from a split-off group calling itself the Knights Templar, saying it would replace La Familia.
That name alludes to a Christian order of knights founded in 1118 in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade.
Another La Familia leader, Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, is believe to lead the Knights Templar, federal police say.
La Familia first appeared four years when it rolled five severed heads into a Michoacan nightclub, vowing to protect Michoacan from rival cartels.
Calderon responded by deploying thousands of federal police in the state, warning that La Familia was corrupting local officials, extorting businesses and terrorizing the population.
More than 35,000 people have died in drug violence since, according to government figures. Local media say the number is closer to 40,000.
Poire said that 21 of the country's 37 top drug traffickers have been arrested or killed since 2009.
Associated Press Writer Mark Stevenson contributed to this report
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