Mexican drugs kingpin is caught
The leader of Mexico's cult-like, pseudo-Christian La Familia drugs gang has been caught, a major blow to the organisation that terrorised a large slice of the country.
Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias El Chango, or "The Monkey," was arrested in the central state of Aguascalientes without confrontation or casualties.
"With this arrest, what remained of the command structure of this criminal organisation has been destroyed," the federal justice agency said.
With the death of La Familia founder and leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez in December, Mendez was the last remaining head of a criminal group "responsible for homicides, kidnappings, extortion, corruption and even cowardly attacks on the authorities and civilian population," said a spokesman.
But the leader of a violent splinter group, known as the Knights Templar, remains at large.
President Felipe Calderon personally praised the arrest, calling it a "big blow" to organised crime. The gang was born in Mr Calderon's home state of Michoacan in 2006, prompting him to deploy thousands of federal police there and warning that La Familia was corrupting local officials, extorting businesses and terrorising the population.
The government had offered a 2.5 million dollar (£1.5 million) reward for his capture.
La Familia first appeared four years ago when it rolled five severed heads into a Michoacan nightclub, vowing to protect local citizens from rival cartels. La Familia was part of the Gulf Cartel but later became an independent drug-trafficking organisation, which ignited a rivalry between the two gangs.
Moreno, the leader, set a code of conduct for its members that prohibited the use of hard drugs or dealing them within Mexican territory, even as they gruesomely decapitated foes and sold cocaine and methamphetamine by the ton.
More than 35,000 people have died in drug violence according to government figures.