Known as “El Chango” or The Monkey, Mendez was captured by federal police at a highway checkpoint in Aguascalientes yesterday.
“Today we have made the biggest hit against the drug cartel La Familia (The Family),” Federal Security spokesman Alejandro Poire said.
“The federal government has arrested its highest-ranking leader, Jesus Mendez Vargas”.
The group was responsible for homicides, kidnappings, extortions, corruption and even attacks to the authority and population. Federal Security spokesman
He said the arrest of Mendez has destroyed what was left of the cartel’s leadership, after the death last year of top boss Nazario Moreno, a self-styled spiritual kingpin known as “The Craziest One”.
La Familia split into gang factions after his death, fighting over the trafficking of methamphetamine “Ice” and over marijuana fields across western Mexico.
Mr Poire said: “Today’s hit to La Familia places the main head left of the criminal organisation in the hands of justice. The group was responsible for homicides, kidnappings, extortions, corruption and even attacks to the authority and population.”
He said the violence in the main square in Morelia in 2008 was still fresh in peoples’ minds.
On September 15, 2008 at least eight people were killed and 100 wounded following a deadly grenade attack during Independence Day celebrations in Morelia.
Formed in the 1980s, La Familia has voted to stop sales of Ice in the gang’s heartland of Michoacan in western Mexico, and export it to the US instead.
The gang is run with a pseudo-religious philosophy preaching Bible scripture mixed with self-help slogans to prevent gang members from abusing drugs and in order to justify the grisly murders of rivals.