Mexican police capture top drug cartel boss

Posted at 06/22/2011 9:56 AM | Updated as of 06/22/2011 9:56 AM

MEXICO CITY - Mexican police have captured the top boss of the notorious La Familia drug cartel in a raid, a government spokesman said Tuesday, adding the violent gang's leadership had been destroyed.

"The federal government has detained the top leader (of La Familia) Jose de Jesus Mendez," said security spokesman Alejandro Poire.

"This detention has destroyed the remaining command structure," he said, adding no shots had been fired in the raid in the central town of Aguascalientes that led to Mendez's capture.

Earlier, President Felipe Calderon sent a message on his personal Twitter account, saying: "A great blow by federal police against organized crime. One of the most wanted criminals captured. Congratulations."

La Familia is one of Mexico's most violent drug cartels, and its stronghold is in Michoacan state where it has been battling the Los Zetas gang.

The former head of La Familia, Nazario Moreno, was killed in December in a shootout with police. Classed among Mexico's seven major drug cartels, La Familia is considered the country's top producer of synthetic drugs.

It announced its arrival on the scene in October 2006, when its men walked into a bar and rolled five severed heads onto a dance floor.

La Familia was soon posing a direct challenge to the federal government, killing eight people in a grenade attack on a crowd celebrating Mexico's independence day on September 15, 2008.

In July 2009, it killed 16 police officers, 12 of whom were found in a heap on the side of a road.

The toll in suspected drug-related violence in Mexico has surpassed 37,000 since Calderon launched a military crackdown on organized crime in 2006.

Since 2006, authorities have killed or arrested several top cartel leaders, including Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of the cartel bearing his name, in December 2009; and Gulf cartel chief Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, alias "Tony Tormenta."