One of Mexico's most notorious drug cartel leaders has been nabbed.

President Felipe Calderón said Tuesday that federal police have caught one of Mexico's most-wanted drug lords.

Calderon did not identify the suspect, but an official in central Aguascalientes state who was not authorized to be quoted by name said authorities have captured José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, alias "The Monkey," the alleged leader of the La Familia cartel. 

Mexican newspapers also reported that Méndez had been detained.

A posting by Calderón on his Twitter account called the arrest "a big blow" to organized crime.

The government has offered a $2.5 million reward for his capture.

The cult-like La Familia, based in Calderón's home state of Michoacán, uses pseudo-Christian ideology while gruesomely decapitating foes and selling cocaine and methamphetamine by the ton.

The cartel's former top leader, Nazario Moreno González, 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.

Méndez 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 that said 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" Gómez, is believe to lead the Knights Templar, federal police say.

La Familia first appeared four years ago, announcing its presence by rolling five severed heads into a Michoacán nightclub and leaving messages vowing to protect Michoacán from rival cartels.

Calderón 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.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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