Cardenas, wearing a black flak jacket and flanked by two masked marines, was paraded in front of television cameras earlier today.
He allegedly ran the cartel since his brother, former leader Antonio Cardenas Guillen, or "Tony Tormenta," was killed in a shootout with the military in 2010.
The arrest is a blow to the Gulf Cartel, which has been weakened since their enforcers, the Zetas, broke away to set up their own drug trafficking gang, Agence France-Presse reported.
Reuters noted that it was one of the “highest-profile arrests in months” and comes as outgoing President Felipe Calderon defends his aggressive offensive against the powerful drug cartels.
More than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence since late 2006 when Calderon deployed thousands of soldiers to fight the drug traffickers.
On Monday, Calderon used his last state-of-the-nation address to defend his controversial strategy, saying it had cost the drug cartels $14.5 billion.
Calderon will vacate the presidency for Enrique Peña Nieto, who was confirmed as President-elect last week after an investigation into allegations his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, used illicit money to buy votes in the July 1 poll.
The electoral court said there was insufficient evidence to prove the claims by the leftist runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
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