FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

Drug Cartel Challenge Coin Recovered

A challenge coin displays nationalistic imagery and references to the Gulf Cartel's headquarters.

January 11, 2011  |  by

Mexican drug cartel members see themselves as soldiers in an elite army. They use badges, patches, flags or other militaristic symbols to represent this.

A challenge coin with an emblem and crest of a drug trafficking organization has been recovered by law enforcement officers in Mexico, reliable sources tell POLICE Magazine.

American and Mexican law enforcement agencies have recovered similar badges, patches, coins, flags and other items produced by the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs). The items act as a way to build unity within cartels, according to Gary "Rusty" Fleming, an expert on the cartels who produced the documentary "Drug Wars: Silver or Lead."

The items solidify military cohesion among cartel soldiers. Other cartels, especially Los Zetas, also use these items, according to Fleming, who said he wasn't surprised by the find.

"It's what they're now using to give legitimacy to what they're doing," Fleming tells POLICE. "They're trying to build internal security."

The coin, which is affiliated with the Gulf Cartel, includes names of geographic locations and shows an altered (some might say perverted) representation of nationalist symbols appearing on the Mexican flag.

Side-by-side stripes of red and white cross a navy background behind a golden eagle holding a serpent in its talon and perched atop a prickly pear cactus. The cactus is situated on a rock that rises above a lake. The symbol refers to the county's Aztec origins and the founding of Mexico City.

The letters "C," "D," and "G" — an acronym for Cartel del Golfo, or Gulf Cartel — appear in Gothic type along the lower edge of the blue field. Lettering along the outer edge refers to the cartel's headquarters in the city of Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas. Interestingly enough, the "H." is a historic reference to the city once referred to as "Heroica (Heroic) Matamoros."

"Panga," which can also be seen on the coin, is a Spanish word for a breed of fish common to the Mexican (South Atlantic) Coast. It refers to the name of the fishing boats used to catch them. It is also the slang name for a particular type of Machette with a hump-backed blade used in that region and in Alcapulco, according to Richard Valdemar, POLICE Magazine's gang expert.

"My guess would be that 'Panga' might be the nickname of the owner of the piece, or the particular crew of the Gulf Cartel," Valdemar said.

Using military insignias is nothing new for the Gulf Cartel. In the 1990s, Gulf leaders created the Los Zetas when they formed a hit squad of Mexican Army Special Forces deserters who may have received counter-insurgency training at Fort Benning, Ga. The Zetas ultimately split off to form their own cartel in early 2010.


A Field Guide to Mexican Drug Cartels

Mexican Cartel Violence: None Dare Call It Terrorism

Comments (4)

Displaying 1 - 4 of 4

Get AClue @ 1/14/2011 12:10 PM

Who the hell are your sources? The badge, not a coin, was seized during a search of a residence located in Brownsville, TX by ICE Special Agents (HSI- Not the ERO pinhead that was forwarding the emails around calling it a coin and saying it was confirmed by DEA, Mexico City)

richard valdemar @ 2/1/2011 1:19 PM

“Me thinks that thou dost protests too much.” Weather you call this a challenge coin or a “badge” it certainly is not from a legitimate Mexican Law Enforcement agency. Where it was found also seems irrevelent. It is a sign of identification for the holder as a member of the notorious outlaw Gulf Cartel.”

vrishtiRathore @ 6/20/2014 5:26 AM

Like how military challenge coins and army challenge coins honor or make pride of the military and army soldiers, <a href="">police challenge coins</a> do honor the police men.

Adam Smith @ 3/13/2015 11:33 PM

Now a days challenge coins are not only used by military, army or police departments but know many organizations and units are started using these coins. These <a href="">law enforcement challenge coins</a> is the best for honoring police personnel.

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Vievu Body Cameras on Patrol with Major Agencies
Oakland PD was an early advocate of Vievu body camera technology and has been using the...
Testing Body Cameras for Image Fidelity
The traditional gelatin-silver image reproduction film process was a very stable imaging...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
Police Magazine