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Executive Protection Institute

Executive Protection Institute

Spanish

The 7 keys to the murder of the commissioner in Zapopan

On November 13, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, Commissioner Carlos Manuel Flores Amezcua, who held the position of Deputy Operational Director of the Zapopan Police Station, was murdered. That same day, explicit videos of his unfortunate execution were widely disseminated on social networks.

Around 10 a.m., on the terrace of the Ganik cafeteria, located on Patria Avenue, four people were seated at two different tables: a man and a woman at each table. At one of the tables, the couple appeared to be working on a laptop. When the commissioner entered the establishment, with his back to the diners, the four people pulled out their weapons and killed him, quickly fleeing the place. It is mentioned that Carlos Flores had a bodyguard, but he does not appear in any of the videos and his actions are unknown.

We do not have enough information to analyze this unfortunate event in depth, however, it is important to highlight some important elements:

1. The sheriff arrived at the site without concern and without awareness of any threat. This is evidenced by his lack of robust security, which would have been necessary had he known of the threat. Even his escort, which he is mentioned to have had, was absent. This confirms the facetious but true phrase that "if you're not paranoid, it doesn't mean you're not being followed." "Healthy" paranoia is necessary in high-risk positions such as that of the commissioner.

2. It is not known for sure why the commissioner went to that cafeteria, but according to journalistic sources, it was his usual place to have coffee. This proves once again that the victim was followed and his behavior was analyzed for a prolonged period of time, without him or his escort detecting anything.

The Power of Counter-Surveillance: What Criminals Fear More Than Guns

3. The attack occurred again in a "seam", which highlights the importance of analyzing and strengthening these key points in the operational work. This highlights the importance of analyzing and strengthening these key points in operational work.

4. The joint arrival of the protector and protégé on the scene proves useless, since at that moment not much can be done. This was even more clearly evidenced in the attack against Carlos Bildmart. It is vital that protectors be at critical locations and times well in advance of the protégé's arrival. Even if the assassins were perfectly camouflaged, the early presence of the "shadow agents" could have detected the logistical deployment of the attackers, which involved more vehicles and, according to newspaper reports, more heavily armed criminals in one of the vans.

The murder of Carlos Bildmart: guns are not the solution.

5. We cannot combat unconventional threats with conventional methods. If they are camouflaged, we must be too.

6. It is said that routine kills, but we know that it is not easy to eliminate certain routines from our protégés. For this reason, communication and persuasiveness with protégés must be strengthened.

7. Logistics is crucial and must be agreed with the user. In this case, it is observed that there is risk on top of risk, i.e., having routines is critical, but having them in a place as exposed as that coffee shop multiplies the risks. For criminals, ease of escape is one of the most important parts of planning an attack, as they seek to reduce their own risks. The coffee shop is located on an avenue and its location offers all the logistical advantages to the attackers, both for escape and for deploying vehicles and camouflaging others. For the protégés, carefully choosing locations, especially those frequented, is essential to reduce the risks. It is obvious that the attackers are professional and well organized, and we should not make things even easier for them by having a routine location so favorable for an attack.

In summary, this unfortunate attack adds to the sad figure of 14 executives and 29 escorts murdered in just over a year. We must change the way we operate and focus on anticipating and defusing attacks in their preparation phase and thus make our profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

Day of the Dead Attack: Executive Protection Beyond Armed Escorts

In a tragic attack that took place at the Los Cipreses Memorial Park Cemetery, located in Naucalpan, Mexico, during the commemoration of the Day of the Dead, two people lost their lives and another was injured. According to reports from the Attorney General's Office of the State of Mexico, the target of the attack was businessman Francisco Xavier "N", 41 years old, who died at the scene, while his escort lost his life on the way to the hospital.


According to testimonies gathered by the municipal police, the businessman entered the cemetery accompanied by a woman and his escort, who was carrying a gun. However, the attack was surprising and the escort had no opportunity to respond. Two armed individuals, presumably on a motorcycle, started shooting, which resulted in the death of the businessman and the escort, leaving the woman wounded. The assailants fled after the incident.

This tragic murder adds to a disturbing statistic in Mexico, where in the last 14 months, 13 protégés and 29 of their escorts have been murdered. This fact highlights the false sense of security that can come from having only armed escorts. Even ten protectors armed with long weapons could not prevent the ambush that took the life of the Secretary of Public Security of Coyuca de Benítez, Alfredo Alonso López.

It is clear that executive protection cannot be based solely on the presence of armed escorts. The numbers mentioned above demonstrate that this strategy is not only ineffective, but can also generate a false sense of security. It is necessary to adopt a comprehensive approach that includes a proper threat assessment and the implementation of multiple measures that reduce the protégé's exposure to risk and defuse attacks before they get close to the client in terms of time and space.

Executive protection must be a profession that inspires confidence and provides security for both protectees and protectors. It is time to re-evaluate current methods and adopt more effective approaches to properly manage the risks of those requiring protection. Only through proper threat assessment and the implementation of multiple measures that reduce the protectee's exposure to risk and defuse attacks early can we make this profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

Executive Protection: a deadly reversal in reaction

In the last 14 months, 12 protégés and 28 of their protectors have been murdered in Mexico, making executive protection one of the deadliest professions for both those who practice it and those who hire it. Faced with this situation, those responsible have made the mistake of trying to increase the number and armament of bodyguards, without understanding that a determined attacker will not be deterred and that in an ambush, the advantage is always on the side of the attacker and not the defender. This misguided strategy has led to regrettable events, such as the one that occurred last week in Guerrero, Mexico, where two police commanders and up to ten bodyguards armed with high-powered weapons were killed in an ambush. All of this is due to a misunderstanding that results in a misguided investment.

During the EP Summit 2022 in Mexico City, renowned director of corporate security in the banking sector, Fernando Gomez, posed a crucial question to his fellow panelists:

"How much do you invest, in percentage terms, in the measures implemented to prevent an attack compared to the measures implemented to react at the time of the attack?"

This question is crucial, as it provides the answer to all of the problems facing Executive Protection. Budgets in our profession are typically spent on agents, weaponry, equipment, vehicles, emergency response, armor, and weapons and combat training. These measures take up most of the limited budgets available to security managers.

However, if we analyze these measures, we realize that they are all used at the moment when the attack is already occurring: agents act when there is an attack, weapons are used at the moment of the aggression, the same happens with armor and emergency response, which obviously occurs in moments of crisis. In addition, training is focused solely on response in critical situations. Some might argue that these measures are deterrents and therefore also preventive. However, in light of the above facts, it is clear that deterrence in our country is having less and less effect.

So how much of the budget is allocated to measures, tools and training focused on preventing these events from occurring?

The answer is nothing or almost nothing, and this explains the tragic results mentioned at the beginning of the article. Moreover, in all the attacks that have occurred in the last five years in Latin America, from the attacks against Norberto Ribera and Omar García Harfuch in Mexico to the assassinations of Fernando Villavicencio and Agustín Intriago in Ecuador, it is evident the lack of investment in intelligence, counter surveillance, early warning, protective logistics and other advance protection measures that could have stopped these attacks before they happened, far from the victims in time and space.

For years, many in executive protection have followed the adage that "the unseen saint is not worshipped," inferring that a protection system must be colorful to be effective. However, there is no hard data or scientific fact to support this concept. On the contrary, over the past 123 years around the world, flashy protection has failed virtually every time it has been tested in real-world conditions, with tragic results. If we continue to invest only in showy operations focused on reacting at the last moment, we will continue to send our people to the slaughterhouse.

Of course, I do not mean that we should not invest in reactive measures, because of course we should. Each measure must be applied after a prior study that determines its necessity. However, I want to emphasize that investment must be balanced, covering both preventive and reactive measures in the face of aggression.

Measures such as intelligence, counter-surveillance and early warning are indispensable to defuse threats in advance. These measures can be implemented in a variety of ways, with a much smaller budget than that required for reactive measures, and are much more effective and secure.

The tragic panorama of executive protection in Mexico demands an immediate and radical change in the way we understand and operate it. We must focus on measures to anticipate and defuse threats early, instead of passively waiting for an ambush in which the chances of survival are minimal or nonexistent. Only in this way will we make our profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

The tragedy of executive protection in Mexico: The myth of numerous and armed operatives claims 12 lives

In a tragic event for executive protection in our country, last Monday, October 23, in the town of Papayo, Mexico, the Secretary of Security of Coyuca de Benitez, Alfredo Alonso Lopez, and the Director of Police, Honorio Salinas Garay, were assassinated in an ambush, along with up to 10 policemen who acted as their protectors.

This incident has become one of the bloodiest and deadliest attacks on record to date. It is unfortunate proof that a large and heavily armed operation alone is not effective. Even with 10 protectors armed with high-powered rifles, lives could not be saved and executives could not be protected in the face of a well-organized enemy and a carefully planned and executed ambush.

 

This is due to a lethal bias that causes protectees, protectors and some security administrators to mistakenly think that executive protection is based on guns and reaction, even though there is no scientific evidence to support this fact; quite the contrary. According to international studies, weapons and reaction fail 96.2% of the time when tested under real-world conditions. However, most current protection schemes are constructed as if these tools are 100% effective.

Executive Protection and the Use of Firearms - A Study of a Representative Sample

This deadly bias has caused, in Mexico alone and in the last 14 months, the death of 12 executives and 28 of their escorts, totaling 40 deaths in just over a year. This makes executive protection a highly deadly profession for both service providers and users, and all due to misconception and practice.

It is important to understand that simply placing any number of escorts on a follower vehicle with any type of weaponry is not effective and, in fact, may create a false sense of security. If the attacker is not deterred by the number of protectors and armament, as happened in this case and many others, the result will be fatal.

Regarding the event to which we refer, we do not have enough information to perform an in-depth analysis. However, what evidently failed or did not exist is the following:

Intelligence: there was no knowledge of the movements and activities of hostile groups in the area of displacement, despite the fact that the protégés were high-ranking police officers with access to privileged information.

2. Counterintelligence: the aggressors evidently had critical information on the places of movement, schedules, weapons, state of strength of the protectors, etc., which allowed them to carry out the attack in a forceful manner. This information was not properly protected or handled.

3. Early warning: carrying out an ambush capable of neutralizing 10 heavily armed agents requires a large mobilization and logistical and operational deployment, which should have been easily detected in the hours prior to the attack, in specific locations along the route. If the protection team had known about and implemented this type of advance operations, the preparation of the attack would have been detected much earlier and the protectees would have been prevented from falling into the trap.

4. Finally, it is important to emphasize once again that police officers without specialized training in executive protection are not effective and may even be counterproductive.

It is urgent to change the methodology based on reaction and close protection to adopt systems based on anticipation and early deactivation of threats. Only in this way will we be able to have a safer profession for both the protected and the protectors.

Thwarted assault on Chilean foreign minister: A contrast between police mentality and executive security

 

The Chilean Chancellor, Alberto van Klaveren, suffered an attempted assault on his car around midnight on Saturday, September 9, from which he escaped unharmed. The incident occurred in the vicinity of his home, at the time of his arrival, while he was in the company of his driver and a police escort. Two attackers got out of a vehicle, one of them threatening with a firearm, at which point the female escort pulled out her weapon and opened fire. According to CNN Chile, the attackers did not fire, while other news sources indicate that the police fired 13 shots, slightly wounding one of the attackers in the shoulder, thus thwarting the assault. The criminals had three other accomplices who did not actively participate in the crime.

Evidently, the policewoman's performance was effective, as both the chancellor and herself were unharmed and the robbery was foiled. She acted in accordance with her education and training, with good results.

However, it is important to note that both the performance and the operational structure were designed from the point of view of law enforcement and not Executive Protection. We often hear news stories of how a police officer thwarted an assault on a business, bank or bystander. But the work method focused on thwarting an ongoing attack should not be applied in executive protection, as it requires that the executive is already under attack, and that is precisely what we seek to avoid in our profession.

There is no doubt that, by repelling the attack by firing his weapon, the stakes were raised, since the risk of losing a material asset became the risk of being involved in a crossfire and endangering the life of the Chancellor. In the last six years, in Mexico, where this crime is much more frequent than in Chile, three protégés lost their lives in crossfire when their bodyguards tried to defend them from similar assaults. In the same period, three bodyguards were killed and four were wounded in the same circumstances.

When executive protection becomes lethal: The case of businessman David Gonzalez and the need to reformulate protection services.


By repelling the assault in this circumstance, the protector inevitably involves his protégé in a Russian roulette with great possibilities of losing his life, since, no matter how skilled the protector may be, there are always a number of factors beyond his control.

The focus of Executive Protection is to prevent an attack, not to wait to react, which has been the working philosophy of many members of the police or military assigned to this activity without specialized training.


It is evident that, if we analyze the case, our brave companion had no tools to prevent the attack. The vehicle was not armored, there was no early warning (which would have easily detected five people near the "seam" in advance), no protective logistics were implemented to reduce exposure, among other aspects.

(You can learn more about early warning in this video:

Fortunately, on this occasion, their action was successful. However, using police officers as escorts without specialized training in executive protection proves fatal against serious aggressors as demonstrated by the recent unfortunate assassination of Ecuador's presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio. Executive protection is a sui generis profession with its own methodology, approach and tools that should not be confused with other branches of security despite having similarities. Only in this way can we make this profession safer for both the protected and the protectors.

The murder of the mayor of Manta: A call to strengthen counter-surveillance

We have insisted on multiple occasions that counter-surveillance is the most effective measure to prevent all types of attacks against executives and people with high critical impact. Furthermore, we have emphasized that this measure is widely unknown and underutilized, which represents a serious strategic error and facilitates the work of criminals.

The Power of Counter-Surveillance: What Criminals Fear More Than Guns

In cases such as the attack against Norberto Rivera in 2018, the Secretary of Citizen Security, Omar García Harfuch, in 2020, businessman Eduardo Beaven in 2021 and Gabriela Sanches and Ciro Gómez Leyva in 2022 (all in Mexico), subsequent investigations revealed that the victims had been under hostile surveillance for months prior to the attack, without being detected in time.

Another unfortunate example occurred recently on July 23 in Ecuador, when the popular mayor of Manta, Agustín Intriago, was assassinated during a public event in the neighborhood of 15 de Septiembre in Manta, Manabí province.

Weeks later, the Ecuadorian police revealed that the victim had been followed for several days by a blue van posing as a vendor of water in jerry cans.

This vehicle followed the mayor everywhere, until the last day he was killed, constantly providing information and guiding the assassin.

This tragic incident once again reinforces the need to focus our efforts on counter-surveillance, rather than reacting only to attacks. Attackers must watch and analyze their victim for an extended period of time before acting, which provides a perfect opportunity to detect them and thwart the attack before it occurs.

If there had been a counter-surveillance team, it would have been easy to detect a van of alleged water vendors that moved practically every day near the mayor. This shows us in a real situation how simple and effective counter-surveillance would have been in saving lives. It is imperative to shift the focus of the operation to counter-surveillance and early warning, as protection based on reaction alone is fatal.

Eight lessons learned from the murder of Fernando Villavicencio

Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential hopeful in Ecuador, met his tragic end on Wednesday, August 9 at 6:20 p.m. local time, following a campaign rally held at the Anderson School in Quito.

Immediately before boarding his vehicle, flanked by National Police escorts, Villavicencio, a 59-year-old journalist, was mortally wounded by gunfire. His assailants unleashed a hail of at least 40 bullets, and his protectors had no chance to save him. This event reiterates the urgency of addressing the conceptual and operational crisis affecting Executive Protection worldwide.

Despite the lack of information for a complete analysis, we can draw at least eight lessons from this tragic incident:

1. An operation based on armed escorts waiting to react is fatal.

2. Police officers are not suited to provide executive protection unless they have received specialized training. Police or military work and executive protection are distinct professions, and while some skills may be useful in both, Executive Protection is a unique profession with its own methodology and doctrine that requires highly specialized training. Including police officers in this operation without proper training was a dangerous improvisation.

3. Guns are very effective for attacking an executive, but virtually ineffective for defense. Although it is argued that since firearms are used in almost every attack, they are indispensable for defense, the facts do not support this claim, as demonstrated once again in this attack. Moreover, in a study of 132 attacks on prominent public figures in more than 60 countries over the past 123 years, firearms were only effective in defending executives in 3.79% of the cases. https://ivanivanovich.com/armas-de-fuego-en-la-proteccion-ejecutiva/ 

4. "Seams" remain the most critical points in an executive protection operation and must be planned and performed with the utmost attention. The seams are the times when a person is most exposed to a high-risk environment, usually when exiting or before entering a vehicle. These are the scenarios where the vast majority of attacks occur. We have analyzed it in more detail in this video:

5. Armored vehicles are essential to reduce risks to executives. These units reduce risks in transfers and can provide shelter and evacuation at critical moments. One of the key factors that saved President Reagan's life during the 1980 assassination attempt was the presence of an armored vehicle.

6. If groups that endanger the executive are identified (as was the case), intelligence on these groups is critical to prevent the attack. This measure, and not the weapons, could have saved the candidate's life.

7. You cannot fight an unconventional threat with conventional means. The attackers were camouflaged in the crowd, while the protectors were easily identifiable even in police uniforms, making them easy targets. In public events the application of shadow agents within the crowd is essential to reduce risks as I explained in this video:

8. The concept of close protection is ineffective and dangerous, because when it comes time to protect up close, all is lost. Counter-surveillance should have been implemented to detect hostile activities in advance and the locations from where potential aggressors would act around the "seams" should have been defined to monitor these areas in advance, alert and surprise the aggressors - instead of just relying on reaction which proved, as almost always - ineffective. This is why it is urgent to change the concept of close protection to anticipatory protection.

The executive protection we see in the movies is effective only if nothing happens, but it collapses like a house of cards in any real situation. Therefore, it is critical to change the way we conceive and operate our profession to make it safer for both protectees and protectors.

The risks of unconditional obedience in Executive Protection: the dangerous 'Yes Pattern'.

Executive Protection is probably the only profession based on habits and customs, improvisations, cognitive biases and very few serious studies and research. The profession was able to function this way for decades in many countries, since nothing happened and the inefficiency and danger of this pseudo methodology was not seen. Unfortunately, Mexico is no longer one of these countries and in the last year alone, 9 executives and 15 of their escorts were murdered here.

One of the concepts contributing to this disastrous outcome is undoubtedly
the "Si Patron". In this concept, the escorts basically follow the executive, do what he or she tells them to do, without having any influence over the attitudes and/or activity of the protégé, some of whom exponentially raise their risks making it impossible to protect them. As demonstrated by the aforementioned 24 unfortunate deaths in Mexico in the last year.

The deadly "Yes Pattern" methodology is based on three premises that are wholly or partially fallacious:

1. We are hired to make the executive's life easier.
2. He who pays the piper calls the tune. The executive will not accept suggestions, since he pays and what he wants is done.
3. We cannot change the executive's lifestyle.

These arguments would seem convincing if it were not for the disastrous results of their application. But let us analyze:

1. We are not hired to make executives' lives easier, but to manage and reduce their risks. While it is true that many of our activities as a "by product" make the executive's life easier, this is not our main objective. We are hired because a security study showed that the executive is vulnerable to certain risks, which he himself understands and accepts, and we are implementing the necessary measures to mitigate them. Otherwise, we would be called "executive hostesses" and not executive protection. However, it is true that many executive comfort activities that we can perform help reduce risks as we explain in this video:

but there are also many other activities of the same nature that can increase risks if carried out indiscriminately.

2. In executive protection, "he who pays the piper calls the tune" does not apply. Our profession is the activity where lives depend on the protectors in the same way that the lives of the passengers depend on the pilot of an airplane, and no passenger gives orders to the pilot on how to steer the aircraft, even though they paid for the ticket, or even if it were the owner of the airline himself.

3. No one is trying to change the lifestyle of executives, only to make the necessary logistical adjustments to manage their risks. These are two very different things. Here are some examples: businessman Adolfo Lagos was murdered in 2017 when his escorts were trying to defend him from an assault while riding his bicycle on a route with high rates of this crime. Changing his lifestyle would be to have told him to stop cycling. Suggesting a route with lower crime rates would be a logistical adjustment that reduces the risks only without affecting the lifestyle itself. Businessman Martin Rodriguez was murdered in 2021 as he left the gym. Changing the lifestyle would be to have told him to stop going to the gym. Suggesting other facilities that do not involve as much "sewing" would be a logistical adjustment only. (Of course, apparently in the latter case many other things would be required).

The list of unfortunate deaths caused in whole or in part by the "Si Patron" concept is very long. This is why modern Executive Protection starts with establishing the client's own collaboration. Of course, this requires a new set of skills which are communication, negotiation and persuasion of the user, something very different from the reactive skills traditionally associated with our profession.

Executives, for the most part, are intelligent and capable people who understand the reasons and well-founded concepts. This is a process of negotiation and acceptance by conviction, not imposition. At least, these are our experiences of operating with executives in LATAM for almost 30 years. Of course, there will always be colleagues who can't, don't know, don't want to or simply are not interested in this type of work. However, from what we have seen in Mexico in the last year alone, achieving collaboration with the executive has no alternative to save lives, both of the protected and the protectors.

Attack on Concordia Mayor: Improvisation in Executive Protection claims the lives of three protectors

On Friday, June 9, three bodyguards of the mayor of La Concordia, Chiapas, Miguel Ángel Córdova Ochoa, were killed when an armed group attacked their vehicle in the city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

When these types of unfortunate incidents occur, the information received in the media is usually not very reliable, as they replicate the first versions of the facts without doing a proper investigation, which can result in misinformation. Most of the newspapers handled the story that the mayor was traveling in the vehicle at the time of the attack and that he managed to get out and take shelter unharmed in the school, all this under fire that killed three of his protectors, which is implausible. What actually happened is that the mayor had already arrived at the school and was inside the school when his Suburban van was attacked.

Although there are still many unknowns surrounding the case, some conclusions are evident:

- The implementation of armored vehicles is essential to significantly reduce risks in this type of operational circumstances.
- Basing executive protection solely on the deployment of armed escorts is deadly.
- Fence protection alone is totally ineffective.
- Counter surveillance and early warning are essential to reduce risks and save lives.

In the last 10 months, 11 protectors have lost their lives in Mexico in improvised operations based on close protection and the use of armed escorts that have historically proven ineffective. Only a change in operational approach that prioritizes intelligence and anticipatory protection can make this profession safer for both protectees and protectors.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at risk: personal protection failure

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has joined the list of world leaders who have suffered personal protection breaches. This incident, which occurred recently at Frankfurt airport, has highlighted the vulnerability of world leaders in an increasingly dangerous world. Emmanuel Macron, Ivan Duque, Gabriel Boric, King Charles III of England and many other leaders have experienced similar attacks, demonstrating that the concept of traditional executive protection is outdated and ineffective today.

In the case of Olaf Scholz, an unknown driver joined the German Chancellor's convoy undetected. The driver managed to reach the runway where the chancellor's aircraft was located and embraced Scholz without his protection agents being able to intervene in time.

It is worrying that despite the large number of vehicles and motorcycles in the Chancellor's convoy, no one noticed the presence of the unregistered vehicle. This demonstrates that large protection is not necessarily effective. Instead, smaller, well-communicated groups operating in different circles deep in the operational area may be more effective in detecting anomalies early and providing timely warning.

The ineffectiveness of the obsolete and obsolete convoys, these "operational dinosaurs" of the 1960s, has been demonstrated in numerous attacks in recent decades, and this incident at Frankfurt airport is further proof of their limitations in the absence of other operational elements.

In addition, counter-surveillance operations were conspicuous by their absence in this case, since if there had been a counter-surveillance team, the intruder would have been identified immediately. Finally, it would be redundant to comment on the last minute reaction failure of the close protection team, since, as statistics show, these groups historically fail virtually every time they are put to the test.

It is important to note that the chancellor's protection team should be careful not to consider this incident as a "tune-up" for them, as a similar incident occurred a few months before the attack on Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

In short, the security breach at Frankfurt airport involving German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is a sign that the current executive protection system is obsolete and needs to be modernized and improved. Diamond formations, guns and gaudy convoys no longer deter attackers. A radical change in the way executive protection is understood and practiced is required to reduce risks and save lives of both protectees and protectors.

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