Executive Protection Academy

Executive Protection Academy

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.