Executive Protection Academy

Executive Protection Academy

Six key points in the attack against former governor Aristoteles Sandoval

The unfortunate attack against the former governor of Jalisco, Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz, is another example of the failure of the traditional executive protection. This worn-out model, when put into practice, lacks favorable results: it offers a false sense of security and endangers both protégés and escorts because it is unable to effectively reduce risks.

The former governor of Jalisco was murdered early Friday morning inside a bar located on Francisco Medina Avenue, in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, moments after getting up from his table to go to the bathroom. The attack was carried out despite the fact that, according to official sources, the victim was under the protection of fifteen armed bodyguards.

We do not know how many of them were on duty with the ex-governor at the time of the aggression, however, the media reports one seriously wounded element.

This unfortunate fact proves that the executive protection involves much more than armed escorts and armored vehicles. It is a planning and logistical process that reduces the executive's exposure to risk, while anticipating and defusing attacks in their preparation phase.


Below, we will analyze six factors that failed, or did not exist, in the former governor's protection system:

1. Intelligence

It is worth asking whether the protection team was aware of the existence of individuals and groups with the capacity and intention to attempt against Aristoteles Sandoval's life. If they did not have knowledge of this, then, it is, without a doubt, a serious failure; otherwise, the exposure that the former state governor had to public and risky places is inadmissible for such a critical condition.

2. Counter-surveillance

According to the modus operandi In the case of these criminal groups, there is no doubt that the ex-governor was followed by his assailants at all times, from his arrival in Puerto Vallarta until the very night of the attack. The security team was not aware of the fact, since counter-surveillance implies the operation of specialized groups; therefore, it is very difficult for the visible escorts to detect the professional hostile surveillance. If the hostile activities had been detected in a timely manner, the attack could have been prevented.

3. Early Warning

The aggressors, together with their logistical support, are always in specific locations some time before the attack. In this case, they were also not detected and deactivated in a timely manner. Once again, for this type of operation, properly trained and skilled elements are required.

4. Appropriate threat models

An operation of executive protection does not only imply going behind the executive and keeping watch in front of the restaurants, but also defining the potential and probable scenarios in which an aggression may occur, thus determining concrete actions to avoid them. In this sense, the restrooms, being private places, offer the aggressors an opportunity to act. The location and coverage of this type of places are part of the planning, including in the basic courses of the executive protection.

5. Shadow agents

Shadow agents are the protective elements infiltrating the environment of the protégé, not identifiable as escorts and representing a surprise for the attacker while protecting the executive's image. Many protégés, such as Sandoval, do not like having agents nearby; however, for this type of executive, shadow agents are indispensable. His exit to the restroom could have been covered by one of these agents, as if he were just another diner.

6. Collaboration of the protégé

The modern protection cannot function without the user's participation within the system of his own protection, as explained in the book Executive Protection in the 21st Century: The New Doctrine. The protégé's suspicion of their protection team, as well as the fact that they act as if they were the boss of their own escorts (a task for which they are not prepared), has cost lives on more than one occasion.
According to different journalistic versions, such was the case of the former governor.

It is essential to understand that the traditional protection has not passed the test of modern operational reality and that we need to change the way we operate, so that we will be able to offer greater security to both protégés and escorts.