Executive Protection Academy

Executive Protection Academy

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.

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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.