Bodyguards in Mexico
There are many misconceptions about bodyguards, close protection and private security operations in Mexico. As usual, most of the myths originate from Hollywood movies and fictional TV dramas. The realities working as a bodyguard in Mexico are quite different, it’s definitely a lot more dangerous and a lot less glamorous than Hollywood would have you believe.
Mexico is a very high-risk environment that most people know very little about other than what they see in the movies or what is scantily reported in the media. There is very little factual media coverage of what’s going on in Mexico as journalists that report unfavorably about the Narcos and others tend to not live very long. Most of the mainstream media channels in the US etc. have stopped sending their reporters into Mexico or ever taking reports from locals due to the risk and liability… It’s funny that media networks in the US etc. never had such qualms when they falsely reported on Risks Incorporated activities in Mexico over ten years ago now and put our people at risk, but we are not American and are therefore expendable… right!
In Mexico, at the moment, the Narcos control a vast amount of the country, some estimate over 80%, directly and indirectly. In many places, the Narcos are the law and order and if the military or police enter these areas they are doing so with the consent of the local gangs or can expect confrontations. These days the Narcos in many areas, especially those gangs that are affiliated with the major Cartels are well armed, trained, organized, paid and more than willing to fight, they are para-military organizations.
Now, one thing that I will talk about here is something that applies to all potentially hostile environments but many in the security industry in general and especially in the close protection world are completely ignorant of… Let’s call it the “Politics of Protection”…
To describe “Politics of Protection” I will use an example from when I was offered a job in Russia in the mid-1990s. To make a long story short, I was asked to provide security for a couple of businessmen who needed to go to a remote region of Russia to settle a business dispute with a prominent politician. At the time I had very good and experienced associates in Russia who provided me with excellent advice and guidance on many occasions.
When I asked my contacts if they could help me with the project, they told me they could help but there would be no point and just a waste of money for the clients and potential headaches for us. We could have had the best operators in the region but, they would not be loyal to us as it was in their interest to be loyal to the local politicians and government. These people live in the region with their families, why would they want to create problems for themselves in exchange for a short-term contract from foreigners. We could hire them, but they would be reporting back to the local politician and could set us up…
As for sending in operatives from outside of the region, the risk would have been high for them as they could easily have been targeted for assault or arrested on trumped-up charges just to ensure the clients understood the locals were very serious people…
Sadly, most clients and those supplying close protection services seem to think that sending a guy or a girl with a gun to follow the clients around is all there is to protecting someone. When in reality most clients have no relevant security as those supplying the services have no clue how to look after themselves let alone someone else. But bullshit baffles brains and as long as people are paying who cares, right?
My associates and I turn down the vast majority of enquires we get for services in Mexico as the risks are too high and we know that realistically we cannot provide protection services with the budgets most people are willing to spend. The main reason we do not provide services is that in the areas we are asked to work in we do not have known and trusted contacts, people who will work in our favor and not sell us out. If things go bad in such areas where we don’t know people, we can expect little help from the police; on the contrary, chances are they will be on the take from the Narcos…
Could I get people to work the jobs we are offered in Mexico and the like? Sure, quite easily but all I would be doing is putting their lives and those of the clients at risk and my reputation on the line. I remember a few years ago I received multiple enquires for services in the city of Monterrey when it was hotter than usual due to Narcos fighting over turf combined with the federal police and military trying to keep control. When I mentioned that we were turning down the jobs as it was too hot I had quite a few “security” guys I know in South Florida begging me to take the jobs as they wanted to go.
I understood these guys’ eagerness for adventure and paycheck but in reality, even though they were providing executive protection services in the U.S. they had no clue what they were asking to get involved in. In retrospect maybe I should have sent them, I could have made some money, the Narcos could have had some fun kidnapping, torturing, raping and executing these Executive Protection Specialists, the only negative would have been the clients might have been inconvenienced in some way…
Seriously, at that time and even today wannabe foreign bodyguards would have been identified by the local forces as soon as they landed at the airport. If they were complete clowns and they and their clients were worthless and causing no problems, they might have been left alone. But if their clients were worth something or they were acting like assholes, they would have had problems, and not the type of problems you will encounter at a golf course in West Palm Beach…
In high-risk locations like Mexico realistic threat assessments and trusted local contacts are essential for successful operations. By trusted, I don’t mean people that you have just met in some Facebook group or some association website. I mean really trusted since you will potentially have to rely on them and entrust them with your and others’ lives.
I remember I was contacted once by a gentleman who was moving from the U.S. to Nicaragua and was going to drive his camper van with some of his possession across Mexico and wanted a security professional to accompany him. It was an understandable reason for services, and he could have been OK if the routes and stops were planned properly so I gave him a decent quote. His response was that my quote was extremely high. When I asked him what he had been quoted by others he told me a Mexican company had told him they would supply a BG for $70.00 a day…
Now, let’s put this into context. The man was emailing me from an iPad, which at the time cost around $800.00 US. He was going to be driving a vehicle full of his possessions worth thousands of dollars… So, why is someone in a fairly lawless country going to work for $70 a day when they could just steal everything this guy had and then maybe even sell him to kidnappers or ransom him themselves?
I don’t know what happened with this guy, I hope all went well for him, but if he disappeared it would have been due to his own stupidity, and in my books, one less stupid person in this world is a positive, not a negative.
Bodyguards Hit in GTO
Bodyguards in Mexico
To understand a little more about the realities of the bodyguard industry in Mexico I spoke with an old friend mine “Jacob” who served with an elite police tactical team, as a police instructor, as well as in the private security industry.
Q. What is the level of training of most of the people providing protection services in Mexico
A. In Mexico, most decent people in the protection business have police or military backgrounds but there are many who have just learned things as they went along. There are a few security schools in Mexico and the standards vary greatly as they do everywhere. Just because someone has done a course for a few days or weeks and has a certificate means little in reality, you need to know and trust those you are working with especially in Mexico…
Q. Is the Mexican security business open to foreigners
A. I have seen the internet talk and movies about Americans working in Mexico but it’s extremely limited and usually, just corporate managers coming to oversee projects. I have never heard of foreigners working as bodyguards. To operate in Mexico is very difficult for Mexicans and it’s our country… A foreigner would not know the culture. They might speak Spanish, but they won’t know the slang and from a legal perspective they won’t be able to get firearms and work permits.
Q. What are the laws concerning the security industry in Mexico
A. There are licenses for security companies in Mexico. I am not sure of the details exactly but know there is a lot of state and federal bureaucracy and it’s very expensive, I think $10,000 plus… As far as I know, there are only two companies that can officially supply bodyguard services and if things are done officially their cars must have special plates, etc. a lot of bullshit. Security companies supply bodyguards or guys work for clients directly, the laws are not enforced unless there is a problem.
Q. What are the restrictions on firearms
A. Legally firearms are very restricted in Mexico and officially all you can work with are .380 caliber pistols or shotguns, but unofficially, there are a lot of guns in Mexico… To have firearms legally you need a permit and there are two ways to get the permit, the first thing is to apply officially to the Army, which costs Mex$18,000 Pesos (approx. $950 US) and then wait; only about 2% of applications are approved. The second option is to pay intermediaries who can influence the process. This can cost between Mex$80,000 Pesos (approx. $4500 US) and Mex$120,000 Pesos (approx. $6500 US), maybe more or less depending on who you know. There is a yearly renewal fee of about Mex$15,000 Pesos (approx. $750 US) to Mex$20,000 Pesos (approx. $1000 US). If the bodyguards are police then, of course, don’t have to worry about this and can carry 9mm’s, shotguns and carbines…
That’s the official process, of course, it does not apply to the Narcos and criminals, as they do what they want in the areas they control. The only time they have problems is if military units or federal police from outside their area arrive for operations. The Narcos are very well armed and some are at the same level as the military. You have seen the CJNG (Jalisco New Generation Cartel) and Zeta convoys… these guys will fight.
Q. Where do the Narcos get their guns
A. Most of the pistols and carbines come in from the U.S. The heavier stuff like grenades and machine guns can come in from Central America or are bought from the Mexican Army. There are AK’s “AK Chinos” now turning up directly from Asia… As for prices a Glock costs about Mex$20,000 Pesos (approx. $1000 US), AR-15 Mex $18,000 to Mex$25,000 Pesos (approx. $950 to $1350 US), AK Chino Mex$25,000 Pesos (approx. $1350 US), it all depends on who you know, prices can be much higher. Ammo costs about Mex$1200 Pesos (approx. $60 US) for a box of 50 X 9mm and about Mex$1500 Pesos (approx. $75 US) for a box of 50 X .223.
Q. Can foreigners carry firearms
A. Sure, they can do whatever the fuck want they want but there are consequences… Seriously, NO, foreigners cannot legally own or carry firearms in Mexico. All the movies and TV shows about armed Americans coming into Mexico to rescue “Goldie Locks” and getting into fights with cartel members are bullshit. They are cool things to watch but complete fantasies… As you say, tactical fantasies for failed males….
Could foreigners come to Mexico and buy guns and work illegally? Sure, but the chances are if they bought guns off the streets the dealer would sell them out to the Narcos or the local police to start with. Once they were arrested or chopped up the dealer could by the guns back from the cops or Narcos at a discount… Everyone’s a winner, well almost….
Let’s say now these foreigners have their guns and shoot someone, what will happen? The cops will investigate and want to know who did it, and generally, the police can operate quite well, there is just the corruption issue. Once caught these foreigners will face big charges and will be made an example of. If they are in a Narco area and shot a Narco, they can only hope and pray the police or military will get to them before the Narcos but that will most probably not be enough the save them… They won’t have fun in jail if they live that long…
If the foreigners are working for Narcos then they can carry etc. but they are completely illegal and maybe OK in areas their friends control but outside of those areas they will have problems if stopped by the police, military or rival Narcos. If foreign bodyguards come to Mexico with clients and stay in the safe areas, don’t draw attention or cause problems then they should be OK but if they want to play Rambo, they and their clients can just disappear…
Q. What can a Mexican bodyguard expect to be paid
A. Depends on the client but they are looking at Mex$5000 to Mex$8000 Pesos (approx. $250 to $425 US) a week for legal work. Those working for the Narcos can earn $5000.00 US a week… Whoever you work for the risks are high and money means little when you’re dead.
Q. What are the main problems you can expect to encounter
A. Getting killed, your family getting killed… As you know there was a recent incident in GTO where two BG’s were ambushed and killed just after they dropped off their client at his residence in the evening. Why did the criminals not ambush the car when the client was in it? Because they were sending a message to him, he is the business owner, the guy with the money… The Cartel guys were just letting him know they could kill him at any time… What did they want? Who knows, money, favors or he had pissed someone off, who knows or cares. Two good guys died for that message to be sent.
Life is very cheap, and this is what people don’t understand, once it’s gone, it’s gone… When we are young we don’t care but now when we have a family, life has a different perspective. I am well trained and capable, but I understand that if people want me dead it’s only a matter of time before they get me. I also understand that my family is more vulnerable than I am, and I can’t protect them, I will die and kill for them, but I cannot be with them all the time… And, if I am dead…
Clients bring their own problems and you must know who they are and who their opponents or enemies are. It’s very easy to end up working for clients who have problems with the Cartels or are associated, that’s business in Mexico but you have to be very careful. Getting involved with the wrong clients can get you jailed or killed. The main concern in Mexico is staying alive and getting paid and to do so takes a lot more than having a gun…