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Competencies and Executive Protection in Latin America

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The thousands of people who are regionally dedicated to protecting others face a daily dire dilemma between their original security role and the administrative role that de facto is required of them. This article digs deep into competencies for executive protection in Latin America.

A large number of the “protectees,” “principals,” or “VIPs” (the protected person) perceive their escorts or protection specialists as auxiliary workers:

  • Drivers,
  • Messengers,
  • Secretaries, or
  • Protocol assistants.

Well, it seems that these are the tangible activities that they carry out and for which their protectees evaluate them. But, of course, we have found a couple of exceptions. In fact, those who have suffered physical attacks or extortions and those who have some military, police, or security connection or background. For these, the protector is a fundamental piece of their security and consequently of their productivity.

The dilemma is disastrous because it obviously favors performance in auxiliary activities over those inherent to the protection of a person. At this distortion, we must add that the protectee — when assessing security capabilities — is prone to only recognizing the reactive abilities of his protector. And that may not happen in years randomly due to good preventive management, not being a target at risk, such as low probability or chance.

Competencies in Latin America

For over a decade, management by competencies has been promoted in ​human resources or human capital departments, both public and private. In simple terms, it is a process that allows identifying the personnel skills required in each job through a quantifiable and measurable profile aligned with the objectives of the department or corporation.

Management by competencies has dramatically helped expose the complexity and scope of the protection function to people. But unfortunately, such perception has not yet been scaled to protectees analysis. As a result, despite increasing progress, human resources and security departments have not been able to make their managers (protectees) aware of the professional level of the protectors… what they do, and what no one notices.

The Responsibility of HR and Security Managers?

No! The culture, the regulatory environment, the labor market, and mainly the attitude of the protectors in daily functions are fundamental elements of the paradigm shift that we must promote. A professional in any area becomes evident when they exhibit knowledge, skills, methods, metrics, and tools of specialization in their actions.

Some time ago, we asked local managers in several Latin American countries: What qualities did good protectors have?

The short answer relates to physical statures: tall, athletic, armed. And there is also the “other” category: discreet, neat, and proactive.

If we translate this into skills, we would be talking — in the best of cases — about any palace guard in an empire before Christ.

A close and/or executive protection specialist of the 21st century transcends the classic perception of body protection of their protectee. In fact, it must cover at least four dimensions or areas: Physical, Emotional, Social, and Digital. (graph 1)


In the modern world, the protectee is more likely to suffer a virtual attack or an extortion call than an assault with physical means. Therefore, the development of competencies in these areas is undoubtedly a necessity for protectors of the 21st century as prevention masters and at the same time as first responders. Yet, modernity demands not only actions against the physical but also the emotional, social, and digital or electronic.

Hence, planning in these areas and the speed and effectiveness of the response will be decisive to preserve the integrity of the protectee whatever the area of ​​risk.

Evaluating Skills in Modern Protection Specialists

In addition to the generic or interpersonal skills (Gs) inherent to any person — such as logical thinking, negotiation, leadership, etc. — we can do an exercise (not a conclusive or definitive list) that draws two skills levels for our protection specialists: Basic and Advanced. These connect closely to the operative environment and threats.

Basic: Ra Risk analysis, Op Operations planning, Al Applicable law, Av Advanced and route analysis, Co Communications, Sd Security or evasive driving, Fr Formations, Pd Protective personal defense, We Weapons, Cs Cyber ​​security, Fa First aids, Pt Post-traumatic psychology or victim care, Vc Violence control, Pi Protective intelligence, Su Surveillance detection, Pe Protocol and Etiquette, Cm Crisis management.

Advanced: Io Protective Information Operations, Rt Red Team, Ci Protective Counter-Insurgency, Sm Cyber ​​Security for Social Media, St SWAT Special Weapons and Tactics.

There are significant challenges that concern us in the training and evaluation of new generations of protection specialists. These individuals not only meet the threats of their times but also definitively break with the “auxiliary worker paradigm.”

In addition, thanks to a high-level professionalization, they claim the complexity and relevance of our mission. That is, to protect the integrity of my protectee… physically, emotionally, socially, and digitally.

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