Travel Security in Mexico: Ground Truth and Transportation

Secure Transportation & Ground Truth; Key aspects of Business Travel Security In Mexico

National Risk Assessments Are Not Useful

The business traveler to Mexico is ill-served by a national or regional level risk assessment approach.  Rather, Mexico travel risk must be viewed through the lens of locality. For example, risk levels in Cancun are not nearly the same as Monterrey. Corporate security organizations wedded to general travel advice for Mexican regions will not only find themselves saying “No” to business opportunities in safer towns but saying “Yes” to potentially life-threatening visits to villages that should be off-limits.  More than ever before, business travelers unaware of the risk distinctions from district to district, and neighborhood to neighborhood are either placing themselves at unprecedented risk or missing out on closing deals in places where the risk is manageable.

Last year, the U.S. State Department issued strict “do not travel” advisories for five Mexican states because of violent crime and gang activity. While the State Department has long recommended travelers exercise “increased caution” in Mexico in general because of widespread homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, the new warning elevates the five states to level 4, the highest level of potential danger. This advisory puts the states of Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan, and Guerrero on the same level as battle-weary countries like Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. Yet, many businesses have chosen to interpret the “do not travel” advisories for those five states as precluding travel to even the surrounding regions adjacent to those states. In doing so, those businesses are foregoing opportunities by not seeking out the finer details of Mexican travel.

Security in Mexico, Questions You Must Ask

secure ground transportation

One question should be foremost in the mind of any business traveler to Mexico, whether pre-departure, upon arrival, and around the clock while in the country. That ever-present core query should be, “What’s the ground truth?” and ‘How can I get from A to B safely, commensurate with risk?”

Whether it’s Mexico City, Oaxaca, or Juarez, getting to the ground truth means asking the right questions designed to determine the specific risks. Mitigating and managing risks can only happen once you understand the distinct dangers of your locality.  Specific and practical risk questions are those that are directly linked to the where, who, why, and when of your Mexico travel.  For example, mapping the routes between your airport, hotel and business site allows you to learn if any of those routes are prone to incidents.  Assessing the crime near a local hotel and dining options permits you to plan for possible overnights in alternate locations.  Allowing security professionals to research known gang activity, robberies, and assaults at your destination over the last 30 days offer an understanding of the modus operandi of the local criminals and the potential to plan mitigating countermeasures.

Acknowledge and Understand Risks in Mexico to Better Overcome Them

Acknowledging the risks and planning for them is the first step toward enabling smarter business travel to Mexico. Remember, high-level security professionals, special forces and elite units around the world are not successful in their operations because of ninja-like capability.  These professionals succeed in the harshest of travel environments due to planning and preparation complemented by a pro-active situational awareness.  Learning of and thinking through every threat, assessing actual vulnerability to that threat based on hard data, and planning with professionals to avoid or manage that risk makes the difference between winning a contract or watching a competitor get the deal.  A simple but important example is in the risk of Kidnap.  In some locales in Mexico, Kidnap is high-risk, and most Kidnaps happen in or near a vehicle. Mitigation measures include pre-booking a vetted security driver with the right looking, low-profile vehicle, and varying travel routes each day.

In Mexico City, often non-armored vehicles with a security driver and a solid pre-travel safety briefing are commensurate with risk. In the other border regions, one may require a low-profile vehicle e.g. truck, and a covert advance asset to run the route and help fly under the radar. Alternatively, sometimes high profile armored vehicle convoys act as a necessary deterrent. One size definitely does not fit all in Mexico. The answer is to search out a subject matter expert advice.

What if?

Preparation for higher risk business travel must also include preparation for the possibility of the risk materializing despite mitigation measures.  This is where vigilance and situational awareness combine to help answer the question “What if” question.  For example, “What if that person watching me leave the hotel every morning has criminal links?” “What If my driver suddenly veers off route and says he is picking up a friend?”  “What if a car screeches up beside me and two men run towards me?”  The simple act of asking the “What if” question better prepares you to successfully and calmly react to the threat and survive it.

With planning and preparation, use of available data, and consultation with security professionals, business travel to Mexico can be both savvy and successful. But, with zero question two key pieces to the risk management plan must include Ground truth and solid secure ground transportation and journey management plan.

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Law Not War – Security Facilitation Services For Legal Sector

Globalization like marriage has been a celebration of closeness followed by the dispute. No longer are attorneys just expected to fly in and out of European countries for arbitration sessions. It is becoming far more common that attorneys are asked to travel to high-risk environments to act on behalf of their client or collect evidence to build their case. Historically large law firms in London have told me that ‘they’ve not had any trouble before’ or ‘it’s not for long and they are in a nice hotel’. I expect that these are the individuals that are less proactive and instead accept what is presented to them rather than seeking new evidence from unlikely sources.

Low Profile Security, Enabling Operations

Thankfully these attitudes are now changing. Interestingly, not because terror attacks are now commonplace in our airports and theaters or because Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer considered the chime of libertarianism but because the world has become a smaller place. Attorneys find themselves far more aware of the evidence troves that exist and how to obtain them. They have also become far more aware (as have their insurers) that threats exist to travelers seeking to stick their nose in where it’s not wanted. Now more than ever we hear in the news of large organizations, wealth funds, and politicians thrust into the international limelight under accusations of corruption. The success or failure of a case can not only affect the participants but the geopolitics of the entire region. Naturally, it serves some to have investigating attorneys hindered in their efforts to construct a case. However, attorneys tend to be less intimidated and far more stubborn.

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Attorneys are now identifying the need for case facilitation services to gain the evidential edge, whilst knowing their opponent is behind a desk in New York on Google. Some have seen the worth in traveling to the corner of a refugee camp in Irbil to trace a witness that can bring credible and verifiable evidence to an international tribunal considering War Crimes.

A natural fit in these situations comes from the former Special Forces operators. Operators cost millions to train, but it is only then that they start to learn. Their experience to facilitate travel through high-risk environments securely and without fanfare is unique and often an understated bridge to justice. A recent example of this evidential edge was well demonstrated when an expert was flown into an African capital experiencing the aftermath of a terror attack. The case hinged on analysis of data stored in the country and the case timelines were immovable. The expert, chaperoned by an operator, was able to conduct discrete forensic data recovery preventing the destruction of information, and ultimately securing evidence critical to the case.

Obtaining Evidence Efficiently

Operators have been at the vanguard of liaison with local partners for many years. The examples of Freddie Spencer Chapman’s movements behind enemy lines in Malaya to the operators fighting alongside the Peshmerga to clear Mosul as I write demonstrates the operator’s ability to move in foreign lands with respect and efficiency. This is hugely advantageous to those seeking new evidence.

Getting the Job Done

High threat environments should not be a barrier to justice. The days of crew cuts, dark sunglasses and blacked out Humvees are no longer necessary and are in most instances, inappropriate. Low profile, discrete and respectful; the operator has proven to be a powerful enabler. A conscientious operator able to read the environment, whose existence has been honed to get the job done without celebration, is a formidable ally to the traveling attorney.

Quintel Intelligence Ltd and ETS Risk Management Inc have formed an alliance to better meet the needs of the legal sector. By blending their Intelligence services and physical security capabilities they offer a global service for case facilitation services with successful investigations conducted in Europe, North and South America, and Africa.  View More