The sudden rise of the bodyguards

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1336064624_extra_bigThey say crisis is half opportunity. And, indeed, what you see as an unrelenting crime wave, looks like an opportunity to the bodyguard industry.

This week, two dispatches cover the issue and offer an inside look in the world of bodyguards (known here as escoltas) and their personal experiences. First up, Associated Press’ Hannah Dreier meets Julio Delgado, who works for an auto import businessman.

His life isn’t quite glamorous or exciting:

Guards like Delgado make a precarious living. Both on the job and off, bodyguards now are forced to take greater risks to guard their employers and to protect themselves from bandits who covet their weapons and vehicles…

Delgado, for one, earns $250 a month, twice what an average bodyguard might earn and six times more than a Venezuelan working for minimum wage. The salary enabled him to leave the hillside shantytown where he grew up and move with his wife into a concrete home in the village below. His neighborhood of steep, broken streets is dotted with makeshift shacks. The threat of robbery is pervasive; iron bars guard windows even on the third stories.

He tells no one he’s a security guard. Neighbors, he said, believe he’s a hairdresser with a salon in Caracas. Training is done in private, sparring with an old pair of car tires where no one can see.”

The second one comes from BBC Mundo’s Daniel Pardo, who also meets with another bodyguard in Caracas. But his report also treats the legal limbo in which may of those escoltas work: They’re assigned to protect government officers but they’re not fully members of any law enforcement agency. As their number has grown in recent years, the only legal framework who cover their work is the administrative order 808, published by the Interior Ministry back in 2012.

But that hasn’t stop them from getting organized, to the point that they publicly opposed the State’s disarmament program for putting them at risk. Meanwhile, the government’s version of the secret service (created almost a year ago) has not shown much progress, outside of being “activated” late November by police czar Freddy Bernal.