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.

1 COMMENT

  1. One of the many areas where bolivarian socialism has effectively privatized what most consider a public service, in this case, security. Great photo.

  2. Two cents to add to this topic:

    Sometimes, the process to select who’ll be hired as a bodyguard isn’t the right one, case in point, big-mouth congressman robert serra, who got offed with a thousand pokes from his own bodyguards to steal his stash of goodies.

      • Oh, dear! Now I see, no BMW at all. I was curious about the use of plates among Boligarchs.

        Back to topic: I wonder how a “socialist” government can justify the use of these private bodyguards.
        Well: no one would be asking now why Diosdado Cabello’s daughter went to a private school whereas
        I, like many other escuálidos, went to a public school.

        I have seen German and Belgian ministers and mayors on the streets with no bodyguard around them.
        I have used a lot of state-own buses in capitalist Europe, like
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berliner_Verkehrsbetriebe
        In “socialist” Venezuela we have a bunch of mafiosi operating buses with dismal standards, moving coffins. Although petrol is almost free, the total cost of transportation for a Venezuelan worker using “public” buses
        is higher than that of a German worker.

        Who understands this?

        • Nunca me cansare de decirlo, NO SOMOS ESCUALIDOS CONFIRO!!!!

          So stop using that term to refer to yourself, or anyone else, unless they are well and truly squalid!

          • And who was it who started denigrating the Opposition by calling them “esqualidos”? Come on… Starts with a “C”…

          • Are you talking about chavismo?

            Because I will deny it was them in attempt to convince you, Roy.

            You fucking idiot.

          • “Watching the troll getting trolled by the reality and truth: PRICELESS.
            For everything else, there’s…”

            Tsk, tsk, trolls have to have thicker hide, or faster tongues, otherwise, they just make idiots of themselves when somebody puts them in their place, hehehe.

          • Good point, wouldn’t make sense. Anyway, hip street blacks common refer to each other this way, so I guess Kep can adopt the escualido as a self deprecating badge of honor. Hey, wad up, my escualido?

          • Roberto,

            During the American Revolution, the term “Yankee” was given to the rebels by the British troops, and was highly pejorative. The rebels responded to it by proudly adopting this moniker as their own. Kepler is using the term in the same sense.

    • @Kepler: I don’t know if the vehicle in the picture is from Venezuela or not, but I can guarantee you can view circulating in the streets “official” vehicles without any kind of licensing plates attached in a per dozen basis.

  3. Back in the early years of chavismo, this car was actually quite common among the chavista elite. I have seen many photos and videos of Chavez and other government and military officials using cars identical to the one in the photo above. This was probably before they realized they could steal enough money to buy a new Audi or Hummer every year.

  4. There may well be a correlation between the rise in the number of personal bodyguards and the ever sinking chaos of a country drug corridor.

    Back in the early 90’s I worked with a Peruvian who told me his family would hire body guards whenever he’d visit Lima. As I had only (lightly) read about the Peruvian economy and the havoc caused by the Sendero Luminoso, I couldn’t quite understand the need to hire personal bodyguards during a family visit. Seemed to me then to be excessive protection. But obviously, everyone who enters this type of contract has their reasons. And now, certain Venezuelans in the country are facing the need.

    Qué triste.

    • The bodyguard fad that hit Peru between the lates 80s and 90s proved to be rather useless except for the status symbol. I think it is useless in Venezuela too. Think of the deal made between bodyguard and employer:

      “For US$250 a month and risk of life and limb you will defend me” a wealthy person who has nothing in common with you and in all likelihood looks down on you.

      Now, the bodyguards that really work are those that share your life almost like a son. You go out to fancy restaurants, he sits in the next table and eats like you. You travel, he does too and stays in the next bedroom. You drink, he gets at least one. In other words, he has access to a status of living that he would NEVER EVER provide for himself. This type of symbiotic relationship is parallel to the one you have with your pet dog.

      Also this canine loyalty can also be brought forward by deep convictions such as ideologies, religion.

      • Well, $250 per month is twice the minimum wage (according to the article) so in today’s Venezuela that is not so bad, is it?

        There are many reasons that people become bodyguards, and I’m pretty sure that no one goes into that line of work unless they either like it, or feel they aren’t qualified for anything else.

        I’ve fortunately never had the need for a bodyguard, but I’m pretty sure that the last thing I would do is treat the one guy willing to put his life on the line for me like I would treat my favorite dog.

        • RobertoN,

          I guess you’ve never had a favorite pet dog. 🙂

          Mine get scientifically developed nutrition (so says the label of the dog food), first rate medical care, regular exercise and job training (my dogs hunt).

          I’ll even confess to crying despondently when Chili Pepper died 6 years ago.

          I still treat my children categorically better but sometimes they do not seem as loyal.

        • Read again. Six minimum wages, or about twice what the average bodyguard earns, meaning he’s among very well paid for a bodyguard.

          “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.”

  5. Having bodyguards may be necessary in todays crime ridden Venezuela , but additionally having one is a status symbol , its a sign of how powerful and important the person being protected is , something to feed the narcicism of those who get to use them .

    Knew of the father of a friend who in the old days of Betancour and Leoni was officially entitled to two body guards plus a driver and official car ( the car and driver were normal in those days) . He though people who used them were contemptible because if attacked you should be able to defend yourself on your own. What he did was buy a gun for the driver and tell him that if attacked to take cover while he replied to the attack with his own gun. .

    He made it a point never to ride at the back of the car , always up front, next to the driver and also never to wear dark glasses , he saw these two practices as beneath contempt and the kind of thing that ‘only GN officers would to go for ‘ !!

    How have times changed!!

    • Not only is it a status symbol, but there appears to be quite the competition amongst the Chavista Officialismo for having the biggest and most elaborate protection detail.

    • In my building we have a couple of high chavista lords and masters. Every morning in our underground garage there are about 8 to 10 escorts waiting on their high powered motorcycles for their masters to sober up enough to go to the office. Their chavista ‘owners’ treat these guys like dirt. Sometimes they are waiting several hours without any water or food and no access to a bathroom. It eventually has got to the point that I always have some water or food for them if they are waiting an extra long time and they know they can come up and use the bathroom in my apartment if they really need to and I am their to let them up.

      I would hazard a guess that the dirty gringo would get better protection from them as opposed to their official ‘owners’.

      • Good anecdote. If they really thought they needed these guys to “take a bullet” for them, they would treat them better. So, the other explanation is that these bodyguard/escorts are just essential accessories for the purpose of showing other Chavistas how important they are.

      • In the last few years I have walked past a couple of ministers and deputies of the Belgian and Dutch parliaments, followed by just a couple of functionaries and I am not sure if those functionaries were bodyguards or what. No, I am not another deputy but just a normal citizen in capitalist Europe.

        Once I even saw one of the best known Belgian mayors walking alone in the other direction one evening.

        Now there is terror alert in Belgium and a controversial figure, the mayor of Antwerp and head of the main party, announced that to his shock he was told by the national security forces that he had to take a couple of bodyguards and a special car to his holidays in Switzerland (a trip of 665 km).

        I am sure most of the children of ministers in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany go to public schools.

        In “socialist” Venezuela things are different.

        That IS mental.

        • As told to me by people who saw this with their own eyes : General Gomez would sometimes seat himself in a porch in Maracay at the house of his old friend General Galavis , no guards , no military detail , maybe a courtesan or two , General Galavis would impishly take a straw and tickle with it General Gomez ear as he dozed off, General Gomez would move his hand as if shooing away a mosquito . .

          Often when he traveled on car he would only be accompanied by a lone motorcycle escort and his aide d camp (edecan) . no other military , He would sometime travel from Maracay to Caracas this way.

          When they killed Delgado Chalbaud he was ambushed while accompanied only by his aide d camp Captain Bacalao Lara and a motorcycle scort. The practice of using a massive military scort for important officials came later .

    • I believe the father of your friend was tactically ill advised.

      Unless you are a committed gunslinger having a gun helps you very little. And even if you are an accomplished gunslinger then the consequences of defending yourself are devastating to your foe and probably to your own life (think of the legal consequences of misidentifying a foe or the legal quagmire of proving self defense).

      As conservative as I find myself to be, even living in the south of the US, the NRA sales pitch is universally bunk.

      P.S. Your writing yesterday was quite moving, and you are not alone in your difficult position.

  6. Can you imagine any of the Chavista thugs placing themselves under the protection of a Secret Service not completely under their own control? Being forced to trust their lives and their secrets to other Chavistas? Never gonna happen.

  7. Interesante este tema, de hecho he pensado en el desde hace tiempo, desde que 6 ladrones se metieron a casa de mis padres a robar y eran obviamente guardaespaldas/expolicias

    Durante los ultimos 5 anios han habido tambien numerosos casos de alto nivel con guardaespaldas involucrados, ej. Robert serra, Gustavo Giménez, Robert Redman y largos ETcs

    En venezuela han proliferado los guardaespaldas por motivos obvios, pero donde hay que ahondar es en las CONSECUENCIAS de esa proliferacion, veamos>

    1 // Es un gremio “fantasma”, que no tiene organizaciones ni lideres visibles
    2 // Es un gremio que se mueve con las mas altas esferas de poder y dinero, obteniendo informacion sensible de ubicaciones, familiares, etc de esas familias, pero tambien de muchas personas relacionadas a ellos, que viven en los mismos edificios, etc.
    3 // Suelen trabajar para varios billetudos, a veces unos del gobierno, otras veces empresarios, etc, convirtiendose ellos mismos en un “security breach” bajo las narices de sus propias victimas
    4 // Nunca son mencionados como gemio, ni como
    5 // Muchos son Expolicias
    6 // Se conocen entre ellos, es por esto que cuando se quedan sin trabajo, arman su “oceans12” para ejecutar secuestros y robos.
    7 // No los persigue ni los agarra la policia venezolana. POr que?, pues porque estan directamente relacionados con la policia> solian trabajar alli, son amigos de los policias, frecuentan los mismos lugares, han sido entrenados por los mimsos pistoleros, etc.
    8 // Todos son unos mojoneados infantiles que se deriten por una moto, unos lentes, un arma, gente muy vacia, sin ningun tipo de valores morales, ni profundidad en sus relaciones.

    En conclusion, son una plaga muy peligrosa. Yo soy un pobreton, pero si tuviera plata preferiria JAMAS contratar uno de estos malandros bienvestidos

    • El bocón serra no tuvo el mismo sentido de la previsión que tú, y fíjate que tu desconfianza está bien fundada, después de todo, ya sabemos como acabó el bocón.

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