The emotion of moving to Mexico can hit executives and their families at different moments. But when does it hit? When waiting to board the plane, as the wheels hit the runway, walking into a new home, the first day at the office?

What may matter more than this is what form this emotion takes. The expat who is on their third or fourth assignment may be quietly confident of their ability to surmount any risks. The newcomer fresh out of business school may be naïve, aware of the dangers but believing they will never happen to them. Those coming with families may be genuinely nervous or even scared, ready to see risks on every street corner.

All of these are perfectly understandable reactions but it does mean that everybody can stand to learn something. This is why Grupo Irena’s risk awareness training sessions cater to all of these equally.

What risks do you cover?

When arriving in Mexico, many executives do not have the right tools. While you can certainly live comfortably in this country, there is a security problem. However, drug wars and police shootouts should not be a major concern. Instead, this workshop presents the daily risks that may become a concern: robbery, theft, phone extortions, or even kidnapping.

What is extortion and how does it work?

What is organized crime and how does this affect you?

What is the reality in Mexico today in terms of risk?

How should you protect yourself, at home, in the street, in your car?

How do I protect my personal data and information?

What do I do in case of extortion, a break-in, kidnapping, or even being caught in a shootout?

How do I maintain efficient working relations with the police so as to count on them in times of trouble?

Some may feel that these workshops are only for foreign staff but Grupo Irena has found that Mexican employees may benefit even more.

These workshops do not exist to frighten our clients, or show them gory images. Nor are they there to focus on personal security alone. To feel safe, one must understand the context one is living in.

The risk awareness training workshops present a realistic, proven evaluation of the Mexican security situation. Beyond the scenarios outlined above, we delve into the root cause of violence, such as corruption and impunity. We break down the economic and social factors contributing to crime. Most importantly, our workshops are not static.

1. They can be modified to consider the local crime factors wherever our clients are located (Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, etc.)
2. They are carried out for key staff, such as boards of directors, putting across necessary, practical information for these members.
3. The workshops can be delivered in online versions, built in consultation with clients, for the convenience of travelling staff. This is also handy for expat staff before they are deployed on a mission abroad.
4. The workshops can have a narrower scope, such as a specific project or remote site, to be delivered to teams of engineers, for example
5. Refresher courses are usually advised 12 or 24 months after each workshop.


If you live in Mexico City and take the subway regularly, we will focus on the specific risks of the city’s Metro system. The daily threats tend to be pickpocketing and sexual harassment for female passengers. However, beyond that, you should be familiar with the route you are taking, including which subway entrance and exit you need to take. Mexican subway stations can be complicated with a number of different exits. Getting out at the wrong station or taking the wrong exit may lead to a high risk of attack, especially if you look lost.

Do you teach your clients to defend themselves?

This is not a self-defense class. We teach participants how to be aware, how to minimize the risk of being targeted and what to do in case something bad happens.

Take a phone extortion, the most common crime our clients are likely to face. Our primary recommendation is always to simply hang up the phone. Someone who has not been trained may be more likely to believe the lies being fed to them than someone who has.

Home Burglary

An increasingly common crime in Mexico is home burglary, not by breaking and entering, but by people who knock on your door, wearing a uniform and with a credible story. One of our clients was recently alone at home when a man arrived, claiming to be from the gas company. His story was that a gas leak had been detected in the apartment complex and that the owner of the house needed to wait outside while their home was verified. The client complied and 20 minutes later, a laptop, jewelry and other electronics had been taken, hidden in the thief’s bag as he walked out. From the comfort of your own home, you may tell yourself you would never be so easy to fool. But taken off guard by a convincing thief, anybody may be fooled.

Our training would focus on the need to ask for secondary verification, to call the company the person claims to work for. Even then, if there is any lingering doubt, shut the door. If the person does enter, an eye must be kept on them at all times. The training also covers how to include a cleaner or nanny in this training, as they make appealing targets as well.

Finally, an important part of this training is the role-playing. By placing participants in the role of criminals and asking them how they would plan an attack, we help them realize the opportunities they create in everyday situations. By focusing on body language and posture, by being aware of how bags or other belongings are being carried, or when and where to check your phone, we help our clients identify the risks when on the street.


Should you or your company be interested in one of our risk awareness training sessions (offered in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese), please contact Grupo Irena at or +52 55 5207 3149.




Fake news may currently be the biggest cliché on the Internet. From the speeches of politicians to the manufactured quotes of company executives, fake news has become the ultimate defense. In an age where information has a shelf-life of only minutes, any real news which is unfavorable to someone can be denied or dismissed as fake, often without any consequences or checking.

However, this leads to a strange hybrid between fake news and urban legends which originate from half-truths. These can spread in many ways, through email and Whatsapp chains, the origin of which is completely lost.  False information spread online, either maliciously by those who want to cause harm to a specific target or unknowingly by the general public. This fake news is more insidious. It has no original source to track down, nobody knows who invented it. It has no end date, no news update that will change the narrative. Instead, these rumors may burn on social media for a day or a week or a month. They may flare out only to be restored in a burst of activity weeks later.

Fake kidnappings and real deaths

A dreadful example of this has surfaced in Mexico since the summer. All year, Grupo Irena has tracked fake news in the country concerning suspected gangs of child kidnappers across the country. Now while this sounds serious and plausible in a country so plagued with criminality, kidnappings in general tend to either be quick snatch and grab affairs (secuestro exprés) or well-planned, targeted plots, especially when targeting minors. There are real reasons to be scared of this. From 2006 to 2018, over 6,600 children and teenagers were declared missing.

Despite this, there is close to no credible evidence of gangs of men roaming the countryside, snatching children at will.

However, the shock of child kidnapping is anchored into Mexico’s subconscious. Stories like the murder of 14-year-old Fernando Marti in 2008 are not forgotten. This has made the Mexican public prime to believe fake news about child kidnapping. Tragically, this has had horrific consequences.

In August, four innocent people were burned alive on suspicion of being child traffickers in Puebla and Hidalgo. In September, a detective was doused in gasoline and burned to death by a mob of 100 people, again in Hidalgo. In the case of Alberto Flores Morales and Ricardo Flores Rodriguez, killed in Puebla on August 29, their deaths were broadcast on Facebook Live, where their own families witnessed it. The viciousness of these lynchings show both the fear that these rumors spread and the desire of vengeance that fake news can cause. In a supreme irony, the mob showed on Facebook Live what they felt they were doing to keep their children safe, but which only served to keep the fake news alive.

But why should this concern you?

Many headlines have covered how fake news distort perceptions of reality, allowing people to believe lies that coincide with their worldview.

At Grupo Irena, we battle another consequence. Fake news about crimes such as child kidnappings mean that our clients may overreact to nonexistent threats and ignore real ones.

Painful evidence of this came during the coverage of the Mexican earthquake on September 19, 2017. Journalists ran rampant with the story that a little 12-year-old girl, Frida Sofia, was alive in the rubble of her school. The news reached such levels that rescue workers at the school worked all day to save her before the truth broke. Frida Sofia had never existed. The time and resources of rescue workers had been used chasing a lie instead of saving people who were really in danger.

Fake news create real fears and have real consequences.