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Grupo Irena: Our Role in Large Infrastructure Projects

In recent years, Mexico has become an ever more constant destination for infrastructure investments. From major railway programs to improved highways and ever more frequent renewable energy plants, these mega-projects have sought out reliable partners to plan for and handle potential security issues.

Grupo Irena’s expertise lies in helping its clients put in place security plans for infrastructure projects in high-risk areas. These plans are always tailor-made and can cover a wide range of needs, from appointing full-time personnel such as security managers and coordinators to managing human resources (security guards and drivers) as well as technical requirements (GPS system with panic button, alarms and CCTV cameras, etc).

One of our more successful sectors has been the setup and construction of wind farms in Mexico, Brazil, Peru and beyond. Mexico’s Energy Reform has opened up investment in the energy sector to private, foreign firms who are building wind farms in risky zones such as Tamaulipas and Oaxaca, where Grupo Irena can provide valuable support.

No matter a project’s operational complexity, technical requirements, budget or other challenges, Grupo Irena relies on rock-solid processes which have seen us be trusted by Fortune 500 companies.

  1. Early planning

When we are first contacted by a client, we understand that the full scope of the project, such as the precise timeline or the number of people involved is not always finalized. As such, Grupo Irena defines an early plan across a number of risk factors, including an on-site analysis, tracking the local security situation, identifying potential targets for criminal groups, and how other important projects have worked in the area.

  1. Putting in place a security strategy

Once the project moves to an active phase, deploying its staff and setting up operations, Grupo Irena and the client finish defining the strategy, taking into account many variables. These include:

How can the safety of the project be maintained at all times?

Different kinds of projects present very different but equally challenging risks. For example, transportation networks can involve separate sites up to hundreds of kilometers apart. Separately, wind farms also cover vast areas of open terrain, which are difficult to monitor all at once.

Our expertise lies in identifying what risks each type of project presents, familiarizing the team on site with said risk, and designing a safety policy that works for all involved.

Where will the staff be staying and how can this best be secured?

This involves the securing of hotels, houses, flats, or on-site accommodation, usually with our own personnel and agents.

How will the staff be transported to and from the site and what risks does this expose them to?

Grupo Irena provides a range of options here, such as active monitoring of specific vehicles, offering trained drivers or shuttles, or arranging for staff to travel in a convoy.

– What materials will be used for the project and how likely are they to be targeted by thieves?

Raw materials for a new subway system differ drastically to those for a power plant yet may be equally tempting for theft. Grupo Irena designs specific protocols and trains personnel on how to secure and track all such materials.

  1. Information gathering

Once a project has begun, Grupo Irena keeps its finger on the pulse of the local situation. This is done in a blend of two important ways. Our in-house analysts constantly monitor potential risks while we create local information gathering network by getting to know local authorities, economic actors, and stakeholders.

We also recommend the placement of a security manager or coordinator on site, who becomes the nerve center for any issues relating to security. This person is in charge of rolling out and supervising security plans designed by Grupo Irena and adapting these to the needs of the operation, such as peaks of activity, nighttime work, site visits by VIPs.

Furthermore, the coordinator also seeks to build another layer of information-gathering and garnering trust with local workers on site.

Key information is then relayed to Grupo Irena, with decisions able to be checked with the client’s security director at the corporate headquarters abroad

  1. Local trust, global reach

There are broad misconceptions about what it is like to work on the ground in Latin America, about how to prevent or dissuade being targeted by gangs, about how to work with police and authorities, and far more besides.

Grupo Irena’s responsibility is not only to provide security on a project site. Corporate security directors are usually based abroad while their visits to a project site are expensive and can only go so far. As such, Grupo Irena’s executives act as a crucial information resource. Regular communication is maintained, including regular visits to company headquarters to brief our clients in person.

Over the years, Grupo Irena has gained the confidence of multinational companies such as Thales, Air France, Alstom and Suez Group through providing both rock-solid security planning and excellent communication with all stakeholders.

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The real security cost of fake news

 

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.