The Art of Ordeal

Kidnaped, tortured and nearly killed in a Mexican hellhole, a Phoenix entrepreneur wants to teach others about the perils of doing business south of the border

Overall, he seems a man trying to write his way out of a number of things: his business or personal indiscretions perhaps, and certainly his trauma. It may be spin, it may be therapy. The bold, defiant tone helps compensate for the helplessness that Krusensterna must have felt at the hands of his captors, kept motionless and speechless without food or water in his own wastes.

Still, it's a good read, and Krusensterna intends it as a cautionary tale. There are a final few chapters tacked on to teach Americans how to act and what to look out for while abroad. And Krusensterna and his ghostwriter are also writing a handbook to be passed out to participants in seminars he's planning to educate other businessmen on the hidden dangers of overseas business. More to the point, on the dangers of travel in Mexico.

There are four or five international firms that advise corporations on business security abroad, broker kidnap insurance, even negotiate on behalf of those companies, especially in countries where the police cannot be counted on. Such negotiations can cost $10,000 to $20,000 a week.

Colombia leads the world in kidnaps for hire. Control Risks Group, a McLean, Virginia, firm, has documented 4,737 such events in Colombia since 1992, more than 600 last year alone.

Mexico follows, with 1,190 since 1992; 201 in 1999, as of November, and 405 in 1998. Armando Lara, CRG's associate director of operations and a former director of the Colombian equivalent of the FBI, cautions that these are only cases that his firm could document, and he says that actual numbers are far greater.

Krusensterna calls his new venture STAND International, short for "Security Techniques and Natural Defenses," and he's aiming it at midlevel managers.

"The executives of the corporations are going to the Krolls and the Pinkertons [two security firms], and they're getting all this protection and all this advice," he says. "But what's happening is the guy from Moline [Illinois] who's going to the John Deere plant in Guadalajara for two weeks or three weeks. They give him the ticket from the travel agency. He thinks, 'Oh my God, I'm going to Mexico.' He doesn't have a clue what the hell he's getting into. These are the people I'm trying to pinpoint, and at least give them some kind of idea what to do and what not to do to keep them out of trouble."

He's set up a Web site: www.standinter.com. He'll be doing TV and radio spots and book signings in San Diego on January 19. He's got gigs lined up in Fort Lauderdale and London over the next two months to speak on security abroad. He'll be honing his speech. And looking over his shoulder.

Contact Michael Kiefer at his online address: michael.kiefer@newtimes.com

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