The Birth and Professionalization of Mexico's Confidential Department
Learn about the birth and professionalization of Mexico's confidential agents, who were tasked with gathering political and social information in the early 20th century.
The Confidential Department was one of the first intelligence services in Mexico. Its job was to find out about the country's political and social scene. Not instructing the agents had its consequences; therefore, in 1925, training courses were implemented, and years later, the profile that the future detective had to cover was even established.
Today, when we talk about "secret agents," we mean people who have received top-tier intelligence agency training and instruction. However, it took a few years for these parts to become more professional. This was the case with the first Mexican detectives of the 20th century. They worked for the Confidential Department, which was the first intelligence group in the country that was in charge of political espionage.
After the Revolution, the new state needed to be solidified, so in 1924, the Confidential Department of the Ministry of the Interior was created. Its roots go back to the time of Venustiano Carranza, who started the First Section of the Ministry of the Interior. This is where the first agents who were supposed to get information from opposition groups were trained.
The Confidential Department was in charge of collecting general information about the political situation, the background, and views of candidates, the location and apprehension of subjects, crimes, the habits of officials and foreigners, expulsions, strikes, and other worker activities. To achieve this objective, the figure of the confidential agent was used.
The Evolution of Confidential Agents in Mexico
The first agents lacked instruction and interpreted their functions in their own way. Very soon, this situation compromised the activities of the Confidential Department, and on several occasions, the members were called to attention so that they would comply properly with the missions entrusted to them.
The agents of the Confidential Department were told not to make up information to fill out their reports and to be more thorough in their work since some posed as agents to get information or invited family and friends to the offices of the Confidential Department.
At the start of 1925, courses with lectures were put in place to teach the first and second agents, whose roles were then officially recognized across the country. These talks were given by the most experienced agents of the Department, or at least that was the opinion of Eufrasio Ortega, one of the heads of the Department, at the time.
At the start of the courses, the agents made interesting arguments to explain what it meant to them to be a confidential agent; for example, Francisco M. Delgado believed that "the Political Information Agents at the Service of the Secretariat must indispensably be political, that is to say, versed in the things of the government and public affairs to perform their functions satisfactorily." In M. Delgado's view, they should study the political situation and pay attention to issues such as revolts, agitations, and subversions of parties or organizations, among others.
In his turn, Gaspar Trousselle, agent number 4 of the first category, confessed that he did not know anything about politics and that he owed his position to presidential philanthropy. He reassured them that they didn't have to know much about politics because discipline was more important for them to do their jobs well. They also had to be loyal, thankful, and honest with their bosses, including the president.
There was no single profile for this first group of confidential agents. Instead, the academy's knowledge and ideas—such as those from 1925—shaped them. The Internal Regulations of the Ministry of the Interior established the minimum standards that agents had to uphold in 1929, including loyalty, discretion, honesty, civil and personal values, discipline, diligence, decency, sagacity, and excellent conduct. The Confidential Department had a few more years to train the best Mexican detective.
Full Citation: Nación, Archivo General de la. “El Departamento Confidencial: La Formación De Un Agente Confidencial a La Mexicana.” gob.mx, 21 Feb. 2023, www.gob.mx/agn/es/articulos/el-departamento-confidencial-la-formacion-de-un-agente-confidencial-a-la-mexicana?idiom=es.