Chilean Gendarmerie

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The Chilean Gendarmerie
Gendarmería de Chile
Abbreviation GENCHI
Gendarmeria de Chile.svg
Logo of the The Chilean Gendarmerie.
Motto Labor Omnia Vincit. Deus Patria Lex
Work conquers everything. God, Country, Law
Agency overview
Formed November 30, 1929
Preceding agency Cuerpo de Gendarmería de Prisiones
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
Legal jurisdiction As per operations jurisdiction.
General nature
Operational structure
Overviewed by Dirección Nacional
Headquarters Santiago de Chile
Agency executive Col. Juan Letelier Araneda, National Director of the Gendarmerie

The Chilean Gendarmerie, in Spanish Gendarmería de Chile, (abbreviated to GENCHI) is the title of Chile's uniformed national prison service. The title is historic, and the service is not an actual gendarmerie.[1] The service evolved out of Chilean Army units which were given police and prison duties.

It is an armed service responsible to the Ministry of Justice. It has two mottoes, "Labor Omnia Vincit" ("Work conquers everything"), and "Deus Patria Lex" (God, Country, Law). Its symbol is a castle.

The service is currently led by Director General of the Gendarmerie Colonel Juan Letelier Araneda, a veteran officer of the service appointed to this role by the Chilean president in 2014.

Early History[edit]

Chilean Army units were used for policing and guarding prisons from the time of Chile's independence. Chile's first "professional" prison was built in Santiago in 1843. In 1871 the "Special Guard" was created (Guardia Especial) which was Chile's first prison service separate from the army.

A Gendarme battalion, the Bulnes Battalion, fought as part of the Chilean Army during the War of the Pacific.

In 1892, under the government of Admiral Jorge Montt, the service was called "Special Guards of the Prisons of Chile" (Guardias Especiales de las Prisiones de Chile) and was responsible for prisons, executions, and prisoner transport.

Modern History[edit]

In 1911, under the government of Ramón Barros Luco, the Special Guards experienced some reforms and the title "Prison Gendarmerie Corps" was adopted (Cuerpo de Gendarmería de Prisiones). It had the additional duty of guarding prisoners in court. The vast majority of members of this new service were seconded from the Army. A law was passed in 1921, Law N° 3.815, concerning the organization of the service. (From 1930 until today November 30 is considered to be the anniversary of the Gendarmerie.)

A Prison Gendarmerie School was established in 1928 to train personnel.

From 1929 until 1931, the service was part of the Carabiniers of Chile, the national Gendarmerie proper. During this time, it was known within the carabiniers as the Prison Service, and its members were "Prison Carabiniers". From 1931, the title "Prison Service" was used, and the service regained its independence.

In 1944 an academy was founded, called the Penitentiary School of Chile, which in 1954 became the Technical School of Prison Security Services.

During the government of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the current title of "Gendarmería de Chile" was adopted, and a new grey-green uniform was adopted which was inspired by German army uniforms of World War II. The Gendarmerie's Penological Education Academy, the staff college of the service for all junior officers, was established in 1997.


The Chilean Gendarmerie is a service which is influenced by and actively maintains its historic links with the Chilean army. As a result it is an armed uniformed service of a para-military character, and it is organized on a para-military basis using army ranks. However the rank of Director General can be filled by either a veteran officer of the force or a civilian, in either case under the appointment and confidence of the President. The current rank system dates from 2010 and is based on the historial ranks of the service.

Ranks of the Gendarmerie[edit]

Gendarmes of the ranks
Gendarms of the ranks are those that graduate from the Gendarmerie's Penitentiary Formation School.

  • Gendarme Alumno - Student Gendarme
  • Gendarme - Gendarme
  • Gendarme Segundo - Gendarme 2nd Class
  • Gendarme Primero - Gendarme 1st Class
  • Cabo - Corporal
  • Cabo Segundo - Corporal 2nd Class
  • Cabo Primero - Corporal 1st Class
  • Sargento Segundo - Sergeant 2nd Class
  • Sargento Primero - Sergeant 1st Class
  • Suboficial - Sub-officer
  • Suboficial Mayor - Sub-officer Major

All future officers study at the "Pres. Gen. Manuel Bulnes Prieto" Gendarmerie Academy in Santiago de Chile and upon graduation are commissioned as sub-lieutenants.

The Gendarmiere also maintains a civilian technical and administrative corps, and although they report to both officers and gendarmes, they wear no uniforms at all.


  1. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary describes a gendarme as "a soldier who is employed on police duties" and a "gendarmery, -erie" as "gendarmes as a body"

External links[edit]