Venezuelan National Guard

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Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela
Guardia Nacional Bolivariana de Venezuela
Guardia Nacional de Venezuela.png
National Guard emblem
Active 1937 – Present
Country Venezuela
Branch National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Type Military Police
Role Gendarmerie, forestry protection, civil defense, public order and safety, border control, highway security, coastal security
Size 9 Regional Commands and 24 Zone Commands
Part of Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Justice
Patron Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá
Motto El honor es su divisa (Honor is its emblem)
Colors Maroon
Anniversaries August 4, National Guard Day
Commanders
Commanding General of the National Guard Major General Nestor Luis Reverol Torres

The Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela (Spanish: Guardia Nacional de Venezuela), also called the Armed Forces of Cooperation (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperación), is one of the four components of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela. The national guard can serve as gendarmerie, perform civil defense roles, or serve as a reserve light infantry force. The national guard was founded 4 August 1937 by the then President of the Republic, General-in-Chief Eleazar López Contreras. The motto of the NG is "El Honor es su divisa" (Honor is its emblem), different from the motto of the Spanish Civil Guard.

The National Guard has used unlawful force and tortured anti-government demonstrators during the 2014 Venezuelan protests,[1][2] during which nine guardsmen have been killed.[3]

History[edit]

The National Guard traces its roots to the gendarmerie and rural police formations organized in 1811 by the National Government and in the subsequent National Police Guard raised in 1841 by President José Antonio Páez, both later disbanded.

In 1934, then Defense Minister General in Chief Eleazar López Contreras, busy with the preparations for his own presidency and in his duty of creating and expanding the national army and navy, realized the long need of public security in a time of civil unrest under President Juan Vicente Gómez, in their meetings during that year. In the middle of the year he had conversations with Venezuelan diplomat Rufino Blanco Fombona, who suggested forming a national gendarmerie modeled on the successes of the Spanish Civil Guard and on the Peruvian Civil Guard, as well as the various other police forces in South America.

Thus the idea of forming the National Guard was born.

On August 31, 1934, Ministry of War and Navy Resolution no. 188 formally created the Technical Services School, located in Fort Paez, Maracay. The school trained technical service personnel in military technologies and public security. Its Special Classes course arrived the next year.

Upon the death of General Gomez on December 17, 1935, Lopez Contreas became President. The next year, as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, he ordered the raising of a National Frontier Police to protect the national borders and raised mounted security units to protect the peace in the Venezuelan plains. On that same year a Spanish military mission arrived to help form and train a fully national police force, led by Captain Cecillo Suarez of the Civil Guard. The Technical Services School's Special Classes, by that year moved to Caracas, became independent and on September 16, 1935, was disbanded. The next day a Presidential decree ordered the formation of the Public Security Agents Formation School. It opened in Villa Zolia, Caracas on October 28 the same year, with Captain Suarez as its principal guest. His speech implied the basis principles of the future national police force: As "sentinels of the people", a part of the armed forces as a public order and security service, maintaining the law and order, defending social lives and to become the "armed shoulder of the Executive Power" and as an intervening force in times of disorder.

On August 4, 1937, the National Guard was formally raised via an Presidential Decree of President Eleazar López Contreras, published in the Official Gazette. The presidential decree divided the National Guard into the National Guard of the Interior (subdivided into the Highway, Rural, Health and Urban Services) and the Frontier National Guard, and formally set its joint command structure under the Ministries of War and Navy and of the Interior and Justice. As a national police force it was also mandated to have its own investigations service as well. As a result, the PSAFS became first the National Police Academy and later the National Public Secuity Academy. On its first graduation on October 12, 1937, Sgt. Martin Torres gave an emotional address to his fellow graduates and to the honorary guests, thanking the Government and the Spanish military mission for forming the new service. The Mission formally organized the new service until 1941 and thus completed the Charter of the National Guard (based on the Charter of the Civil Guard), with its motto, "Honor is Its Emblem" (based on the Spanish Civil Guard motto). Thanks to their efforts the first National Guard station opened in Tachira on December 6 the same year.

In 1938, Congress formally passed the National Security Service Law. On November 8, Major Francisco de Paula Angarita Arvelo, Venezuelan Army, was appointed the first Commanding General of the National Guard, thus the NG became an independent arm of the Army. In 1940 the first officer training course was commenced. The service was hit hard by a 1941 reduction, but debuted, with the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States, the Military and Police Intelligence Training courses, in 1944. On the same year, via General Orders 16 on April 13 that same year, its joint command structure and duties were amended and the service was formed into a brigade sized formation.

In 1945, the service defended the government of President Isaias Medina Angarita against a coup. In the aftermath, now Lieutenant Torres assumed the leadership of the National Guard becoming the first NG officer to become its commanding general, and the service adopted the green uniforms of the Venezuelan Army, abandoning its earlier blue uniforms. It should be noted that several of the officers of the service had earlier served in the Army before, and in the earlier days the officer corps were made up of Army officers seconded into the service.

In 1946, it became the Armed Forces of Cooperation. The National Guard Academy and the National Guardsmen Formation School were both created that year. The NGA held its first officers graduation in 1947 at its Villa Zolia campus.

A Chilean military mission led by the Carabineros de Chile helped reorganize the National Guard in the same year. Partly as a result it later expanded its responsibilities in the 1950s to include pentinenciary protection and security, maritime security, forestry protection and highway patrol duties as well as security in the tourism sector and even in dog handling. Its present formation of 12 regional commands dates from 1950 when the 1st Regional Command was raised. It would be only in the late 1970s that the Guard would establish its air arm.

It would return to its original name in the onset of the 21st century.

Organization[edit]

The National Guard is structured as follows.[4]

Comandancia General de la Guardia Nacional (Headquarters, National Guard) - Caracas[edit]

  • Commanding General of the National Guard (as of 2014): Major General Nestor Luis Reverol Torres
  • General Staff of the National Guard: Chief of Staff of the National Guard: Divisional General Juan Rodríguez Navarro
  • Inspector General's Command: Inspector General of the National Guard: Divisional General Alejandro Constantino Kerelis Bucarito
  • Personnel Command: Commanding General, Personnel Command: Divisional General Octavio Javier Chacón Guzmán
  • Logistics Command: Director General, Logistics Command: Divisional General Luis Javier Gámez González
  • Operations Command: Operations Director of the National Guard: Divisional General Sergio Rivero Marcano

Controls eight or more Mobile Detachments of battalion or regiment size available for deployment to any area of the country in response to threats to internal security or border security.

The command has under its control all nine regional commands which control local battalion or regiment-sized National Guard detachments which provide static defense of certain public buildings, oil installations, and penal institutions (the latter duties now shared with the Policia Nacional Bolivariana) and for the maintenance of public security. Additionally, they patrol the nation's highway system, functioning as a federal highway police force. They also serve as the nation's coast guard and maritime search and rescue service, co-sharing with the Bolivarian Navy of Venezuela's Coast Guard Command in this duty in the coastal states. These are now subdivided into state level zone commands serving all the states of Venezuela. Most of the RCs and SZCs also control the 16 local rural service commando battalions for keeping order in rural communities, but only the Caracas Capital District ZS has none, instead having 7 area detachments as of present with 3 regiment sized.

    • Regional Command 1 San Antonio de Tachira, Tachira State
      • Tachira National Guard Zone Command
      • Mérida National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 2 Valencia, Carabobo State
      • Cojedes National Guard Zone Command
      • Carabobo National Guard Zone Command
      • Aragua National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 3 Maracaibo, Zulia State
      • Zulia National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 4 Barquisimeto, Lara State
      • Lara National Guard Zone Command
      • Falcon National Guard Zone Command
      • Yaracuy National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 5 Caracas, Capital District
      • Venezuelan Capital District National Guard Zone Command
      • Vargas and Federal Dependencies National Guard Zone Command
      • Miranda and Insular Territory National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 6 San Fernando de Apure, Apure State
      • Apure National Guard Zone Command
      • Barinas National Guard Zone Command
      • Portuguesa National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 7 Barcelona, Anzoategui State
      • Guarico National Guard Zone Command
      • Anzoátegui National Guard Zone Command
      • Nueva Esparta National Guard Zone Command
      • Sucre National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 8 Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar State
      • Bolivar National Guard Zone Command
      • Delta Amaruco National Guard Zone Command
    • Regional Command 9 Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas State
      • Amazonas National Guard Zone Command
    • Air Operations Command (Air National Guard)
    • Coastal Vigilance Command - Commanding General, CVC: BGEN Alex Ramón Barreno Oberto
    • National Guard Customs Security Service
    • National Guard Frontier Detachments
    • National Guard Public Order and Security Units
    • National Guard Corps of Engineers
    • National Guard Criminal Investigations Service
  • Education Command: Commander, Education Command: Divisional General Manuel Antonio Vargas
    • National Guard Academy
Superintendent of the National Guard Academy: BGEN Kevin Nicolás Cabrera Romero
Deputy Superintendent of the National Guard Academy: COL Javier Ramón Ordaz Ferrer
Commandant of the Regiment of Cadets: COL Sergio Negrin Alvarado
    • National Guard Formation Schools
  • Special Operations Command
    • Commando Action Group of the National Guard
    • National Guard Rural Commando Detachments
  • People's Guards National Command - Commanding General, People's Guards National Command: DGEN Jose Dionisio Goncalves

Created by Hugo Chávez in 2011 for Guardsmen mandated for police protection alongside the Bolivarian National Police and aimed at keeping peace and order as well as fighting against drug-related and alcohol-related crimes and the illegal arms and drug trade in the country. They also help in public works repairs and ensuring security during major holidays. The service today is composed of 17 state level People's Guards Regiments in several of the States of Venezuela and the Venezuelan Capital District, with more to be raised soon, together with 29 indepedent People's Guards Battalions and 21 Public Safety Battalions in major cities nationwide. The regiments are each divided into 2 to 4 battalion-sized detachments and a headquarters unit.

  • Anti-Drugs National Command

This command is in charge of combating the use and spread of illegal drugs in Venezuela and works with other South American police forces in fighting the illegal drug trade in the continent.

  • National Development Department
  • National Guard Environmental Security Service Directorate

Mandated for the protection of Venezuela's natural resources, especially the ancestral lands of its indigenous peoples, and the enforcement of environmental laws.

  • Social Action Division of the National Guard (in the planning stages)
  • Anti-Extortion and Sequestration National Command

The newest command of the National Guard mandated to counter financial crimes and serious criminal activities formed up of the National Guard Anti-Extortion and Sequestration Groups in every Venezuelan state, created via Ministerial Resolution of the Ministry of Defense No. 000568 on April 4, 2013.[5][6] All the states plus the Capital District have one AESG detachment each to fight serious crimes. The command is led by BGEN Alexis Escalona Marrero.

Recruitment[edit]

The VNG is an all volunteer force with over 38,000 men and women,[4] and recruits undergo a two-year basic training course at the Ramo Verde National Guard Formation School at Los Teques, as well as various formation schools nationwide. Officer candidates are required to study for an additional four years at the Officers Training Academy of the National Guard in Caracas. Postgraduate studies for officers are available at the Advanced Officers School at Caricuao, near Caracas.

Uniforms and Equipment[edit]

During 2014 protests

The VNG wears the same ranks and uniforms as the Venezuelan Army, and uses its headgear. But as a whole the service uses a maroon beret as well instead of the Army's black berets.

The VNG is equipped as a light infantry force, with the standard FN FAL assault rifle (being replaced with the AK-103), light machine-guns, and mortars up to 81mm.

It possesses over forty Unimog UR-416 wheeled armored personnel carriers and Walther G22 on airports. It acquired 141 Chinese Norinco VN-4 4x4 wheeled armored vehicles in 2012,[7] and 50 in 2013.[8] In 2014, during the 2014 Venezuelan protests, the Venezuelan government order 300 more VN-4 vehicles.[9] In July 2013, it ordered Chinese Type 63A light tanks.[10] Austrian and Japanese vehicles are also used as well.

It also employs eighty small craft for its coastal and river patrol duties as part of its Naval Coastal Vigilance Command.

The Air National Guard Command operates over 50 fixed-wing light aircraft and helicopters.

Vehicles[edit]

Equipment Origin Type Versions Quantity Notes Photo
NORINCO VN-4 4x4  China Armoured Personnel Carrier 191[7][8] (300 more ordered in 2014)[9] During the 2014 Venezuelan protests, the VN-4 was used by the Bolivarian National Guard against protesters who opposed the government of President Nicolas Maduro.[11] VN-4s Venezuela.JPG

Abuse of power[edit]

Drug Trade[edit]

In 1993, the term Cartel de los Soles or The Sun Cartel was first used when allegations of two National Guard generals, who wore emblems that looked like suns on their uniforms, were investigated for drug trafficking crimes.[12] The term currently describes high-ranking members of the Venezuelan armed forces, including the National Guard, who are involved in drug trade.[12] Even lower ranking National Guardsmen compete for positions at border checkpoints so they can be paid bribes for "illicit trade", though a large portion of bribes go to their superiors.[13] The corrupt officials of The Sun Cartel traffic drugs from Colombia to Venezuela where they are shipped internationally.[14] It has been alleged that the National Guard had worked with the FARC with drug trade.[15]

In September 2013, an incident allegedly linked to The Sun Cartel[better source needed] and involving men from the Venezuelan National Guard who placed 31 suitcases containing 1.3 tons of cocaine on a Paris flight astonished French authorities as it was the largest seizure of cocaine recorded in mainland France.[16][17] On 15 February 2014, a commander for the Venezuelan National Guard was stopped while driving to Valencia with his family and was arrested for having 554 kilos of cocaine in his possession.[18]

2014 Venezuelan protests[edit]

Venezuelan National Guardsman holding a protester in a headlock.

The National Guard has used tear gas and rubber bullets on anti-government demonstrators during the 2014 Venezuelan protests,[19] during which 9 members of the National Guard have been killed.[3] There are reports alleging that the Venezuelan National Guard has worked with groups labelled 'colectivos' while dispersing protesters.[2][20][21][22] The National Guard allegedly protected the Tupamaro colectivo that were "armed with guns, motorcycles and shooting protesters".[23][24] The National Guard also protected the Tupamaro colectivo that were "armed with guns, motorcycles and shooting protesters".[23][24]

Human Rights Watch reports that "many victims and family members we spoke with said they believed they might face reprisals if they reported abused by police, guardsmen, or armed pro-government gangs."[2] It also reported that a man attempting to leave a protest was shot with rubber bullets, beaten and then shot again in the groin by guardsmen. Another man was detained, shot repeatedly with rubber bullets, beat with rifles and helmets by three National Guardsman and was asked "Who's your president?"[2] NTN24 reported from a lawyer that National Guardsmen and individuals with "Cuban accents" in Mérida forced three arrested adolescents to confess to crimes they did not commit and then the adolescents "kneeled and were forced to raise their arms then shot with buckshot throughout their body" during an alleged "target practice".[25] In Valencia, protesters were dispersed by the National Guard in El Trigál where four students (three men and one woman) were attacked inside of a car while trying to leave the perimeter;[26] the three men were imprisoned and one of them was allegedly sodomized by one of the officers with a rifle.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Venezuelan nightmare". 20 May 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Punished for Protesting". Report. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Militares admiten excesos durante las protestas en Venezuela". BBC. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "FAV-Club". FAV-Club. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Activan Comando Nacional Antiextorsión y Secuestro de la GNB (+Fotos y Video)". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Activan Comando Nacional Antiextorsión y Secuestro de la GNB (+Video)". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b National Guard of Venezuela will receive more Chinese-made Norinco VN4 vehicles - Armyrecognition.com, March 12, 2013
  8. ^ a b Venezuela; National Guard incepts new batch of Chinese armored 4 × 4 - Dmilt.com, April 14, 2013
  9. ^ a b "Venezuela will buy 300 new anti-riot vehicles". Army Recognition. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Venezuela; National Guard orders Chinese light tanks - Dmilt.com, 22 July 2013
  11. ^ "Chinese systems get 'combat experience' in Venezuela". IHS Jane's. Retrieved 21 May 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Cartel de los Soles". In Sight Crime. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  13. ^ "VIOLENCE AND POLITICS IN VENEZUELA". Report. International Crisis Group. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "'Every last gram of cocaine is soaked with innocent blood'". The Scotsman. 14 May 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  15. ^ Mario Cárdenas, Hugo (23 July 2007). "FF.AA. venezolanas tienen cartel propio". El Pais. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  16. ^ Meza, Alfredo (26 September 2013). "Corrupt military officials helping Venezuela drug trade flourish". El Pais. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  17. ^ al-Ameri, Alaa (31 March 2014). "Venezuela's Drug-Running Generals May Be Who Finally Ousts Maduro". Vice News. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  18. ^ Sanchez, Nora (15 February 2014). "Detienen a comandante de la Milicia con cargamento de drogas". El Universal. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Venezuela violence continues after arrest of Leopoldo López". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  20. ^ "Polémicas fotos de GNB actuando con colectivos son difundidas por periodista que renunció a Globovisión". NTN24. 30 March 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  21. ^ "GNB y colectivos atacan universidades en todo el país". El Nacional. 15 March 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  22. ^ "GNB y "colectivos" reprimen protesta en la UCLA, al menos 3 estudiantes resultaron heridos". El Impulso. 11 March 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "Venezuela: Así actúan Tupamaros con protección del chavismo [Video]". Peru 21. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "Los Tupamaros: El brazo armado del chavismo que siembra terror en protestas". Ojo. 21 February 014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  25. ^ ""Funcionarios jugaban con ellos al tiro al blanco": abogado que atendió a 3 adolescentes detenidos en Mérida". NTN24. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  26. ^ = Saldo de las protestas en El Trigal| newspaper = Notitarde | date = 13 February 2014
  27. ^ = Juan Manuel Carrasco relata su arresto| newspaper = Diario Las Américas | date = 13 February 2014

External links[edit]