National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela
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|National Bolivarian Armed Forces|
|Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana|
|Current form||December 1999|
|Service branches||Strategic Command Operations|
Navy of Venezuela
Venezuelan Air Force
Venezuelan National Guard
Venezuelan National Militia
|Minister of Defense||General-in-chief Vladimir Padrino López (pro-Maduro)|
|Strategic Command Operations of Venezuela Commandant||Admiral-in-Chief Remigio Ceballos (pro-Maduro)|
|Conscription||18–30 years of age|
30 month term
|Active personnel||123,000 (2018)|
220,000 paramilitary (2018)
|Reserve personnel||8,000 (2018)|
|Budget||$741 million (2017)|
|Percent of GDP||0.35% (2017)|
|Foreign suppliers|| Russia|
Belarus Iran
|History||Venezuelan War of Independence|
|Ranks||Venezuelan military ranks|
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces (Spanish: Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana) are controlled by the Commander-in-Chief (the President) and a civilian Minister of Defense. In addition to the army, navy, and air force there is also a national guard and national militia primarily focused on internal security.
The armed forces primary purpose is to defend Venezuelan territory from attack, combat drug trafficking, provide search and rescue capabilities, aid the civilian population in case of natural disasters protection, as well as numerous internal security assignments. As of 2018[update], the armed forces had 123,000 active personnel and 8,000 reservists.
- 1 History
- 2 Doctrine
- 3 Organization and structure
- 4 Service branches
- 5 Budget
- 6 Military justice
- 7 Personnel
- 7.1 Requirements for military service
- 7.2 Military education
- 7.3 Modernization and capability building projects for the Armed Forces
- 7.4 Women in the Armed Forces
- 8 Ranks, uniforms and insignia
- 9 Modernization program
- 9.1 Surveillance radars, AK-103s and helicopters: Mi-17, Mi-26 and Mi-35
- 9.2 Su-30s and missiles
- 9.3 Night vision equipment, sniper rifles and submarines
- 9.4 Russian loans and the Chinese K-8W light jet
- 9.5 Contract with China for modernization of the Venezuelan Marine Corps
- 9.6 The Russian Federation gives new credit and interest in the Su-35
- 10 Controversy with the United States
- 11 Role of the military in Venezuelan politics
- 12 Role in Venezuelan society
- 13 Military industry
- 14 Military corporations of the Ministry of Defense
- 15 Citations
- 16 References
- 17 External links
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The origin of an organized and professional armed forces in Venezuela dates to the Spanish troops quartered in the former Province of Venezuela in the 18th century. Politically and militarily until the creation of the Captaincy General of Venezuela in 1777, the Province of Venezuela depended on the Real Audiencia of Santo Domingo (in today's Dominican Republic) or the Viceroyalty of New Granada (today, Colombia) for the defense of the area. In 1732 the Spanish crown created a Military Directorate and established a number of battalions, and had a few units from infantry regiments based in Spain arrive in the area. Reform of the military in the colonies began a few decades later. The first squadrons of cavalry arrived from Spain in 1751. The first batteries of Artillery were officially raised just two years later. Both Creole whites and blacks were allowed to enter the ranks of the artillery companies. That same year, a Fixed Caracas Battalion was established. Until the creation of this battalion, defense had been based on small colonial militia companies, which initially only accepted whites. Gradually, this racist policy yielded and the entry of mixed-race people was allowed in the militias. It was from these various units that the bulk of the officers who fought in the battles of the Venezuelan War of Independence emerged. Among them were Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda, Simón Bolívar (Bolívar's own father had been Colonel of the Militia of Aragua), General in chief Santiago Mariño, Rafael Urdaneta, among many other heroes. With the establishment of an independent captaincy general in the latter half of the 18th century, the Spanish troops quartered in the province passed to the direct command of Caracas. The troops in the other provinces of the country, under the command of local governors, were overseen by the Captain General of Caracas, who served as commander in chief of the armed services. In this way a series of autonomous units was created for the peoples of the area and for defense duties, open to all fit males regardless of color. Aside from these the Spanish Navy also operated naval bases in the Captaincy General's territorial coastline, open to both whites and blacks as well.
Already in the early 19th century, many of these Venezuelans who had formed the bulk of the officer corps at the start of the formation of the national armed forces began to arrive in the country after participating in military campaigns abroad in the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolution, or after completing their studies in Europe. With them came a number of mercenaries and volunteers of many different nationalities: English, Scottish, Irish, French, German, Brazilian, Poles, Russians, and others. It was only in 1810 in the aftermath of the coup d'état of 19 April that year that formally began the process of raising the national armed services. Several of the military officers of the colonial military forces supported the coup and the subsequent creation of a junta. That Supreme Junta later appointed Commander Lino de Clemente to be in charge of defense affairs for the Captaincy General, and thus the armed forces began to be formed through their efforts, including the opening of a full military academy in Caracas for the training of officers, later joined by a naval academy in La Guaira for naval officer education the following year.
It could be said that in the first two decades of the 19th century, the nascent Liberation Army and Navy, was in the midst of the intellectual training of their military cadres, in various attempts to unleash the revolutionary war, and trying to build a modern army and navy. In the midst of that task came the generalissimo Francisco de Miranda, and the Liberator Simón Bolívar, who called for immediate action to, once and for all, ensure the independence of the nation, achieved through the aforementioned 19 April coup of 1810 and later through the formal enactment of the 1811 Venezuelan Declaration of Independence. Bolívar surprised his military colleagues, when he rejected part of the Napoleonic military assumptions, habits and behaviors, took more British soldiers and those from other nations, and even through third parties requested the assistance of the British Crown for the formation of the regular army and navy for the growing republic. And he did made no mistake indeed: the 19th century, ultimately, was dominated by British and Prussian military influences. Once in battle, Bolívar began to develop his own tactics, military strategies and practices, whose legacy remains till this day in the National Armed Forces, and led to victory after victory and the full liberation of not just Venezuela, but of northern South America, through battles in both land and sea until the wars ended in 1824.
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During the second half of the 19th century, a school for officers continued (Military Academy of Mathematics, which was decades in advance of the policy of unification of arms and services of the Spanish military academy, which was in fact after to the Venezuelan one), a standing Army, weapons, and creating new services including the Corps of Sappers. This phase of the Venezuelan Army, is marked by infighting and a domain of local militias with no training (the Federal War was one example). The little outside help in military matters at this stage is limited to the British and the later Chilean military missions, which began the long modernization of the army and navy. The military figures (there were other political figures) of the armed forces who were the most important at this stage were Marshal Juan Crisóstomo Falcón, General in Chief Cipriano Castro, Brigadier General Ezequiel Zamora and Manuel Ezequiel Bruzual.
Already in the first half of the 20th century, President General in Chief Juan Vicente Gómez, who originally based on the plans of General in Chief Cipriano Castro, began a thorough modernization in the armed services, but does not create a new army as some historians point out. This modernization was done with the help of instructors and advisers from Chile, France, Italy and Germany. The late Prussian influence did not reach the Venezuelan Army from the Germans, but from the Chilean military instructors in 1910. One of the most important reforms undertaken during the Gómez regime of the National Armed Forces, which began in 1910 with the aim of making the national armed services uniform, modern and technically advanced in this era of the 20th century.
The reform coincided with the centennial anniversary of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence, which contributed to the doctrinal and political cohesion of the army and the navy. The most important milestones of this reform were:
In 1910, operation of the Military Academy of Venezuela that was reformed in 1903 started, and within it, the Naval Academy (then called Naval School of Venezuela), establishing the School of Application for Military officers in active service with the aim of upgrading their military expertise. In 1913 the Superior Technical Office responsible for the development of military doctrine, organization and training of the army, was founded.
In 1920 the Military Aviation School of Venezuela was established. It was located in Maracay and was inaugurated the first of January of the next year to train the nation's military pilots.
In 1923/1930 a new Code of Military law was adopted that superseded all previous military laws and responded to the new political and military situation in the country. This process was accompanied by the modernization of the infrastructure, provision of arms, equipment, uniforms and a sustained growth of the military budget, which was made possible by oil revenues. The reform had a strong German influence. This is due mainly to the fact the Prussian/German army was the most modern of the era and in this sense become a model internationally.
The most important political consequence of this reform, from 1913, was a sense of the rising political power of the Venezuelan military while retaining its traditional role as the defense forces of the State. Since 1914 Gomez always retained the post of Commanding General of the Army, even when not holding the presidency of the Republic. The power base of support of the regime after 1913, apart from the liberals and nationalists, was the armed forces, which became an essential element of repression to ensure public order and national progress.
At this stage the military and political figures more relevant (apart from the general Gómez himself), were General in Chief Eleazar López Contreras (who founded the National Guard in 1937) and Divisional General Isaías Medina Angarita, both Presidents of the Republic. With Angarita's ouster in 1945, civilians took over the government for the first time since 1922, albeit only briefly, but it was during those times that the Venezuelan Air Force was officially founded. The ouster of Angarita saw the participation of what is now today the 411th Armored Battalion "General in Chief Juan Francisco Bermudez", whose M3 Stuart light tanks and Jeeps saw action, and which foresaw the beginning of the modernization of the armed services.
The second half of the 20th century, was just as turbulent for the entire Venezuelan military, but it was projected into the future as a modern force for the coming years, though not yet cohesive. Already under the government of Divisional General Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who led the country from the early 1950s to 1958 (he was, under LTCOL Carlos Delgado Chalbaud and Germán Suárez Flamerich, the Minister of Defense) and the American influence (cultural, political and military), which started with the 1944 arrival of the first US military mission, became more prominent then in the entire history of the armed forces. So jealous of the Venezuelan Army, over the subsequent decades, the armed forces kept a precarious existing French influence, as a balance to the overwhelming American influence in the armed forces. Between the years 1945 and 1952, there was a major program of military equipment purchases almost monopolized by the United States (although other military material was acquired from other sources) plus the military missions sent by that country, and later repeated again in the early years of the decade of the'70s, albeit in a more balanced way by their countries of origin. And in these times, aside from their involvement in the coup d'état of 1958, the armed services made their mark in the 1960s in stopping anti-government actions and even two rebellions from within its very own ranks.
The 70s were also marked with the Carabobo Reorganizational Plan, aimed to enhance the capability of the Army and marked an increase of regular army units and materiel. The Air Force, Navy and National Guard increased their capabilities as well with modern equipment to satisfy all those who serve.
Born again under a turbulent internal and external picture for the nation is the modern National Bolivarian Armed Forces, in the midst of the economic crises of the 1980s and the subsequent military coups of the early 1990s. The armed forces have undergone significant changes, including in its name (from National Armed Forces to National Bolivarian Armed Forces). There has also been a political change in partnerships switching from cooperation with the United States and its allies to expanded cooperations with Russia as the biggest of those new military allies.
In the 2019 Venezuela uprising segments of the NBAF led by veteran of the 1992 coup attempt LTGEN José Ornella Ferreira showed their support to President of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó in the ongoing actions in the national capital city.
The military doctrine of the armed forces today is based on policy laid out by the late Hugo Chávez (President and Commander in Chief from 1999 to 2013). Chávez stated that the duty of the national military was to be "essentially patriotic, popular, and anti-imperialist." According to Chávez's policy, the military would also follow defense principles of a "people's war of resistance" against the enemies of the republic and to assist in "internal order," as well as participate in government economic development plans and programs for the benefit of the people of Venezuela.
According to the Article 3 of the Armed Forces Organic Law, the fundamental mission of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces is to ensure the independence and sovereignty of the nation and ensure the integrity of the geographical territories of the country, by means of military defense, cooperation in the maintenance of internal order and active participation in national development.
Organization and structure
The President of Venezuela is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces under constitutional provisions, thus he has overall supervision and control over it. He also appoints the Minister of Defense, the commandant of the Operational Strategic Command and the commanding generals of the service branches and has full authority over all uniformed personnel. In doing this, he is assisted by the Commander-in-Chief's General Staff.
Ministry of Defense
The Venezuelan Ministry of the People's Power for Defense is the federal-level organ responsible for maintaining the Venezuelan armed forces. As of November 2014, this ministry is headed by General Vladimir Padrino Lopez, who replaced Admiral Carmen Meléndez who was appointed Venezuela's first woman minister of interior. The ministry coordinates numerous counter-narcotics operations, organizes various civil protection measures and operations, and generally oversees the conventional military capabilities of Venezuela. The office of minister is filled by a general or flag officer of the armed forces with the rank of general or admiral in chief (which is the only officer who holds this rank in the armed forces).
High Command Authorities and National Armed Forces Council
He or she is assisted in his functions by the Military High Command of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which consists of the Minister of Defense, the Chief of Inspectorate General for Defense, the Commandant of the Operational Strategic Command, the Commanding General of the Army, the Commanding General of the Navy, the Commanding General of the Air Force, the Commanding General of the National Guard, and the Commanding General of the National Militia General Command (AFOL Art. 42). The National Armed Forces High Council is made by the Military High Command. It is the principal organ for consultation and advice of the President of the Republic, of the National Defense Council and Minister of Defense, on issues of organization, operation, development and employment of the Armed Forces, either in peacetime or in state of emergency. Per the 2014 amendments to the Armed Forces Organic Law, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the OSC is now renamed as the National Armed Forces Senior General Staff Authority, and now has been expanded, led by the Minister of Defense and the Commandant of the OSC, and assisted by the Assistant Commandant and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, service branch commanding generals, commanding generals of the Integral Strategic Defense Regions, and a secretary general of the HCA.
Other decentralised directorates
|Abbreviation||Full Name (English)||Full Name (Spanish)||Current office holder|
|VICEDUDEF ||Deputy Minister of Education for National Defense||Vice-Ministerio de Educación para la Defensa||Major General Tito Urbano Meleán, Venezuelan Army|
|VICESERV||Deputy Minister of Defense Services||Vice-Ministerio de Servicios de la Defensa||Divisional General Pedro Castro Rodríguez, Venezuelan Army|
|VICEPLANDES||Deputy Minister of Defense Development and Planning||Vice-Ministerio de Planification y Desarollo de la Defensa||Major General Alexander Hernández Quintana, Venezuelan Army|
|INGEFANB||Office of the Inspector General of the National Armed Forces||Inspectoría General de la Fuerza Armada Nacional||Major General Marcelino Pérez Díaz, Venezuelan Army|
|CONGEFANB ||Office of the Comptroller General of the National Armed Forces||Contraloría General de la Fuerza Armada Nacional||Divisional General Jose Maitan Herrera|
|SECODENA||Secretariat Office of the National Defense Council||Secretaría del Consejo de Defensa de la Nación||Major General Alexis Ascensión López Ramírez|
|CCSEDE||Commission for Defense Sector Contracts||Comisión de Contrataciones del Sector Defensa||Brigadier General Alberto De Abreu Ferreira|
|DAEX||Directorate-General for Weapons and Explosives||Dirección General de Armas y Explosivos||Brigadier General Carlos José Alexander Armas López|
Operational Strategic Command
The Operational Strategic Command (CEOFAN) is the highest organ of command of the National Armed Forces. It was created by the current Article 60 of the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces (LOFAN) as amended in September 2005. It reports to both the President and to the Minister of Defense and is responsible for coordinating the action of military units belonging to the different service branches of the Armed Forces. The Commandant may or may not be also a concurrently serving Minister of Defense in some cases.
Admiral Remigio Ceballos is the current Commandant of the OSC, with Major General Jose Ornellas Ferreira as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (as of 2017), and the roles of the OSC have been updated with a recent amendment of the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces in 2014.
The newly created military regions are subordinate to the OSC, NBAF, alongside the air defense units of the Army, Air Force and Navy under the banner of the OSC Air Defense Forces Command, albeit being commanded by an Air Force general officer, as of 2017 Division General Juan Manuel Diaz.
The commandants of the OSC have been:
|Major General Jesús Alfonzo González González||September 2008 – March 2009|
|General-in-Chief Carlos José Mata Figueroa*||March 2009 – July 2010|
|General-in-Chief Henry Rangel Silva*||July 2010 – July 2012|
|Major General Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernández||July 2012 – July 2013|
|General in Chief Vladimir Padrino López*||July 2013 – June 2017|
|Admiral Remigio Ceballos||June 2017–present|
(*): They were subsequently appointed defense ministers, and they were also promoted to the rank while holding the office of the OSC Commandant.
The Integral Strategic Defense Regions or ISDRs (REDI, Regiones Estrategicas de Defensa Integral) were formally activated on 13 September 2008, in compliance with the provisions of the amended Organic Law of the National Armed Forces. Equivalent to a military district, these regional commands are mandated to serve the defense, social and economic needs of their respective areas of responsibility. These are divided into the Integral Defense Operations Zones or INDOZ (In Spanish, Zona Operativa del Defensa Integral or ZODI) subdivided into state commands (State Integral Defense Operations Zones or STINDOZ) and in the Maritime Region, 4 Maritime and Insular Integral Defense Operations Zones (MAIINDOZ), created in July 2015.
A brand new region, the National Capital Region Command, was created on 7 July 2016.
|Short name||Large name||States||General/Flag Officer Commanding (as of present)|
|REDI Capital||National Capital Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Vargas and Miranda and the Capital District.
(Compatible to the National Capital Region of the United States Armed Forces and the United States Department of Defense, the United States Army Military District of Washington and the London District (British Army).)
|Major General Alexis Rodríguez Cabello, Venezuelan Army|
|REDI Central||Central Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Aragua, Carabobo and Yaracuy.||ADM Giuseppe Alessandrello Cimadevilla, Venezuelan Navy|
|REDI Occidental||Western Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Falcón, Lara and Trujillo.||MGEN Elias Moreno Martínez, Venezuelan Army|
|REDI Los Llanos||Plains Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Apure, Portuguesa, Barinas, Guarico and Cojedes.||Major General Ivan Hidalgo Terán, Venezuelan Air Force|
|REDI Oriental||Eastern Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Anzoátegui, Monagas and Sucre.||Major General Sergio Marcano, Venezuelan National Guard|
|REDI Guayana||Guyana Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Bolivar and Amazonas.||MGEN Carlos Leal Telleria, Venezuelan Army|
|REDI Marítima e Insular||Maritime and Insular Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Delta Amacuro, Nueva Esparta and Miranda Insular Territory plus the Federal Dependencies, with additional responsibility over the territorial waters of Venezuela.||ADM Eladio Jiménez Rattia, Venezuelan Navy|
|REDI Los Andes||Andes Integral Strategic Defense Region||Comprises the States of Mérida, Tachira and Zulia.||MGEN Carlos Martínez Stapulionis, Venezuelan Army|
The armed forces is divided into six service branches, the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, National Reserve and the Territorial Guard. The Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard will serve under the Strategic Operational Command (Comando Estratégico Operacional), the National Reserve and the Territorial Guard will serve under the National Reserve and Mobilization Command (Comando General de la Reserva Nacional y Movilizacion Nacional), since 2009 now called as the National Militia General Command (Comando General de la Milicia Nacional).
The Venezuelan Army (Fuerzas Terrestres or Ejército), is made up today of roughly 130,000 troops (including conscripts). Its main function is planning, implementing and monitoring terrestrial military operations in coordination with the other components of the national armed forces, in pursuit of the Integrated National Defense mission.
Currently, it is organized in six operating divisions plus the other components: the Army Aviation Command, 6th Corps of Engineers, Army Logistics Command, and Army Education Command. It is composed of armored units, infantry, engineers, special forces and artillery, with resources that allow it to develop various types of airlift operations. It is the largest military branch of Venezuela's armed forces. Its current commanding general is Major General Juan de Jesús García Toussaintt.
The Venezuelan Navy (Fuerzas Navales or Armada Bolivariana) and Marines (Infanteria de Marina) primary mission is to implement, manage and control naval operations, naval aircraft, and the Coast Guard in support of Navy activities to ensure the execution of plans of employment.
The staff is estimated at 60,000 personnel including 12,000 Marines and 600 personnel from the Naval Aviation. There are five major commands: Naval Logistics Command, Naval Personnel Command, Naval Education and Training Command and the Naval Operations Command, which in turn is composed of the following commands: Fleet Forces Command, Riverline Command, Naval Aviation Command, Coast Guard Command and the Marine Division. Operationally, the country is divided into two Naval zones; Western Naval Zone (HQ: Punto Fijo) and Eastern Naval Area (HQ: Carupano) that currently covers the Atlantic coast. The activation of the projected areas: Central Naval Area (HQ: Puerto Cabello), Atlantic (HQ: Güiria) and South (HQ: Caicara Orinoco) is currently in the planning stages.
Navy Day is celebrated on the date of Simon Bolivar's birthday, 24 July, the day of the final battle of the Venezuelan War of Independence, the Battle of Lake Maracaibo, in 1823. The Commanding General of the Navy (as of 2015) is Admiral Franklin Montplaisier.
Founded in 1946 through the merger of the army and navy aviation wings, the Venezuelan Air Force (Fuerzas Aérea or Aviación Militar) is organized the same as the other military components, with the following commands: Air Operations Command (integrated in thirteen Air Groups, consisting of squadrons of transport aircraft, helicopters, fighter and attack aircraft and training aircraft), the Air Defense Forces Command, the Airborne Command, the Air Logistics Command, the Air Personnel Command, including the Air Force Police and the Air Force Corps of Engineers, and the Air Education and Training Command, including the Air Force Academy, Air Personnel Training School, and the Air Power College. Its main objective is to protect the airspace of Venezuela in coordination with the other components of the National Armed Forces. In 2007, the Air Force was renamed as the Bolivarian National Military Air Force of Venezuela and has gone into an expansion and modernization program. The Commanding General of the Venezuelan Air Force, as of July 2015, is Major General Edgar Valentín Cruz Arteaga.
The National Guard of Venezuela (Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperacion or Guardia Nacional), according to the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a military corps with police functions. With roughly 70,000 troops, its organized into 9 regional commands (division size) and 24 state level zone commands (brigade sized), with plans to expand that number to fifteen commands. Additionally, there is the Coastal Surveillance Command, the Air Support Command, the Corps of Engineers, the Logistics Support Command, the National Guard Command School and the National Guard Academy and the various other institutions under its Education Command. It is planned to structure the National Guard in divisions, under the command of the Territorial Commands. In 2007, the National Guard was renamed as the Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela, and was expanded even further to include the People's Guards Command in 2011 and the Anti-extortion and Sequestration Command in 2013, with a Social Action Division in the planning stage as of present. The Commanding General of the National Guard is Major General Nestor Luis Reverol Torres.
The Venezuelan militia traces its origins to both the long struggle against Spanish rule by the indigenous peoples of Venezuela and the militia battalions raised in the 18th century during the Spanish era, that later formed the basis of the armed forces upon the independence of the nation, and two militiamen from that period, Jose Maria España and Manuel Gual, began the long road towards national independence with their failed revolt of 1797. It was only in the 21st century that the militias were revived this time as a full branch of the armed services of Venezuela, formed on the basis of the various reserve commands of the National Armed Forces first as the Armed Reserve Forces, then as the National Reserve and Mobilization Command, and from 2008, as the National Bolivarian Militia.
Today the General Command of the National Boliviarian Militia is divided into two major commands:
1. The National Reserve Service, consisting of all Venezuelan citizens who are either not in active military service, have completed their military service, or serve voluntarily in the military reserve.
2. The Territorial Guard Component, consisting of all Venezuelan citizens who voluntarily serve to organize local resistance to any external threat to national independence in all levels of society.
A third component, the People's Navy Branch, created in 2013, serves as a naval militia component composed of volunteer national servicemen and women contributing to the defense of the nation's maritime waters and coastline. It is itself divided into the Naval Reserve (part of the NRS) and the Workers' Naval Employment Territorial Militias, part of the TGC.
At present the National Militia is organized on the basis of nine (09) Reserve groupings, present throughout the national territory, dozens of Special Resistance Corps (grouped around workers contingents of state and private enterprises and federal, state, city and township government institutions) and territorial militia units nationwide, plus a newly created national guards brigade. It is an autonomous and auxiliary force for the Armed Forces' service branches, with its own chain of command and service arms, reporting directly to the President, the Minister of Defense and the Operational Strategic Command. It can be estimated at the present time about 400,000 men and women are on various training levels, but the target of its authorities is to reach 1,100,000 part-time national servicemen and women, including a newly raised youth cadet arm for university students and a women's militia component. Today more than 150,000 men and women serve actively in the militia, with plans to have a half-a-million-strong active militia force in 2015. And as part of its expansion the National Militia has been active in training exercises with the other service branches in preparation for the duties of national wartime defense.
In honor of the reservists' honorable service during 13 April 2002 coup d'état in defense of the presidency, armed forces and the people, that day, which also honors its formal foundation, is celebrated yearly as National Militia Day (until 2009 this was celebrated on 4 February).
The commanding general of the National Militia is Major General Cesar Vega González, Venezuelan Army.
Presidential Honor Guard
The Presidential Honor Guard Brigade is the joint service military unit mandated to ensure the immediate security of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and his First Family and for the performance of public duties in the most important places in the country. The most distant antecedents of the Presidential Honor Guard go back to the Hussars Troop of Bolivar, of the Venezuelan War of Independence and of the larger Spanish American wars of independence, raised in June 1815 and part of a more bigger guards brigade targeted for the immediate security of the Liberator, and the early 20th century 1st Cavalry Regiment "Ambrosio Plaza" that until the 1950s, albeit reduced to squadron size, provided the ceremonial security of the President and was modeled on the Prussian practices of the late 19th century. The Presidential Honor Guard Brigade is composed today by the personnel from both the five service components of the National Armed Forces and the civil security services, and is commanded by a brigadier general or colonel or equivalent. At the moment, it is a unit of Brigade size. The Brigade provides the honor guard to the President in State Arrival Ceremonies at the Miraflores Palace and to the President in every activity held in the grounds and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Carabobo Field, Valencia Municipality, Carabobo, in honor of its participation in one of the final two battles of the Venezuelan War of Independence, the Battle of Carabobo on 24 June 1821, fought at the very grounds where the tomb is located, where a Guard Mounting ceremony is held daily in the midday hours. And from 2013 onward the Brigade is also charged with mounting the guard at the tomb of the late President Hugo Chávez at Fort Montana in Caracas plus in Bolivar's renovated mausoleum in the National Pantheon of Venezuela complex, also in Caracas, with guard mounting duties done daily, with all of them open to the public.
The dress uniform used by the Presidential Honor Guards mirrors the uniform of Bolivar's Hussar Troop during the Venezuelan War of Independence: red short jacket polo with black trousers or pants with sabre and scabbard, long black belt, black boots and a busby hat. The Mounted Platoon wears the Sabretache with the dress uniform when mounted in appropriate occasions like military parades. In both cases the brigade personnel carry sabres and lances with the full dress uniform (only the color guard carries rifles). Red berets with the distinctive unit insignia are worn with the service dress green and combat dress uniforms except by personnel from the Venezuelan Air Force who are part of the brigade.
The Commanding General of the Presidential Honor Guard Brigade (as of 20 January 2014) is Brigadier General Jesus Rafael Salazar Velasquez.
The general directorate of military intelligence (Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar, DGIM), is the bureau in charge to collect all the strategic intelligence data, and to coordinate the diverse institutions or departments of military intelligence of the service components of National Armed Forces and the National Militia.
The chief of the general directorate is Brigadier General Ivan Hernandez Darlan as of 20 January 2014.
According to the law of the approved budget for the 2012 Fiscal year, the budget allocated to the defense sector, is US$4.959 billion, which represents 6.5% of Venezuela's gross domestic product (GDP). Another source indicates that the amount is $4.508 billion. This amount does not include the additional credit granted by the Russian Federation of $4 billion, half of which will be used in fiscal year 2012, and the other half in fiscal year 2013, which would bring the official FY2012 total to $6.5 billion. The Bolivarian government increased salaries annually for members of the armed forces with a 505% increase in pay between 1999 and 2014.
Venezuela's continued economic collapse has drastically curtailed, among other things, its military spending. According to the Stockholm International Research Institute, a research body whose data is used by the World Bank, Venezuela's military spending has been plummeting rapidly since 2012. Military spending was only $2.3 billion in 2016. This is a miniscule number compared to even Peru's military spending (listed at $2.6 billion), despite Venezuela having several times as many men under arms as Peru.
According to the article 76 of the Organic Law of the National Armed Force, the system of military justice consists of
- The Military Criminal Judicial Circuit
- The Military Prosecutor
- The Military Advocacy
- Auxiliary and research bodies
Article 77 of the same Act specifies the support logistics and financial of the same: the Ministry of defence will provide the human, financial, material and technical resources for its proper functioning. Likewise, will seek the administrative and financial autonomy of each of the members of the system of military justice.
All men and women that are citizens of Venezuela have a constitutional duty to register for military service at the age of 18, which is the age of majority in Venezuela.
Requirements for military service
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- Be a natural-born Venezuelan
- Be between eighteen and thirty (30) years of age for men, twenty-five (25) years of age for women
- Be unmarried; and for women not to have children.
- Not having a case in court.
- Possess proper identification cards
- Not be disabled physically.
- Not having a criminal record.
- Not consuming any alcoholic beverage.
The military educational system, according to the concept of military strategy of the National Armed Forces, has a mission to educate, train and develop professionals pro-active, responsible, aware of the commitment with the defense in depth and its participated actively in the development of the country, achieving a comprehensive and interdisciplinary training that enable them to interact with the management of public or private; the education system will be geared towards a sound humanistic, scientific, research and spiritual culture that promotes leadership and educational self-management, development of competences, which facilitates the adaptation of their knowledge to the continuous transformation of science and technology, with emphasis on the observance and respect of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela
The Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela (Universidad Militar Bolivariana de Venezuela, UMBV), was created by initiative of the National Federal Government, through the efforts of the late President Hugo Chávez, with the firm intention to promote a strategic vision for the country and accelerate the thinking and the military national strategy inspired by the ideologies of Simón Bolívar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora. The university was formally launched by presidential orders on 3 September 2010, 200 years from the day of the founding of the Military Academy of Venezuela, one of the oldest military academies in Latin America, to help understand the issue of safety in a holistic manner and to respond in complex form, thru the complete integration of all 5 service academies of the National Armed Forces. The VBMU promotes the integration and educational interaction of all five service branches. Also, the military civic integration also recognizes both dimensions as a condition sine qua non for the guarantee of the security of the Venezuelan State. This University System has the mission of educating integrally all its cadets, with ethical, moral, spiritual and socialist values, to prepare them for the duties of being an officer in the National Bolivarian Armed Forces' various service arms and the militia, through a process of humanistic, scientific, technical and sporting skills, to fulfill the tasks inherent to all 5 service branches in national defence and security as well as in contributing to national development. Headquartered in Fort Tiuna in Caracas with branches in Catia del Mar and Maracay (with a new branch now fully opened at Fort Guaicaipuro in Charallave, Miranda), Divisional General Alexis Jose Rodriguez Cabello serves as its president as of 2016.
The University System is composed of the following service academies and schools:
- Military Academy of the Army (Caracas, Capital District)
- Military Academy of the Navy (Catia La Mar, Vargas State)
- Air Force Academy (Maracay, Aragua State)
- National Guard Military Academy (Caracas, Capital District)
- Military Technical Academy (Maracay, Aragua State)
- Troop Officers Military College (Charallave, Miranda State)
- Military Medical Academy (Caracas, Capital District)
- Army Infantry School General-in-Chief Rafael Urdaneta
- Army Cavalry and Armor School Major General Juan Guillermo Iribarren
- Army Artillery School Colonel Diego Jalón
- Army Logistics School Brigadier General José Gabriel Pérez
- Army Military Engineering School Brigadier General Francisco Jacot
- Naval Tactical Studies School
- Air Power College
- Internal Security Studies School
- Armed Forces School of Intelligence Brigadier General Daniel Florence O'Leary
- National Armed Forces College of Military Communications, Electronics and Information Technology (Instituto Universitario Militar de Comunicaciones, Electrónica y Informatica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional, IUMCOELIFA)
- Languages College of the National Armed Forces Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda
- Army Languages School
- Navy Languages School
- Air Force Languages School
- National Guard School of Languages
- National Defense Advanced Studies Institute Grand Marshal of Ayacucho Anthonio Jose de Sucre (Instituto de Altos Estudios de la Defensa Nacional, IAEDEN)
- National Armed Forces War College Liberator Simón Bolívar
National Experimental University of the Armed Forces
The National Experimental University of the Armed Forces (Spanish: Universidad Nacional Experimental Politécnica de la Fuerza Armada Bolivariana, UNEFA) is a Venezuelan public university associated with the Venezuelan armed forces. Founded in 1974 as the National Armed Forces Higher Polytechnical Institution (Instituto Universitario Politécnico de las Fuerzas Armadas Nacionales), it was renamed by the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in 1999 to its current name. Its mission is the training of civilian personnel in the NAF and all military personnel, plus civilians in educational skills, and it also offers doctoral programs and post-graduate studies.
Its president, as of 2015, is Vice Admiral Elisa Amelia Di Tizio, Deputy Minister of Education for National Defense.
Modernization and capability building projects for the Armed Forces
Mission Miranda, one of the Bolivarian Missions that were a legacy of the late President Hugo Chávez, was launched in 2004 to prepare all reserve and part-time national servicemen and women of the National Armed Forces for the important tasks of national total defense, security and economic progress.
The main goal of the armed forces, under this mission, are to organize, recruit, record, monitor, and re-train the Armed Forces Reserve and National Militia personnel with the aim of defending the integrity of the country through military defense, cooperation in maintaining internal order, and active participation in the national development.
- Form a structural organization of adequate reserves for the needs of the FAN.
- Procure the required infrastructure for the various commands of the reserve in each of the components.
- Procure equipment and materials for storage to be used by members of the Reserve of the Armed Forces:
- Develop an effective registration and monitoring program to ensure the identification, recording and location by region of the personnel of the Armed Forces Reserve.
- Meet the curricular plans and instructional programs for academic activities and skills of the staff of the Armed Forces Reserve.
- Meet the curricular plans and instructional programs for retraining of staff of the Reserve of the Armed Forces during periods of field drills.
- Logistically support all the processes that must be met in the organization of the Armed Forces Reserve
- Planning, procuring and implementing the annual budget required for the operation and maintenance of reserve units.
- Ensure the employment of staff that makes up the Armed Forces Reserve in the different scenarios of action foreseen in the Federal Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
- Incentives to seek the staff of the Reserve of the Armed Forces and the National Militiia for their recruitment.
Mission Negro Primero
Named after the nickname of Venezuelan independence hero Pedro Camejo, this mission, another legacy of the Chávez administration, and now upgraded by President Nicolás Maduro to a Grand Mission, is aimed at upgrading the combat capabilities of all service personnel of the National Armed Forces and to strengthen the performance of the duties of national defense. Part of it is the acquisition of modern weapons and building of modern facilities and upgrading of existing buildings in all military installations.
Women in the Armed Forces
The integration of Venezuelan women in the NBAF has been completed; for the year 2014 all the service academies have the female students as well as the military high schools that previously been co-educational since the 1980s and 1990s, and today there are already women pilots and aircrews, female crew members of ships, and female personnel in combat duty in the Army, and they have reached the highest military ranks as well. The late President Hugo Chávez said in July 2012 about it: "not only is the promotion to a hierarchy, but the promotion that gives Venezuelan people. All women say that they feel proud to be in a country that promotes the inclusion of women". Currently the 4 components that make up the NBAF: the Army, Navy, Air Force and the National Guard, plus the National Militia and the Presidential Honor Guard Brigade as well, have courageous women who choose a military career for their professional development part of their ranks as either enlisted personnel, non-commissioned officers and officers. Within these service branches, the Venezuelan military woman has achieved important positions.
Boys and girls also join together as students of the various educational institutions jointly operated by the service branches of the National Armed Forces through their foundations and the Ministry of Education from pre-school to the secondary level.
In an opinion article published in the government-backed newspaper Correo del Orinoco in 2010, women servicemembers stated that "Macho culture does not exist within the National Bolivarian Armed Forces."
Historical dates of the achievements of the Venezuelan women in the National Bolivarian Armed Forces:
- July 1977: first contingent of women to enter a school of training of officers of the armed forces of Venezuela, specifically to the aviation school in Maracay.
- June 2007: first woman pilot certified to fly the Mi-26 helicopter, the world's biggest helicopter.
- 4 July 2007: first woman promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
- 28 December 2008: A woman Brigadier General founded the Military Technical School of the NBAF (today the Military Technical Academy and formerly the Armed Forces Basic School) as Directress, the first-ever woman to hold the director post in a Venezuelan service academy.
- 5 July 2010: the Venezuelan Government conferred Manuela Sáenz (also called the "Libertadora del Libertador"), the grade of brigadier general of the Bolivarian army of Venezuela posthumously, as the "posthumous recognition of the virtues of heroine of American independence" due to her outstanding contributions in the Spanish American wars of independence.
- 27 November 2009: first female pilot of fighter aircraft.
- 23 January 2012: first woman to complete a flight on a Venezuelan Air Force Super King Air B200
- 3 July 2012: first woman promoted to Admiral.
- 28 May 2013: The Venezuelan National Guard's Air Command welcomed its first female pilot in history.
During the National Independence Day Armed Forces Promotions ceremony at the Fort Montana Barracks in Caracas on 5 July 2013, also marking 4 months after the sudden death of Hugo Chávez, President of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro shocked everyone by making an historic announcement that Admiral Carmen Teresa Meléndez Rivas, the first-ever Venezuelan female admiral in history and by then the current Presidential Secretary, would be appointed as the first-ever female Minister of Defense in the nation's history as well as in its military history. She was later promoted as the very first female 4-sun flag officer of the Venezuelan Navy and of the National Armed Forces as a whole before officially taking over her ministerial duties.
Ranks, uniforms and insignia
The most important reform in more than one century, was in 2008, with the enactment of the reform of the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces, which established, among many innovations, the transformation of the non-commissioned officer level "technical officer" to commissioned officer status. As part of the same reform, the rank of Major General, intermediate rank that comes after Divisional General and before the rank of General in Chief, was officially created. In the case of the Navy, the rank of Admiral in Chief, created also by the same reforms, is now equivalent to General in Chief. Thus the officer rank system used today is more compatible to those used by most armed forces.
Since 2011 the officer corps is divided into Commissioned Candidate, Regular Commissioned, Troop and Command Corps officers, the latter three, alongside the Technical Officers Corps, forming the regular officer corps and the former being composed of civilian commissioned officers.
Article 62 of the Organic Law of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces has the full order of ranks of military officers, and their equivalents in the Navy, while Article 63 of the Organic Law lists the full order of ranks for non-commissioned service personnel and Article 69 of the said law provides the military hierarchy of the enlisted personnel and ratings of the National Armed Forces.
Amendments made in 2014 for the Organic Law of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces officially give the following as the highest rank for the following officer corps:
- Divisional General/Vice Admiral – Technical Officers Corps
- Brigadier General/Rear Admiral – Troop Officers Corps
- Brigadier General/Rear Admiral – Commissioned Candidate Officers Corps
The rank of Major General, a rank immediately below the General in Chief and above Divisional General, was established in the year 2007 in the aftermath of the Armed Forces Organic Law amendments and in the Navy, Admiral (three-suns) and Admiral in Chief (four-suns) are the equivalent today. These officers are assigned mostly to the leadership of military regions (REDI), Commanders General of Components, General Inspectorate, vice-ministers, and temporarily as Chief of the NBAF-OSC, if the Minister of Defence is an official asset, with the office holder having the rank of General in Chief or Admiral in Chief. Before 2007 the 3 sun rank belonged to Generals in Chief and Admirals, and is an equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general or vice admiral in most countries.
One must not confuse this rank with the General staff rank of Major General used in most of the armed forces of the world, which is equivalent to the second rank of general officers in most armies and several air forces.
Since the age of the independence war in Venezuela the most senior officer is designated as general-in-chief (general en jefe). From its creation the rank was represented by three mythical suns (equivalent to three star rank), but with the creation in 2008 of the rank of Major General, four mythical suns (equivalent to four star rank) are used. If used in the Navy, it is called as admiral in chief (almirante en jefe) since 2008 (formerly the 3 sun rank was of an Admiral), uses the same 4 suns in the shoulder board, and the sleeve insignia used mirrors that of a full Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy.
Since 2001, 18 officers have been promoted to this rank or equivalent (13 from the Army including 3 posthumously, 1 from the Air Force, also posthumously, 2 from the Navy, 1 other naval recipient having been promoted to Admiral plus 1 posthumously):
|General-in-Chief Lucas Rincón Romero||Army||2001|
|General-in-Chief Luis Acevedo Quintero||Air Force||2002||Promoted posthumously as the first and only General in Chief from the Air Force|
|General-in-Chief Jorge Luis García Carneiro||Army||2004|
|Admiral Ramon Orlando Maniglia Ferreira||Navy||2005||First to be promoted to admiral, first-ever Venezuelan three-star admiral in two centuries after Luis Brion|
|General-in-Chief Raul Isaias Baduel||Army||2006|
|General-in-Chief Gustavo Rangel Briceño||Army||2007||First four-sun promotion for the armed forces|
|General-in-Chief Carlos José Mata Figueroa||Army||2009||Second four-sun promotion for the armed forces, also promoted while being the Chief of the Operational Strategic Command|
|General-in-Chief Jesús González González||Army||2009|
|General-in-Chief Almidien Moreno Acosta||Army||2010||Posthumously promoted|
|General-in-Chief Alberto Müller Rojas||Army||2010||Posthumously promoted|
|General-in-Chief Henry Rangel Silva||Army||2010||2nd to be promoted while in capacity as Commander of the OSC|
|Admiral-in-Chief Diego Alfredo Molero Bellavia||Navy||2012||First Navy four-sun flag officer to be appointed Minister of Defense, 1st to be promoted to Admiral in Chief|
|Admiral-in-Chief Carmen Meléndez||Navy||2013||First woman ever to be promoted to Admiral in Chief and first woman Minister of Defense in Venezuelan history|
|General-in-Chief Vladimir Padrino López||Army||2013||First to be promoted to General in Chief while being appointed as Commander of the OSC|
|General-in-Chief Jacinto Pérez Arcay||Army||2014||Oldest living general officer in Venezuelan history to be promoted to the rank|
|General-in-Chief Felix Antonio Velazquez||Army||2016||Promoted posthumously|
|Admiral-in-Chief Francisco de Miranda||Navy||2016||In honor of the bicentennial year since his death in prison and the 210th anniversary of his arrival in Venezuela, promoted posthumously|
|General-in-Chief Gustavo González López||Army
(Bolivarian Intelligence Service)
|2017||First SEBIN commandant to be promoted|
|Admiral-in-Chief Remigio Ceballos||Navy||2017||3rd to be promoted to Admiral in Chief and first naval officer to be appointed Commandant of the OSC|
Commander-in-Chief rank and insignia
The office of the Venezuelan military supreme commander in chief has always been held by the President of Venezuela as per constitutional requirements. However, with the new law sanctioned in 2008, the "Comandante en Jefe" rank is not only a function attributed to the executive branch but a full military rank given to the president upon taking office. Upon assumption he receives a saber, epaulette, shoulder knot, shoulder board and sleeve insignia and full military uniform to be used in military events while performing the duties as president. The shoulder insignia mirrors Cuban practice but is derived from the German-styled officer rank insignia.
Berets are worn by some units in the National Armed Forces, with distinctive colors for some units or functions. The beret colors are as follows:
|black||Venezuelan Army general issue berets.|
|black||Venezuelan Army Special Forces Battalions|
|black||Venezuelan Marine Corps (since 2009).|
|maroon||Venezuelan National Guard general issue berets.|
|forest green||Army jungle infantry troops.|
|forest green||Army mountain troops.|
|forest green||Army irregular/counter-irregular infantry (caribes).|
|red||Presidential Honor Guard Brigade (armed forces joint unit).|
|red||Armed Forces and Ministry of Defense General Headquarters Battalion (Minister Of Defence troops (Caracas Battalion), armed forces joint unit).|
|red||42nd Airborne Brigade (Army).|
|red||311th Infantry Battalion "Simon Bolivar" (Army). Wears the red beret as the one of the first and oldest active infantry battalions of the Army to be raised in the modern era (raised 1942).|
|blue||Venezuelan Air Force Infantry Units (Infantería Aérea) and personnel of the Air Force Police (Policia Aerea).|
|dark blue||Army Headquarters Battalion (Lieutenant General Daniel Florence O´Leary Headquarters Battalion).|
The Venezuelan government has embarked on a massive military purchase programme. This has included negotiations for German submarines and transport aircraft, several agreements with Russia (outlined below), transport aircraft and naval vessels from Spain, radars from China, home-made and designed armored light vehicles and rocket launchers, studies for Russian main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, amongst many others. Most if not all European military hardware have not been delivered to Venezuela due to the U.S. embargo.
Surveillance radars, AK-103s and helicopters: Mi-17, Mi-26 and Mi-35
Also that year, Venezuela bought 51 military helicopters from Russia, by 2008 all 51 had been delivered to the Venezuelan armed forces, the helicopters acquired were: 40 Mi-17, 3 Mi-26 and 8 Mi-35. Then in 2006 the country purchased 100,000 Russian AK-103 assault rifles, all delivered in that same year. Chávez also claimed to have acquired a license to manufacture Kalashnikovs in Venezuela,
Su-30s and missiles
In 2006 Venezuela purchased 24 Su-30MK jet fighters also from Russia, all delivered by 2008. In order to equip those fighters the country bought a large assortment of missiles, it is estimated that Venezuela acquired: 200 laser-guided bombs types KAB-500 and KAB-1500, 50 Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles, 50 Kh-31A1 anti-ship missiles, 50 Kh-59ME TV-guided cruise missiles, 100 Vympel R-27 medium-range air-to-air missiles and 150 Vympel R-73 short-range air-to-air missiles.
Night vision equipment, sniper rifles and submarines
In 2007, the Belarusian military optics industry agreed to supply the Venezuelan army with night vision devices, and install on, as Hugo Chávez described, "every single rifle in the Venezuelan army." The deal is valued at $3–$24 million. Later that year, Chávez announced plans to purchase of 5,000 Dragunov sniper rifles from the Russian Rosoboronexport, adding that Venezuela must ready itself for a "possible U.S. invasion." It is not clear whether that deal was completed. In all, from 2005 to 2007 Venezuela purchased more than $4.4 billion in weapons from Russia.
After signing an "initial contract", Venezuela was expected in June 2007 to finalize the acquisition of five diesel Project 636 Kilo class submarines, and at a later date finalize the acquisition of four diesel Project 677 Amur class submarines. In spite of the expectations, Chávez didn't sign the deal. Ten months later in April 2008, Venezuela decided to negotiate with Russia a loan of about $800 million for the acquisition of 4 diesel Project 636 Kilo class submarines. During that time Venezuela was also considering the purchase of 12 Il-76 transport aircraft. The submarines plus the aircraft were going to cost a total of $1.5 billion. However, this acquisition deal wasn't completed either. The negotiations for the purchase of the submarines broke down and 6 submarines that were once planned for Venezuela are now being offered to Vietnam.
Russian loans and the Chinese K-8W light jet
In September 2008, Russia provided Venezuela with a $1 billion loan to buy Russian weapons. A Kremlin source said "The Russian side has made the decision to extend to Venezuela a $1 billion loan for a military cooperation program." There is a lot of speculation about which weapons will be bought with that loan. Venezuela has shown interest on the following weapons: TOR-M1 SAM systems, T-72 tanks, Su-35 jet fighters and Il-76 military cargo aircraft. Despite of the interest and the Russian credit line, no deal has been finalized. In October 2008 Rosoboronexport informed that Venezuela was close to buying among other things a "large shipment of BMP-3" infantry fighting vehicles. However, that deal too wasn't finalized.
Also in September Chávez confirmed that Venezuela purchased 24 K-8 Karakorum trainer jets from China. The deal, which is estimated to be worth between $72–$84 million, was the biggest Venezuelan arms deal of 2008.
On 21 July 2010, one K-8W crashed during a training flight. A statement by Venezuelan Air Force commander blamed engine failure. Both pilot and assistant ejected.
Venezuela acquired an undisclosed number of SA-24 Igla-S man-portable surface to air missiles. The SA-24 Igla-S is the most advanced version built in Russia. This acquisition was only confirmed after 50 SA-24 Igla-S were paraded by soldiers in Caracas in April 2009. In reaction to the acquisition the US State Department declared: "We are concerned about Venezuelan arms purchases that exceed its needs and are therefore potentially destabilizing."
In September 2009 Russia agreed to loan Venezuela over $2 billion to finance the purchase of weapons including tanks and advanced anti-aircraft missiles. It was stated that because of lower crude prices, the country needed to borrow the money for defence spending to avoid cuts in education and health. The deal includes orders for 92 T-72 tanks and the Buk-M2, S-125 Neva/Pechora missile system and S-300 air-defence systems and also the BM-30 Smerch rocket artillery system. President Hugo Chávez stated that "Venezuela has no plans to invade anybody, or to be aggressive towards anybody," and "with these rockets it's going to be very difficult for foreign planes to come and bomb us". Chávez repeated Venezuela's commitment to developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes with the help of Russia and reiterated his strong opposition to nuclear weapons.
Contract with China for modernization of the Venezuelan Marine Corps
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said in 2012 that his government will buy amphibious tanks from China for its military. Chávez isn't saying how many of the armored vehicles Venezuela intends to buy, but says the deal signed Tuesday calls for a Chinese company to begin delivering the tanks next year. He announced the deal in a speech to troops, saying the $500 million cost will be financed through loans that China has offered Venezuela in exchange for oil shipments.
The new armored equipment arrived in the country in 2014 and are now at the service of the Venezuelan Marine Corps.
The Russian Federation gives new credit and interest in the Su-35
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he was interested in buying Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E multirole fighter jets from Russia to enhance his country's defense capabilities. "I have already sent a statement to the government of Russia that we are ready to consider buying in the next few years Su-35 fighters to modernize and enhance our defense powers" Venezuela's national radio quoted Chávez as saying.
Russia and Venezuela have signed an agreement on a $4 billion loan for the oil-rich Latin American partner to buy Russian weaponry. "Two billion will be provided next year and another two billion in 2013," Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said.
Controversy with the United States
These acquisitions and other projects have been greeted with criticism from the United States, which opposes the government of President Hugo Chávez. The U.S. accuses Venezuela of starting an arms race, which they claim will destabilize the military equilibrium in South America. Venezuela is also accused of supplying small arms to neighboring Colombian guerrilla organizations including FARC, which is sympathetic to Chávez.
United States criticism is met with skepticism by Venezuelan authorities, who claim the weapons are needed to update the basic equipment in the armed forces. In some cases, Venezuelan armaments like the FN FAL have been in service more than 50 years. The government also claims that the U.S. has been the one to initiate arms races and de-stabilize countries by supplying subversive groups in Latin America throughout the past century (referring to the 1954 Guatemalan coup d'état during the Cold War, and the contra affair, among numerous other incidents).Venezuela however has publicly acknowledged its own role in the supplying of thousands of FN Fal rifles, heavy antitank weapons and air support to the Sandinista uprising in Nicaragua during 1978–1979.
In the 1990s Venezuela requested a batch of F-16C/Ds to update its F-16 fighter fleet, but the U.S. government blocked the request. In October 1997 the U.S. government approved the sale of the two crash replacement F-16s, but subsequently halted the sale. In 2005 a contract with Israel Aircraft Industries to upgrade Venezuela's F-16s was frozen following U.S. pressure. Chávez subsequently accused the U.S. of delaying the sale of spare parts to maintain Venezuela's F-16s. After remarks by Chávez that he would sell or lend the 'unused' F-16's to any country that wanted them, including Iran, the U.S. Government agreed to supply the spare parts; however, the shipment was detained at the Customs Office in Maiquetia International Airport due to security concerns.
U.S. military embargo
In May 2006, the government of the United States announced an embargo of military material and equipment to Venezuela; no American-made weapons or technology can be sold to Venezuela by any country or company. This embargo has harmed several Venezuelan purchases, as not only are U.S. technology goods unavailable, but other nations friendly to the U.S. have been pressured to block sales of arms to Venezuela, as well. This is also considered one of the reasons Venezuela has turned to Russia and China for arms, in a move reminiscent of the Cold War.
In 2005 Venezuela signed agreements with Spain to procure 12 naval transport and reconnaissance aircraft and eight naval patrol vessels. The deal is worth $1.5-2 billion dollars to the Spanish defense industry, as well as an estimated 900 new jobs, but was cancelled due to the U.S. embargo. The cancellation does not affect the eight naval patrol vessels.
Below is a list of acquisitions frustrated directly or indirectly by the U.S. embargo:
- Aero L-159 Alca Jets from the Czech Republic: the Czech government forbade Aero Vodochody, the manufacturer, from creating a variant with French avionics and Ukrainian engines, specially requested by Venezuela.
- Saab, a Swedish arms company announced it would honor the U.S. embargo, and would not sell arms to Venezuela. Carl Gustav recoilless rifles, AT4 AT weapons, as well as RBS-70 AA systems are in service in the Venezuelan military.
- Spanish company EADS CASA halted the sale of several transport planes that contained extensive U.S. technology.
- Brazil was forced to cancel the sale of Embraer Super Tucano airplanes to the Venezuelan Air Force due to its use of Pratt & Whitney engines. Embraer was also forced to cancel the sale of AEW&C equipped planes.
- France decided to block the sale of Scorpène-class submarines to Venezuela.
- Russian companies Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for procuring arms for Venezuela.
The Russian Federation has broken the U.S. embargo
However, the Russian Federation has continued sending arms to Venezuela despite the US embargo. Russia has agreed to sell more than $4 billion (£2 billion) worth of armaments to Venezuela since 2005 and disclosed that Mr Chávez wanted new antiaircraft systems and more fighter jets.
Caracas acknowledges problems with Iran by U.S. embargo
The Venezuela President, Hugo Chávez, acknowledged that the joint production between his country and Iran cars, has been affected by the embargo that United States keeps on the Islamic country.
Spanish Defense Minister, defends arms sales to Venezuela
The Spanish Minister of Defense, Pedro Morenes, has defended the sale of military equipment to Venezuela, and reported that a delegation from the public company Navantia has traveled to the capital of the country, Caracas, to try to sell new products to the Chávez government. Morenes has made these statements during a speech at the plenary session of the Congress to reply to an interpellation by the spokesman for Izquierda Unida, Jose Luis Centella, on the Ministry of defence plans for the coming years and the Spanish missions abroad.
Pre-military education controversy
In 2014, El Impulso reported that at Lieutenant Vicente Landaeta Gil Air Base, Venezuelan military officials forced high school students of Mary Help of Christians School participating in pre-military activities to say the following cadence:
"Quiero bañarme en una piscina llena de sangre, de sangre gringa." or, "I want to bathe in a pool of blood, of gringa [American] blood."
This is the very example of one of the many military cadences used by the NBAF during outdoor marches and/or runs. As El Impulso reported, that cadence used during the JROTC-style activities there was anti-US in content.
Role of the military in Venezuelan politics
From 1810 up to the 1819 Angostura Congress that created Gran Colombia, and into the era of national independence since 1831, the National Armed Forces helped shaped the political, economical, social and national affairs of Venezuela, with so many military led-governments that led the nation until the late 1950s (with a brief break in the 1940s), several of them under strong military dictators. After Marcos Perez Jimenez left in 1958, the military role in government affairs ended with the framing of the 1961 Constitution and the replacement by civilian leaders of the military anti-Jimenez government that took power after the 1958 coup. However, the years that followed saw 2 coup attempts by military personnel with the help of groups disillusioned by government policies in the 1960s, and military repressions of student and civil rallies and actions from the late 60s onward, all these happening while fighting rebel groups present in the national territory and on the Venezuelan-Colombian border region. All these led up to the events of the 1989 Caracazo, in which National Guardsmen crushed anti-government actions and riots in the capital area with great severity, causing the deaths of hundreds, which in turn resulted in the coup attempts of 1992 and 1993.
By the time Hugo Chávez assumed the presidency in 1999, retired armed forces personnel who served with him were appointed to several cabinet posts and were given seats in the National Assembly. Chávez only allowed retired military personnel to run for elective posts at all levels as well as to serve in appointive government positions except for the Ministries of Defense and the Interior, per tradition led by active generals of the armed forces (the latter since the early 21st century).
One of the advances achieved in the new Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 was to allow the right to vote in the elections to all service personnel of the armed forces without any limitation whatsoever, thus bringing it in line with other countries that allow the practice. This is the right enshrined in article 64 of the said Constitution.
Venezuelan military coup d'états
The NAF were involved in many coup d'états in national history:
- June 1835 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt (Revolución de las Reformas)
- March 1858 Venezuelan coup d'état (Revolución de Marzo)
- May 1899 Venezuelan coup d'état (Liberal Restoration Revolution)
- December 1908 Venezuelan coup d'état
- October 1945 Venezuelan coup d'état
- November 1948 Venezuelan coup d'état
- January 1958 Venezuelan coup d'état
- May 1962 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt (El Carupanazo)
- June 1962 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt (El Porteñazo)
- February 1992 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt (Army's movement)
- November 1992 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt (Air Force's movement)
- November 1993 Venezuelan coup d'état attempts (Navy's movement)
- April 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt
Role in Venezuelan society
The tragedy of Vargas in December 1999, brought with it several lessons, that the Government knew how to assimilate, one of them was the quick action of the FANB to assist populations in danger, and the reconstruction of devastated areas. Since then, Venezuela through the FANB, participated in numerous actions of humanitarian assistance, in several countries of the world.
- Humanitarian International Brigade "Simón Bolívar"
It is a unit created in order to attend immediately to populations affected by natural calamities, both nationally and internationally. Task forces of this unit have provided support to countries like Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Haiti, Mali, among others.
- Battalion 51 "Dra. Migledys Campos Goatache"
It is a unit of civilian and military doctors who assists medical in remote areas of national and international geography. Between international actions that this unit has had civic-military, this medical assistance to the people of Haiti.
Venezuela currently shows an industrial development in the defence sector, that sector still far from compared to countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Colombia or Mexico in the region, if it has meant a noticeable advance respect to the last decade of the 20th-century Venezuelan. In the opinion of Francisco Arias Cardenas (ex – presidential candidate; former member of parliament; and current candidate for the governorship of Zulia State, by the ruling party PSUV): "in the 13 years of management of the current Government there has been an armed forces industry of its own, having the autonomy that lacked in the Fourth Republic, when transnational corporations controlled the military sector of the country. This advance of the Venezuelan military industry gives us a range of greater encouragement, that is what we need, and the possibility of applying our inventiveness to the development of technologies that give us genuine autonomy to defend our territory."
It was planned that Venezuela would manufacture all-terrain vehicles, trucks, ammunition, rifles, unmanned aircraft, grenades, assembled ships of small and medium-sized ports among other products, produced by state corporations, however, most of these are unable to operate due to lack of personnel, resources, and even in some cases lack of support from the government, these corporations are:
IBIDIFANB (Instituto Bolivariano de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana), shall develop all projects that have much impact in what is maintain operational sizing in the FANB, maintain equipment and also has the possibility of supporting the national development with the generation of some research projects, some technological lines can do good for the people of Venezuela
CAVIM (C.A. Venezolana de Industrias Militares, Venezuelan Military Industries Company Ltd.) is the national corporation owned by the Ministry of Defense charged with developing a national military industry by producing weapons, ammunition, uniforms and other products to be utilized by the service personnel of the National Armed Forces. It has currently demonstrated capabilities in the development and production of rifles, grenades, shotguns, unmanned aircraft, explosives for industrial use, ammunition, bulletproof vests, kevlar helmets, among other products, weapons, logistics and various utensils for use by the NAF. The company puts forward a project for the identification of munitions delivered to the defence and the country's security agency. In January 2011, an explosion of unidentified causes and the subsequent fire scorched five CAVIM arms and ammunition depots in the state of Aragua, leading to one official fatality and nearly 10,000 people being evacuated. On 12 February 2013, the United States Government sanctioned Venezuela's Military Industries Company (CAVIM), as well as other 12 foreign companies, including four Chinese firms, for the sale of arms and military technology to Iran, North Korea or Syria.
DIANCA (Diques y Astilleros Nacionales C.A.), is the state shipyard of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. It was created in 1905 in the city of Puerto Cabello, Carabobo state.
UCOCAR (Unidad Naval Coordinadora de los Servicios de Carenado de la Armada) is responsible for the repair, maintenance and construction of ships, equipment, systems, helmet and structures up to 1,000 tonnes, in support of the armed forces, public firms and private sector entities. Several boats have been designed, and the company has an agreement with the Dutch shipyard firm Damen, to assemble some ships to be used by the Venezuelan Navy. This firm also produces the Guardian G-25 riverine craft boats being used by both the Navy and the National Guard.
CIDAE (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Aeronáutico) is a scientific center making helmets for pilots. There have been upgrades of radar, and is involved with CAVIM, in the development of unmanned aircraft among other developments. Also this research center this trying time of short-range, solid fuel rockets. Likewise, the CIDAE has designed and built a Flight Simulator for the T-27 Tucano aircraft, as well as a simulator of flight to aircraft Cessna 208 Caravan, shooting simulators, and the recovery of the test benches of PT6 engines, with 80% of Venezuelan technology, not only in the design but in the software installation and the use of materials. CIDAE participa en el proyecto del satélite Simón Bolívar con China.
ASTIMARCA (Astilleros de Maracaibo y el Caribe S.A.). As part of the agreements between the Governments of Cuba and Venezuela, there is this joint venture. It is a shipyard overhaul, for small and medium-size vessels.
CENARECA (Centro Nacional de Repotenciación C.A.) is the manufacturer of the vehicle family all-terrain and high mobility (HMMWV) Tiuna, manufactured in serious to the Venezuelan armed forces, and donated in small quantities to Governments of the ALBA as Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
G&F Tecnología is a Venezuelan company that develops an endogenous model of architecture technology oriented solutions derived from the design, development, implementation and operation of projects of telecommunications, information, aeronautics and electronics with increasing added value of applied knowledge. Specifically is a company manufacturer of unmanned aircraft, as well as communication equipment, and other electronic product.
Military corporations of the Ministry of Defense
In addition, the Ministry of Defense operates the following nationally owned corporations aside from CAVIM:
- Armed Forces Communications Enterprises (EMCOFANB)
- National Armed Forces Agricultural Products Corporation (AGROFANB)
- Military Transport Company Ltd. (EMILTRA)
- Armed Forces Bank (BANFANB)
- Military Mining, Gas and Petroleum Company (CAMIMPEG)
- Safe Horizons Insurance (Seguros Horizonte, S.A.)
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- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial del Ministerio del Poder Popular para Defensa de Venezuela
- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial del Ejército Libertador (Venezuela)
- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Armada de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela
- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Aviación Militar de Venezuela
- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Guardia Nacional de Venezuela
- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Aviación del Ejército de Venezuela
- (in Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Milicia Nacional de Venezuela
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