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National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

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Title: National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela  
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Subject: Military of Venezuela, Venezuelan National Militia, Military of Ecuador, Diosdado Cabello, Venezuelan Air Force
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National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

National Bolivarian Armed Forces
Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana
Service branches National Army
National Navy
National Military Aviation
National Guard
National Militia
Presidential Honor Guard Brigade
Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces President Nicolas Maduro
Minister of the People's Power for Defense and concurrent Commandant, Operational Strategic Command of the National Armed Forces General in Chief Vladimir Padrino López, Venezuelan National Army
Conscription 18-30 years of age
30 month term
Active personnel 113,558 (2012)[1]
Budget $4,508 million (2012)[1]
Percent of GDP 6.5% (2012)[1]
1.1% (2010 est.)[2]
Domestic suppliers CAVIM
G&F Tecnología[3]
Foreign suppliers  Russia
 South Africa[6]
Related articles
History Venezuelan War of Independence
Federal War
Ranks Venezuelan military ranks

The main roles of the National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, FANB) are to defend the sovereign national territory of Venezuela, fight against drug trafficking, to provide search and rescue capabilities and in case of natural disasters protection and aid to the civilian population. As of 2012, the armed forces have 113,558 personnel.[1]


  • History of the Armed Forces of Venezuela 1
    • National period 1.1
  • Doctrine 2
    • Mission Statement 2.1
  • Organization and Structure 3
    • Ministry of Defense 3.1
    • High Command Authorites and National Armed Forces Council 3.2
    • Other decentralised directorates 3.3
    • Operational Strategic Command 3.4
    • Military Regions 3.5
  • Service branches of the NBAF 4
    • Main branches 4.1
      • Army 4.1.1
      • Navy 4.1.2
      • Air Force 4.1.3
      • National Guard 4.1.4
    • Other branches 4.2
      • National Militia 4.2.1
      • Presidential Honor Guard 4.2.2
      • Military Intelligence 4.2.3
  • Budget 5
  • Military Justice 6
  • Personnel 7
    • Requirements for military service 7.1
    • Military Education 7.2
      • Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela 7.2.1
      • National Experimental University of the Armed Forces 7.2.2
    • Modernization and capability building projects for the Armed Forces 7.3
      • Mission Miranda 7.3.1
      • Mission Negro Primero 7.3.2
    • Women in the Armed Forces 7.4
  • Ranks, uniforms and insignia 8
    • Military Ranks 8.1
      • Three-sun ranking 8.1.1
      • Four-sun ranking 8.1.2
      • Commander-in-Chief rank and insignia 8.1.3
    • Berets 8.2
  • Extensive modernization program 9
    • Surveillance radars, AK-103s and helicopters: Mi-17, Mi-26 and Mi-35 9.1
    • Su-30s and missiles 9.2
    • Night vision equipment, sniper rifles and submarines 9.3
    • Russian loans and the Chinese K-8W light jet 9.4
    • Signed contract with China for 500 million dollars, to provide Venezuelan Marine Corps 9.5
    • The Russian Federation gives new credit and Venezuelan Government shows interest in the Su-35 9.6
  • Controversy with the United States 10
    • U.S. military embargo 10.1
    • The Russian Federation has broken the U.S. embargo 10.2
    • Caracas acknowledges problems with Iran by U.S. embargo 10.3
    • Spanish Defense Minister, defends arms sales to Venezuela 10.4
    • Pre-military education controversy 10.5
  • Role of the military in Venezuelan politics 11
    • Venezuelan military coup d'états 11.1
    • Criticism 11.2
  • Role in Venezuelan society 12
    • Humanitarian relief 12.1
  • Military industry 13
    • IBIDIFANB 13.1
    • CAVIM 13.2
    • DIANCA 13.3
    • UCOCAR 13.4
    • CIDAE 13.5
    • ASTIMARCA 13.6
    • CENARECA 13.7
    • MAZVEN 13.8
    • G&F Tecnología 13.9
  • Military corporations of the Ministry of Defense 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16

History of the Armed Forces of Venezuela

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.

Battle of Carabobo (1821)

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 April 19 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 aformationed April 19 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.

National period

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. Interestingly, 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 Nautical School (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 was the military defeat and political leadership, converted in 1913 after anti-gomecism. Since 1914 Gomez always retained the post of commander in chief 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 yellow 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.

The second half of the 20th century, was just as turbulent for the Army, but it was projected into the future as a modern force, though not yet cohesive. Already under the government of Divisional General Marcos Pérez Jiménez, who led the country in the late 1940s and the early 1950s, the American influence (cultural, political and military) became more prominent then in the entire history of the armed forces. So jealous of the Venezuelan Army, over the subsequent decades, he 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 again in the early years of the decade of the'70s, albeit in a more balanced way by their countries of origin.

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. But in a relatively short time it has undergone significant changes, including its name (from National Armed Forces to National Bolivarian Armed Forces) to its doctrines, switching from a non-political position to one that defends socialism and the Bolivarian revolution itself on its own. This change has been clearly visible by the switchover of partners and suppliers from 1999, the year that marked the end of a long-standing cooperation between the National Armed Forces, the US and its allies, to a new system of "multilateral alliances" with the Russian Federation as the biggest of those new military allies.

Today the NBAF stands prous of its long history and heritage and is committed to contribute to total national defense and development as the oldest active armed forces in South America and in the whole of Latin America.


The military doctrine of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces combines both Bolivarian and socialist principles, and also contributes to the development of the Venezuelan people integrated in the work of social mission promoted by the national Federal Government; This new doctrine replaced the long standing doctrine of national security formulated during the transition to democracy in the late 1950s, inspired by the model used in the United States of America.

Mission Statement

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 defence, cooperation in the maintenance of internal order and active participation in national development.[14]

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 commanders of the Operational Strategic Command and the service branches and has full authority over all uniformed personnel.

Ministry of Defense

Ministry of Defense in Caracas.

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 Melendez 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.

High Command Authorites 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 who is an 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), 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 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 [15] Deputy Minister of Education for National Defense Vice-Ministerio de Educación para la Defensa Major General Luis Quintero Machado
VICESERV Deputy Minister of Defense Services Vice-Ministerio de Servicios Admiral Cezar Salazar Coll
VICEPLANDES Deputy Minister of Defense Development and Planning Vice-Ministerio de Planification y Desarollo de la Defensa Major General Pedro Alfonso Gonzales Salmeron
INGEFANB Office of the Inspector General of the National Armed Forces Inspectoría General de la Fuerza Armada Nacional Major General Justo José Noguera Pietri
CONGEFANB [16][17] 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[18][19] Commission for Defense Sector Contracts Comisión de Contrataciones del Sector Defensa Brigadier General Alberto De Abreu Ferreira
DAEX[20][21] Directorate-General for Weapons and Explosives Dirección General de Armas y Explosivos Brigadier General Carlos José Alexander Armas López

Operational Strategic Command

Formerly the Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Operational Strategic Command (CEOFAN) is the highest organ of programming, planning, management, implementation and strategic joint operational control of the National Armed Forces, with jurisdiction over the entire geographical area of the country and in mainland areas, water and space, according to treaties signed and ratified by the Republic. This organization is supported legally by the current Article 60 of the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces (LOFAN) as amended. This body is called by the same organic law as the CUFAN (Unified Command of the National Armed Forces), and it reports to both the President, in his duties as Commander-in-Chief, and to the Minister of Defense. The leadership of this organ is held by a major general or admiral of a component of the FAN, and sometimes by a General in Chief or Admiral in Chief if promoted. Basically the OSC-NBAF is the organization responsible for coordinating the action of military units belonging to the different service branches of the Armed Forces, for example, an air war, where they expect the participation of the Army battalions and air defense groups, groups of aviation and air support units from the Navy, National Guard or the Militia, would be coordinated by the command.

General in Chief Vladimir Padrino Lopez is the current Commandant of the OSC, with Admiral Wolfang López Carrasque as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 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.

Since the implementation of the amendments to the Armed Forces Organic Law, the commandants of the OSC have been:

Name Period
Major General Jesús Alfonzo González González[22] Sep. 2008 - Mar.2009
General-in-Chief Carlos José Mata Figueroa* Mar. 2009 -Jul. 2010
General-in-Chief Henry Rangel Silva*[23] Jul. 2010 - Jul. 2012
Major General Wilmer Omar Barrientos Fernández Jul. 2012–Jul. 2013
General in Chief Vladimir Padrino López Jul. 2013–present

(*): They were subsequently appointed defence ministers, and they were also promoted to the rank while holding the office of the OSC Commandant.

Note: Jesús Alfonzo González González was promoted to General in Chief after his term as the OSC Commandant ended in 2009.[24]

Military Regions

The Integral Strategic Defense Regions (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.

These are organized in the following manner as the following (with their respective regional commanding officers):

Short name Large name States General/Flag Officer Commanding (as of present)
REDI Central[25] Central Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Vargas, Miranda, Aragua, Carabobo and Yaracuy, and the Capital District. Divisional General Antonio Benavides Torres, Venezuelan National Guard
REDI Occidental[26] Western Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Falcón, Lara and Trujillo. Divisional General César Vegas González, Venezuelan Army
REDI Los Llanos Plains Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Apure, Portuguesa, Barinas, Guarico and Cojedes. Major General Luis Molina, Venezuelan Air Force
REDI Oriental[27] Eastern Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Anzoátegui, Monagas and Sucre. Vice Admiral Monplacier Franklin, Venezuelan Navy
REDI Guayana Guyana Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Bolivar and Amazonas. Major General Marcelino Pérez Díaz, Venezuelan Army
REDI Marítima e Insular[28] Maritime and Insular Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Delta Amacuro, Nueva Esparta and Miranda Insular Territory plus the Federal Dependencies. VADM Víctor Ortiz Rojas, Venezuelan Navy
REDI Los Andes Andes Integral Strategic Defense Region Comprises the States of Mérida, Tachira and Zulia. DGEN Efraín Velasco Lugo, Venezuelan Army

Note: Major General Celso Enrique Canelones Guevara came from being the chief of the REDI Los Llanos.

REDI Los Andes is the newest of these regional formations, having been raised on 28 August 2013.

Service branches of the NBAF

According to Article 9 of the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces, which took effect on Sept. 26, 2005, the entire National Armed Forces is composed of four service components, the Army, Navy, the Air Force, National Guard, which operate in an integrated manner and are supplemented by the National Reserve and Territorial Guard under the General Command of the National Reserve and National Mobilization, as the fifth component of it, to contribute to national defense and to meet the national defense requirements and capabilities. Each component has its own command and general staff, logistical structures and training schools, with the exception of the Reserve, which is fed by tables of NCO, sergeants and officers previously trained in other branches, but it has its own training centers, and has initiated special courses for training officers.

About 83,000 soldiers were integrated in the military through a fifth service branch, the Armed Reserve, although some of this force is more of a militia than a formal, professional armed corps.. In 2006 the FAN was transformed 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).

Main branches


Coat of Arms of the Bolivarian National Army

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 a modern and disciplined army, composed of armored units, infantry, engineers, special forces and artillery, with a significant force projection power, and resources that allows to develop various types of airlift operations proportional to its size. It is the largest military branch of Venezuela's armed forces, which on 24 June 1821 won a huge military victory against the Empire of Spain in the Battle of Carabobo, which led to the independence of the nation and the beginning of the end of the long war for its independence. (This date is commemorated yearly as Army Day.) It later contributed to the independence of the present-day countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Bolivia. It also fought in the long Federal War, and contributed to peacekeeping operations in the latter part of the 20th century.

Its current commanding general is Major General Gerardo Izquierdo Torres.


Coat of Arms of the Bolivarian National Navy

The Venezuelan Navy (Fuerzas Navales or Armada Bolivariana) and Marines (Infanteria de Marina) is a modern navy of medium dimensions and ocean capable. The primary mission of the Navy 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.

Venezuelan patrol ship, ANBV Warao (PC-22)
The staff is estimated at roughly (estimated) 60,000 men and women. This figure includes 12,000 Marines and some 600 personnel from the Naval Aviation. The chain of command of the Venezuelan Navy is: Commanding General of the Navy, Inspector General of the Navy and Chief of the Naval General Staff. 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, July 24, 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 2014) is Admiral Jairo Avendaño Quintero.

Air Force

Coat of Arms of the Bolivarian Military Air Force
Sukhoi Su-30MK2
Founded in 1946 on the basis of the aviation arms of the Army and the Navy, the Venezuelan Air Force (Fuerzas Aérea or Aviación Militar), today, is one of the most modern air forces in Latin America. It 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 Command, the Airborne Command, the Logistics Command, and the Personnel Command, including the Air Force Academy, Air Personnel Training School, Corps of Engineers and the Air War College. Its main objective is to protect the airspace of Venezuela in coordination with the other components of the National Armed Forces, and to participate actively in the development of the nation. 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 to meet the demands of the present day air force.

27 November is now celebrated as Air Force Day since 2010 to honor the Air Force participation in the 2nd coup d'état of 1992 against President Carlos Andes Perez. It was formerly held on 10 December is celebrated in honor of the 1920 founding of the Air Force Academy in Maracay from 1946 to 2009.

The Commanding General of the Venezuelan Air Force, as of June 2014, is Major General Eutimio José Criollo Villalobos.

National Guard

Coat of Arms of the National Guard

The National Guard of Venezuela (Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperacion or Guardia Nacional), according to the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, will conduct operations required for the maintenance of internal order in the country, cooperate in military operations required to ensure the defense of the Nation, exercise administrative and police activities of Criminal Investigation assigned to it by the laws, and will actively participate in national development in the territory of the nation. It 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. It marked its diamond year anniversary in 2012.

As the service was formally raised on August 4, 1937, via a presidential decree, the date is commemorated every year as National Guard Day.

The Commanding General of the National Guard is Major General Nestor Luis Reverol Torres.

Other branches

National Militia

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 milita units nationwide, plus a newly created national guards brigade.[29] It is an autonomous and auxiliary force for the Armed Forces' service branches, with is 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 the April 13, 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 celerbrated on February 4).

The Commanding General of the National Militia is Major General Yomar Rubio Silva, 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, albelt 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 in June 24, 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 Chavez 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 January 20, 2014) is Brigadier General Jesus Rafael Salazar Velasquez.

Military Intelligence

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 January 20, 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 million, which represents 6.5% of Venezuela's gross domestic product (GDP).[30] Another source indicates that the amount is of 4,508 millions of dollars.[31] This amount does not include the additional credit granted by the Russian Federation of 4 billion of dollars, half of which will be used in fiscal year 2012, and the other half in fiscal year 2013.

The Bolivarian Government increased salaries annually for members of the armed forces with a 505% increase in pay between 1999 and 2014.[32]

Military Justice

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.[33]


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

  • 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.

Military Education

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

Coat of Arms of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Military University

The Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela[34] (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 September 3, 2010, 200 years from the day of the founding of the Military academy of Venezuela, the oldest military academy 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), Brigadier General Alexis Jose Rodriguez Cabello serves as its president as of 2013.

The University System is composed of the following service academies and schools:

Service Academies

  • 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 Academy (Caracas, Capital District)
  • Military Technical Academy (Maracay, Aragua State)
  • Troop Officers Military College (Charallave, Miranda State)
  • Military Health Sciences Academy (Caracas, Capital District)
  • Military Medical Academy (Caracas, Capital District)

Specialty Schools

  • 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

Post-Graduate Colleges

  • National Defense Advanced Studies Institute Grand Marshal of Ayacucho Anthonio Jose de Sucre (Instituto de Altos Estudios de la Defensa Nacional, IAEDEN)[35]
  • 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 Chavez 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 2014, is Major General Luis Quintero Machado, Deputy Minister of Education for National Defense.

Modernization and capability building projects for the Armed Forces

Mission Miranda

Mission Miranda, one of the Bolivarian Missions that were a legacy of the late President Hugo Chavez, 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.


  • 1. Form a structural organization of adequate reserves for the needs of the FAN.
  • 2. Procure the required infrastructure for the various commands of the reserve in each of the components.
  • 3. Procure equipment and materials for storage to be used by members of the Reserve of the Armed Forces:
  • 4. Develop an effective registration and monitoring program to ensure the identification, recording and location by region of the personnel of the Armed Forces Reserve.
  • 5. Meet the curricular plans and instructional programs for academic activities and skills of the staff of the Armed Forces Reserve.
  • 6. Meet the curricular plans and instructional programs for retraining of staff of the Reserve of the Armed Forces during periods of field drills.
  • 7. Logistically support all the processes that must be met in the organization of the Armed Forces Reserve
  • 8. Planning, procuring and implementing the annual budget required for the operation and maintenance of reserve units.
  • 9. 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.
  • 10. 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 Chavez administration, and now upgraded by President Nicolas 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, lady crew members of ships, and lady personnel in combat duty in the Army, and they have reached the highest military ranks as well. The late President Hugo Chavez said on 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".[36] 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 year 2010, it is stated that: "Macho culture does not exist within the National Bolivarian Armed Forces"[37]

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.[38]
  • July 4, 2007: first woman promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.[39]
  • December 28, 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 directorian post in a Venezuelan service academy.[40]
  • July 5, 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.[41]
  • November 27, 2009: first female pilot of fighter aircraft.[42]
  • January 23, 2012: first woman to complete a flight on a Venezuelan Air Force Super King Air B200[43]
  • July 3, 2012: first woman promoted to Admiral.[36]
  • May 28, 2013: The Venezuelan National Guard's Air Command welcomed its first lady pilot in history.[44]

During the National Independence Day Armed Forces Promotions ceremony at the Fort Montana Barracks in Caracas on July 5, 2013, also marking 4 months after the sudden death of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro shocked everyone by making an historic announcement that Admiral Carmen Teresa Meléndez Rivas, the first ever Venezuelan lady admiral in history and by then the current Presidential Secretary, would be appointed as the first ever lady Minister of Defense in the nation's history as well as in its military history. She was later promoted as the very first lady 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

Military Ranks

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

Three-sun ranking

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.

Four-sun ranking

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, 15 officers have been promoted to this rank or equivalent (11 from the Army including 2 posthumously, 1 from the Air Force, also posthumously, and 2 from the Navy, 1 other naval receipent having been promoted to Admiral):[45]

Name Component Year Note
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
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 Melendez 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

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:

       Colour Wearer
       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 first and oldest active infantry battalion of the Army.
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 Heqadquarters Battalion).

Extensive modernization program

Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin. Russia has been the main supplier of weapons to Venezuela.

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

Venezuela in 2005 acquired 3 [46]

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.[47] Then in 2006 the country purchased 100,000 Russian AK-103 assault rifles,[48] all delivered in that same year.[49] Chavez also claimed to have acquired a license to manufacture Kalashnikovs in Venezuela,[49] but the factory hasn't yet been built.[50][51]

Su-30s and missiles

In 2006 Venezuela purchased 24 [46]

Night vision equipment, sniper rifles and submarines

In 2007, the Belarussian military optics industry agreed to supply the Venezuelan army with night vision devices, and install on, as Hugo Chavez described, "every single rifle in the Venezuelan army." The deal is valued at $3–$24 million.[52] Later that year, Chavez 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."[48] 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.[53][54]

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.[55] In spite of the expectations, Chavez 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.[56] 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.[56] However, this acquisition deal wasn't completed either.[47] 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.[57]

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."[58] 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.[47] Despite of the interest and the Russian credit line, no deal has been finalized.[47] In October 2008 Rosoboronexport informed that Venezuela was close to buying among other things a "large shipment of BMP-3" infantry fighting vehicles,[59] however that deal too wasn't finalized.[47]

Also in September Chavez confirmed that Venezuela purchased 24 K-8 Karakorum trainer jets from China.[60][61] The deal, which is estimated to be worth between $72–$84 million, was the biggest Venezuelan arms deal of 2008.[47]

On the 21 of July 2010, one Chinese K-8 light jet went down. Pilot and assistant ejected.

Venezuela has acquired an undisclosed number of SA-24 Igla-S man-portable surface to air missiles.[62] The SA-24 Igla-S is the most advanced version built in Russia.[63] This acquisition was only confirmed after 50 SA-24 Igla-S were paraded by soldiers in Caracas in April 2009.[63] 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".[63]

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 Chavez 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". Chavez repeated Venezuela's commitment to developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes with the help of Russia and reiterated his strong opposition to nuclear weapons.[64]

Signed contract with China for 500 million dollars, to provide Venezuelan Marine Corps

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his government will buy amphibious tanks from China for its military. Chavez 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.[65][66]

The Russian Federation gives new credit and Venezuelan Government shows interest in the Su-35

Sukhoi Su-35

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he is 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 Chavez as saying.[67]

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 Chavez said.[68]

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 FARC, which is sympathetic to Chávez.[69][70]

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).

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.[71] In October 1997 the U.S. government approved the sale of the two crash replacement F-16s, but subsequently halted the sale.[72] In 2005 a contract with Israel Aircraft Industries to upgrade Venezuela's F-16s was frozen following U.S. pressure.[73] Chavez subsequently accused the U.S. of delaying the sale of spare parts to maintain Venezuela’s F-16s. After remarks by Chavez 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.[74][75]

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.[76] 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.[77]

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 AB, 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.[78][79][80] 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.[81]

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.[82]

Spanish Defense Minister, defends arms sales to Venezuela

Minister of the Defence of the Kingdom of Spain, defends himself against the Spanish Parliament, the sale of weapons to Venezuela. The 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 Government of Hugo Chávez. Morenes has made these statements during his 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.[83]

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." [84]

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 ROTC-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 dicators. 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 Chavez assumed the presidency in 1999, retired armed forces personnel who served with him were appointed to several cabinet posts and seats in the National Assembly. Chavez 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 1950s).

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. 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:


Some organizations (national and international) have questioned the level of politicism and influence of the armed forces in national political affairs.[85][86]

Role in Venezuelan society

Humanitarian relief

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.[87] Task forces of this unit have provided support to countries like Nicaragua, Bolivia,[88][89] Ecuador, Cuba,[90] Haiti,[91][92][93] Mali,[94] 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.[95][96][97] Between international actions that this unit has had civic-military, this medical assistance to the people of Haiti.[98]

Military industry

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."[99]

Today Venezuela manufactures all-terrain vehicles, trucks, ammunition, rifles, unmanned aircraft, grenades, assembled ships of small and medium-sized ports among other products, produced by the following state corporations:


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[100]


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.[101][102] The company puts forward a project for the identification of munitions delivered to the defence and the country's security agency.[103] On 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.[104][105] On February 12, 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.[106]


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.[107]


UCOCAR (Unidad Naval Coordinadora de los Servicios de Carenado de la Armada), It is responsible for the repair, maintenance and construction of ships, equipment, systems, helmet and structures up to 1,000 tonnes, in support of the Bolivarian national army force, public bodies and private. Several boats have been designed, and have an agreement with the Dutch shipyards Damen, to assemble some ships to the Venezuelan Navy.[108][109][110]


CIDAE (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Aeronáutico). This scientific Center is making helmets for pilots,[111] 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.[112][113] 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.[114] CIDAE participa en el proyecto del satélite Simón Bolívar con China.[115]


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.[116]


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.[117]


MAZVEN C.A. makes heavy trucks, under a joint venture with the Belarusian company MAZ. It manufactures five models of trucks including trucks for military use.[118][119][120][121][122]

G&F Tecnología

G&F Tecnología, It 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.[123]

Military corporations of the Ministry of Defense

In addition, the Ministry of Defense operates the following nationally owned corporations aside from CAVIM:


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External links

  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial del Ministerio del Poder Popular para Defensa de Venezuela
  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial del Ejército Libertador (Venezuela)
  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Armada de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela
  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Aviación Militar de Venezuela
  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Guardia Nacional de Venezuela
  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Aviación del Ejército de Venezuela
  • (Spanish) Sitio oficial de la Milicia Nacional de Venezuela
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