Bolivarian Armed Forces
Fuerzas Armadas Nacionales Bolivariana - FANB

The 05 October 2009 approval by the National Assembly (AN) of 45 changes to the year-old Organic Law of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces included the deletion of "national" in the names of the Army, Navy and Air Force, but leaving the moniker "Bolivarian" from the 2008 reform. With a "Bolivarian" orientation instead of a "National" view, Chavez could deploy Venezuelan forces to other "Bolivarian" states in ALBA. Conversely, non-Venezuelans from ALBA countries could serve in the "Bolivarian Army."

In 2006 the total strength of the National Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Nacionales - FAN) was estimated at 82,000, broken down into 34,000 army personnel, 18,000 navy, 7,000 air force, and 23,000 Armed Forces of Cooperation (Fuerzas Armadas de Cooperación - FAC) -- also known as the National Guard. The FAC functioned as paramilitary internal security force at national level.

Other federal police organizations included Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (Dirección de Seguridad e Inteligencia Policial--Disip) under Ministry of Interior, Technical and Judicial Police (Policía Técnica y Judicial--PTJ) under Ministry of Justice, and Traffic Police under Ministry of Transport and Communications. These three organizations totaled some 8,000 personnel in 1990. Some 18,000 personnel in state, metropolitan, and municipal police forces exercised local jurisdiction. Largest such force was Metropolitan Police Force of Caracas, with about 9,000 members.

Although the previous constitution stated that the military was expected to be "apolitical, obedient, and non-deliberating," the 1999 constitution states only that the military should be "without militancy." The new constitution also gave the president the authority to make military promotions without legislative approval and allows the military the right to vote.

The internal security role of the armed forces was strengthened in September 2002 when President Chávez decreed 107 security zones in the national territory, including eight in Caracas. Until then, the armed forces traditionally had security zones only in the border areas.

At the end of 2002, the government of President Hugo Chávez reorganized the armed forces into a unified force called the National Armed Force (Fuerza Armada Nacional - FAN). The president is commander in chief of the FAN. The president's authority is exercised through the minister of national defense, who is normally a senior military officer, although the first civilian defense minister to hold the post in recent decades served from February 2001 to April 2002. The National Defense Council advises the president on national security matters, and the Higher Council of the Armed Forces, on defense matters.

During 2003, the FAN reportedly became an increasingly politicized force under the new defense minister, a general, and has been restructured and purged of anyone suspected of political disloyalty to President Chávez. Those purged included senior National Guard officers who were at the forefront of the rebellion against President Chávez in April 2002.

The military presence within the Chávez government is extensive. Numerous active-duty and retired officers have been appointed to replace civilians in high-ranking positions in central and regional government institutions and state-owned companies. In 2003 five of the 14 presidential cabinet members had previously served in the military, and in January 2005 two ministers, including the minister of defense, were active-duty generals.

President Chávez reportedly has ordered Venezuela's armed forces to implement a new Cuban-style strategy in which the top priority is preparing to fight a war of resistance against an invasion by the United States. In addition, Chávez has ordered a doubling of the army's reserve, to more than 100,000 troops under his personal command. "Popular defense units" of 50 to 500 civilians are to be established in workplaces and on farms.

In addition to the official security forces, Chávez has distributed weapons to the estimated 10,000 members of the Bolivarian Circles, independently organized groups of Chávez supporters at the grassroots level of Venezuelan society. These groups are modeled on Cuba's Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and operate in groups of between seven and 11 people.

As of January 2005, two pro-Chávez leftist militant groups whose objective reportedly is to confront intervention by US and other foreign forces were known to be operating in Venezuela. Chávez himself has acknowledged the existence of the 500-member Bolivarian Forces of Liberation (Fuerzas Bolivarianas de Liberación-FBL), which reportedly has been operating in the Venezuelan border area as a local kidnapping and extortion "franchise" of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The other pro-Chávez militant group is the Armed People's Army (Ejército del Pueblo en Armas-EPA), which emerged in January 2005.

The Strategic Operational Commander of the Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela (FANB) Remigio Ceballos confirmed Sunday the completion of the military exercises called 'Bolivarian Shield 2020'. "The Military Exercise Bolivarian Shield 2020 has been successfully completed, and the alert is maintained against any aggression against our People and our homeland. Congratulations to the FANB for the great display of loyalty, cohesion, and patriotism in defense of the sacred interests of the country," Ceballos said.

Likewise, he reiterated that all the branches of the military in the South American nation complied with the orders given by the Commander in Chief and Constitutional President Nicolas Maduro, "the Armed Forces showed its capacity to defend the sovereignty of the country." The fifth branch of the Armed Forces, the Bolivarian Militia, was present at the event and participated in securing the tunnel La Cabrera, in the state of Carabobo, as a strategic point in case of a possible internal or external aggression that would affect the country's sovereignty and independence.

During the Bolivarian Shield exercise, all FANB forces and weapon systems were deployed. High-level military maneuvers were carried out in cities such as Caracas, Maracay, Valencia, Barquisimeto, and Maracaibo. During the inauguration, Maduro highlighted that the military exercise will not only serve as preparation in case of possible attacks by the U.S. or Colombia but also to respond to the mafias smuggling fuel into neighboring countries.

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