Military Personnel

According to Major General Clíver Alcalá, who helped restore Chávez during a fleeting coup in 2002, the Armed Forces has 1,000 generals, when it would only require 200. "That makes them take care of the position, do not take risks, because there are 800 waiting," said this chavista official, critical of Maduro.

Venezuela kicked off two days of military drills on 26 August 2017 in response to US President Donald Trump's threat of military action and newly announced sanctions on the crisis-stricken nation. Trump warned on August 11 that the United States was mulling a range of options against Venezuela, "including a possible military option if necessary." His Vice President Mike Pence later played down the threat, insisting that Washington was prioritizing a diplomatic solution and economic sanctions. National security advisor HR McMaster followed suit, saying "no military actions are anticipated in the near future." Warplanes, tanks, and 200,000 troops of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) were deployed along with 700,000 reserves and civil militia members.

Officially, "The Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is made up of about 95,000 to 150,000 active combatants, including a growing National Militia formed by hundreds of thousands of people able to provide services as reservists. However, this figure is close to 235,000 first-line men and women (including those most likely to be called first, meaning men and women between the ages of 17 and 39), distributed in five (5) components of Earth, Sea and Air. This is in accordance with Article 328 of the National Constitution and Article 29 of the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces. These components are complemented by the National Militia".

In 2017 Venezuelan media reported that Venezuela had 165,000 military personnel and 25,000 in reserve, in addition to thousands of members of the civilian militia.

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 returned the Reserves to the four service components. As part of the National Militia in the 2008 reform, the Reserves were operationally and logistically dependent on the President. Under the 2009 reform, the cost to train, organize and equip reserve units would come out of each service component's budget, thereby reducing the resources available, and thus weakening, the active duty components.

The new Law on Enlistment and Conscription requires Venezuelans of "military age" to register for military service and makes it a "duty" for Venezuelan aged 18 - 60 to complete military service. Annual recruitment and replacement needs will dictate the number of people processed each year. However the law includes "incentives" to serve in the active duty or militia ranks. Public and private entities that use fire arms, such as police and private security, can only employ people who have completed military service. Those who enlist are guaranteed permanent benefits from GBRV social missions, dental care, and life insurance. There are also penalties: those who cannot produce proof of military service are ineligible for both public and private universities; cannot receive a license to drive, fly or operate a ship; are not allowed to hold national, state or municipal jobs, and cannot receive state scholarships.

Military service of 24 to 30 months is in theory compulsory for all male citizens from the age of 18, but in practice the draft system is selective. Only about 20,000 conscripts are serving at any given time, out of an estimated pool of 250,730 males who reach military age annually, and an estimated total pool of 4,953,803 males who are between the ages of 15 and 49 and deemed fit for military service. On completion of their term of military training, many conscripts choose to enlist in the National Guard, which is a voluntary force.

The FAN consisted of a well-paid professional officers corps, a well-paid nucleus of career noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and two-year conscripts who comprised the bulk of the noncommissioned officers and all of the privates and seamen. The National Guard was an exception to this pattern; it was made up completely of volunteers, many of whom had already completed their conscriptive service in one of the other services.

According to the Laws and Regulations of the FAN, all Venezuelans between the ages of eighteen and fifty shared an equal obligation to military service. All citizens, including women, were required to register for conscription. In practice, however, conscription drew disproportionately from young men in rural areas and from among the poor. This was partially a result of the numerous categories of deferments allowed potential draftees. Recruits could be deferred for illness or disability, marriage, a sibling already in service, status as sole support of one's family, pursuit of higher education, and membership in certain religious denominations advocating pacifism. Other explanations for the nonrepresentative nature of draftees included the relatively low manpower needs of the FAN and the comparative benefit of a military salary for youths of the lower class.

The role of women changed slightly in the Venezuelan military after the passage of a revised conscription law in 1978. Although the law required women to register for the draft--an unprecedented development--it stated that military service for women was mandatory only in time of war. As Venezuela has never engaged in a war with any of its neighbors, it appeared unlikely that women would ever be called to service in any significant numbers. As for those women who elected voluntary military service, the minister of national defense determined which units could accept these recruits. The categories of service open to women included support positions, health, civil defense, police, transport, and refugee services.

The pay and perquisites of Venezuelan military personnel were generous by Latin American standards. Traditionally, pay scales have been maintained at a rough parity with those of the United States armed forces. In addition, officers and career noncommissioned officers and their immediate families enjoyed access to a military social security system administered independently by the FAN. The system provided medical care to military personnel at little or no cost. Pension benefits were also generous. The categories of pensioners included those with certified disabilities, those who reached the limit of their time-in-grade without promotion, retirees, and surviving family members of deceased military personnel. Members of the FAN became eligible for retirement after ten years of service. Retirement became mandatory after thirty years, at which point one could retire at full salary. The president had the authority to extend the careers of certain officers beyond the thirty-year limit with the approval of the Superior Board of the FAN. No one, however, was allowed to serve more than thirty-five years in the military.

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