Panama Table of Contents
The last of the six major entities making up the Defense Forces was the National Guard (Guardia Nacional). As reconstituted, the National Guard was scarcely a shadow of its former self. As of late 1987, it had neither a commander nor a staff element and functioned primarily as a paper entity encompassing the Presidential Guard (Guardia Presidencial), Penitentiary Guard (Guardia Penitenciaría), Forest Guard (Guardia Forestal), Port Guard (Guardia Portuaria), Customs Guard (Guardia Aduanera), and Railroad Guard (Guardia Ferroviaria). The Presidential Guard was a specially selected unit charged with guarding the president and the presidential palace. The unit, which was quartered on the palace grounds, was believed to be similar to an infantry company in organization; although used as a ceremonial honor guard, its personnel were also trained in the use of weapons and in security techniques. On parade or when mustered to greet foreign dignitaries, the Presidential Guard presented an impressive appearance in tailored white uniforms, white helmets, boots with white laces, and white belts and rifle slings. The Presidential Guard wore a variety of other uniforms as well, including a dark blue uniform with black plum cap and a solid gray uniform with white helmet and white belt. The unit was commanded by a major or a captain who answered directly to the comandancía.
Other small units of the National Guard protected specific areas or facilities. The Port Guard, Railroad Guard, and Forest Guard all were formed to handle functions and responsibilities turned over to Panama by the 1978 treaties. The Forest Guard, for example, dealt with the increasingly serious problem of deforestation in the basin drained by the canal.
Data as of December 1987