Venezuela Table of Contents
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.
Data as of December 1990