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Venezuela Table of Contents


The Army

Traditionally the predominant branch of service, the army during the 1970s and 1980s lost a certain amount of prestige visą -vis the air force and the navy, the two services that benefited most from the purchase of upgraded weaponry during that period in the FAN. Nevertheless, the army remained in 1990 the largest of the services, and its general officers still dominated top leadership posts.

In 1990 the army consisted of approximately 34,000 personnel of all ranks under the direction of the Commander of the Army. The bulk of these troops were organized into five divisions. Four of these were infantry divisions, each of which encompassed four to six battalions. The remaining division--the First Cavalry Division, headquartered at San Juan de los Morros, some fifty kilometers south of Maracay, or about eighty kilometers southsouthwest of Caracas--included most of the army's armored units. An independent airborne regiment and ranger brigade also maintained their headquarters in Military Region One (Caracas). Other deployments in and near the capital included the Fourth Infantry Division, headquartered at Maracay, an armored brigade stationed at Valencia, and an infantry brigade and the First Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group, both headquartered in Caracas. Additional independent units included the Presidential Guard Regiment, an aviation regiment, an engineer regiment, and a military police regiment. As of the late 1980s, the army's longrange plans called for the establishment of one additional infantry division. The placement of forces reflected the traditional political importance of the capital, as well as Venezuela's strategic orientation toward the coastal area and the Caribbean.

The army's mechanized and artillery assets were somewhat dated in comparison with the newer, higher-technology equipment employed by the air force and the navy (see table 13, Appendix). For example, the only main battle tank in the inventory was the French-made AMX-30, of immediate post-World War II vintage. The standard issue infantry weapon was the Belgian-made FN FAL 7.62mm assault rifle. Elite and specialized units carried Israeli Uzi, Italian Beretta, German Walther, and American Ingram submachine guns. The army's single antiaircraft artillery group relied on rather ineffective 40mm guns rather than surface-to-air missiles, indicating a heavy reliance on the air-to-air interception capabilities of the air force. This posture responded to the lack of a significant regional air-strike threat aside from that posed by Cuba, which was distant enough to allow for adequate warning and response time.

Army officers received their initial training at the Military Academy at El Valle outside Caracas. Officers could pursue postgraduate training at civilian universities (although only a small percentage did so) or at the Polytechnic University of the Armed Forces. The Staff College at Chorrillos prepared officers for advanced command responsibilities. Some officers also studied abroad, particularly at the United States Army's School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. The army also administered an NCO school and other specialized schools for enlisted personnel at Maracay.

Data as of December 1990