The Three Armed Forces

Yesterday’s front page editorial in Tal Cual describes the alarming design of the new Armed Forces Law. This new LOFAN creates whole new military organizations and places them under Chavez’s direct operational command, not under the traditional military chain of command. Teodoro Petkoff, who has always been a big skeptic about “cubanization” claims, seems to be catching up with new realities. I’ll translate…

As set out in the new Armed Forces Law, the National Reserve is completely independent of the military hierarchy; it’s a parallel force alongside the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard. Unlike them, the National Reserve is in no way under the Defense Ministry’s control. [Notice the shades of Garrido here -ft]

This radically alters the traditional doctrine of the Reserve. The raison d’etre for a Reserve was to provide back up manpower for the Armed Services in a hypothetical armed conflict, according to each service’s specific needs. Previously, each service (Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard) had its own Reserve Command in charge of training its own reserve batallions.

For instance, in the old scheme, if a tank driver (Army) was struck, he was replaced with a similarly trained reserve soldier coming from and trained by the Army. How will it work from now on? Will the National Reserve have its own armored divisions, its own infantry, navy, air force and national guard? If so, we will have a parallel Armed Forces – which, incidentally, is supposed to have far greater manpower than the four traditional armed services, according to Chavez’s speeches.

We can only conclude that the National Reserve and the Territorial Guard were designed for purposes other than those for traditional Reserves. The duties assigned to the General Command of the Reserve and to its Commander include “bringing trained replacements to active units and Reserve Units engaged in combat operations” (though, as we pointed out, its very unclear how that will work) to taking part in operations to “maintain internal order.”

And this seems to be the nub of the matter. If, one day, the National Guard is unable to cope with a situation, and the army is also overrun, we’ll have a third organization (The National Reserve and Territorial Guard) involved in this sensitive task.

Given the very low likelihood of a foreign conflict, what has been created is an organization for internal repression, now directly commanded by the Commander in Chief/President.

What the new Armed Forces Law designs is a Pretorian Guard, not an Armed Force “at the exclusive service of the nation and under no circumstances at the service of any person or political faction,” as written in article 328 of a Constiutition that, by now, reads like a subversive manifesto, so opposed is its letter and spirit to the government’s conduct.