The National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are the military forces of Venezuela. They consist of 5 branches, the Army, Navy, Military Aviation (Air Force), National Guard, and the most recent addition the National Militia.
The word "Bolivarian" comes from the name of Simon Bolivar, who led the Venezuelan forces to victory in the Venezuelan War of Independence. Since then, he has become essentially the George Washington of his country, his name invoked by a number of governments over the last two centuries, most recently the Hugo Chavez/Nicholas Maduro regime.
The Venezuelan military hasn't been involved in too many conflicts far from it's borders. Although the government declared war on the Axis Powers in World War II, they mostly provided material support, and did not send troops overseas (in fact Brazil was the only South American country to send soldiers during the war). Most conflicts it has taken part in are either internal or with neighboring countries (Colombia is often in the mix).
Like many Latin American militaries, it had a tendency to be prone to coups. A number of them, both successful and unsuccessful, have occurred over the decades, including a failed one in 1992 that was staged by a tank commander named Hugo Chavez. Ironically, Chavez himself found himself on the receiving end of one in 2002 when the National Guard staged one during anti-government protests. It didn't last long and he returned after just two days.
During the Chavez regime, and continuing into the rule of his successor Nicholas Maduro, the military has cultivated strong ties to Russia and China, with some support also provided by the Cubans as well (who have a rumored presence in the country's recent crisis).
They have also been involved in a border dispute with neighboring Guyana which, although going on for decades, has recently flared up rather seriously, though thankfully no violence has occurred...yet. Time will tell how this plays out.
Because of the Chavez/Maduro regime, the Venezuelan military has begun making an increasing number of appearances in fiction, often as antagonists due to their government's outspoken opposition to the U.S and NATO.
Strategic Operations Command
The Other Wiki states that the Armed Forces report to the President via the Ministry of Defense and the Strategic Operations Command of the NBAF (established 2005), whose head is the chief of defense forces (in recent years concurrently the Minister of Defense) and his deputy the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Army is currently the largest branch of the Armed Forces. As stated above, most of it's current equipment is Russian made, including T-72 battle tanks and of course the aforementioned BMP carriers and the BTR series wheeled infantry fighting vehicles, plus the 2S7 Msta self-propelled howlitzers and the BM-21 and BM-30 multiple rocket launchers. However, they also have a lot of Western-made (including American built) equipment as well from the pre-Chavez days. This includes French AMX-13c Tanks, British Scorpion 90fv light tanks, American V-150 and Dragoon 300 armored personnel carriers and US-made 150mm towed howlitzers. The main assault rifles are the Kalishnikov series and the FN FAL series, standard issue machine guns are the US [M 2 H 2] Browning and the FN MAG series, sniper guns are the SVD Dragunov and the CAVIM Catatumbo (locally made). It maintains an army aviation arm comprising of the Mil series and Bell Jet Ranger helicopters.
It is comprised of 4 commands, the 6th Corps of Engineers and 6 divisions:
- 1st Infantry
- 2nd Infantry
- 3rd Infantry
- 4th Armored
- 5th Jungle Infantry
- 9th Cavalry
Venezuelan Navy and other services
The Navy currently has 14 amphibious ships with 4 more under construction, as well as 6 frigates, 4 corvettes, 4 coastal watch ships and a number of smaller vessels, its Marine Corps has more modern Chinese made vehicles - the [VN-1] IFV, [VN-16] and [VN-18] armored personnel carriers and the SR-4 multiple rocket launcher (plus US [LTVP-7] and Brazilian EE-11 infantry fighting vehicles, all modernized), naval aviation sports US, European and Chinese made aircraft.
The Air Force currently has a fleet of Russian-made Su-30 strike fighters and Chinese-made K-8v and L-15 fighters and Y-8 medium lift transports. In addition it also has a fleet of American-built F-16 Falcons and C-130 transports, plus Diamond training aircraft and the Russian Mil series and Western Bell and Super Puma helicopters.
The National Guard is designed to act as both an internal security force similar to the Gendarmerie in other countries and a light infantry force should the need arise. They have a lot of the same equipment as the regular army, although they also have a force of Chinese made "Norinco" armored personnel carriers and Type 63 light tanks and Italian Oto Melara and German UR series armored cars, plus a medium air branch of Bell Jet Rangers and a naval branch using nationally produced Guardian watercraft. They have been involved in controversies surrounding allegations of corruption in the drug trade and , more recently, their actions against protesters in 2014-2015.
National Bolivarian Militia
The newest and by far most controversial branch is the National Militia. Created in 2009, it acts as a reserve force for the regular military. However, it has also been described as a "political army" that takes it's orders directly from the President and is packed with die hard government supporters. It has been accused of violence against political dissidents and journalists. Members include those from state corporations and public farmlands and are armed with FN FAL rifles, M60 machine guns, a few Oto Melara field guns and French mortars among others, with vehicles loaned by state firms. Personel serving in the rural branch can be distinguished by their sharp knives, long Mosin-Nagant rifles, and their light brown uniforms with county hats, while naval militiamen often use small craft.
The Venezuelan military has been making an increasing presence in fictional works, largely, if not entirely, due to the current government. They have become a fairly popular antagonist in the video game world as of late.
- In Mercenaries 2: World in Flames they serve as the main antagonists and are one of six factions the player encounters. They are hostile to all the other factions and are the only ones the player cannot work with, due to their boss, Big Bad Ramon Solano, being the cause of all the problems in the story and making the big mistake of betraying the mercenary character after he hired him/her to rescue a general that was leading a coup in the prologue of the game.
- In Call of Duty: Ghosts, Venezuela is the leader of an alliance of South American countries that has conquered South and Central America. They hijack an American space-based kinetic weapon, use it against the southwestern U.S, and then invade the weakened United States from across the Mexican border. There are even a couple of missions that take the player to Caracas.
- In Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Venezuela is part of a military alliance of several South American nations, called La Trinidad (The Trinity), that are invading Brazil. The player and the PMC Artemis Global Security are initially hired by the Brazilian government to aid in repelling the attack, with the player conducting a number of missions against them. However, when the United States decides to come to the aid of Brazil, thus hurting Artemis' business with the Brazilians, Venezuela and the rest of La Trinidad seize the opportunity to hire Artemis themselves, getting the PMC to switch sides. With their proxy mercenary army, they are able to carry out attacks against the U.S. itself.