Venezuela's Maduro Calls for More Police Reform, Expansion of Militias

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has called for a deepening of reform to Venezuela's security forces, as a cohort of over 5000 police officers graduate from the National Experimental University of Security (UNES).

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Under late President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan government sought to radically reform the country's security forces (AVN/Archive)
Under late President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan government sought to radically reform the country's security forces (AVN/Archive)

Mérida, 24th October 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has called for a deepening of reform to Venezuela's security forces, as a cohort of over 5000 police officers graduate from the National Experimental University of Security (UNES).

“We will build a new police model, more scientific and more humanist,” Maduro said during an address to the UNES graduation ceremony in Caracas yesterday.

“I call for the construction of a new civil ethic, a new republican ethic and you as police in this country have a lot to do with this,” he said.

The 5000 graduates have been trained to work with the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) under the UNES's experimental training programme. Founded in 2009, the UNES was established under the former administration of Hugo Chavez to develop a new model of policing based on the recommendation of the 2006 National Commission for Police Reform.

Prior to 2008, Venezuela's police forces were mostly trained by the National Guard. However, the reform to policing laws in 2008 required that police recruits be trained by civilian institutions, instead of the military. The UNES is the first such institution, and its curriculum is intended to provide for greater education on human rights and preventative law enforcement. The UNES initially focused on training the then newly established PNB, but has since been mandated with training state and municipal police forces as well, along with other security bodies.

“When talking about this for four or five years some sectors were unwilling to acknowledge that the UNES managed to start down the path to standardise and improve the training of all state and municipal police forces in the country. Some people said they were not going to achieve it,” Maduro said.

“Today, October 23 2013, we have to tell our comandante Hugo Chavez that it’s been possible. Yes we can, and we are demonstrating it,” he said.

During the event, Maduro also announced plans to further standardise conditions for all of Venezuela's police forces.

“I have ordered the creation of a commission to study the standardisation of training and salaries of the country’s state, municipal and national police forces,” he said.

“We must address housing, education, family protection, standardisation of salaries...and working conditions,” Maduro stated.

The president appointed his interior minister Major General Miguel Rodriguez to head the establishing of the commission.

As well as calling for the police reforms, yesterday Maduro also reiterated his administration's commitment to expanding and standardising the Bolivarian militias.

Described by the late former president Chavez as “an army of the public”, the militias are voluntary organisations created in 2005. Under Chavez the government hoped to enlist 2 million Venezuelans in the militias. However, according to government figures, militia troop numbers are currently closer to 130,000.

After meeting with militia leaders yesterday, Maduro told state media he hopes to have 500,000 volunteers by 2015, and double that by 2019.

Describing the militias as “a tremendous moral force”, the president stated that the volunteer forces also need to be standardised nationally.

“Everyone must have the correct uniform, their equipment, their weapons, their direction, their training,” he said. He also urged cabinet members to sign up.

The calls for reform come as two personnel from another branch of Venezuela's security forces face allegations of extortion. This week prosecutors told a court in Zulia state that Martinez Rodriguez and Misael Rodriguez Bravo from the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) allegedly sought to extort money from an individual on a street in Maracaibo. The two Sebin officers were arrested by the National Guard last month, after the alleged victim alerted authorities.

Another motivation behind the government’s police reforms is the perceived need to reduce indices of violent crime, with the country experiencing one of the highest homicide rates in the Americas.

Yesterday, Maduro stated that Venezuela needs a new model of policing that will “overcome the causes of social, economic, moral, ethical, and even psychological anti-values”.

“Either we build peace from within, from community, family, one's children and youth, or there will never be peace,” he said.

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