Venezuela to Launch Local Defense Committees as Maduro Makes Changes to Top Military Brass

The government will incorporate the country’s civilian population into national security plans.

Patriotic soldiers on the roof of Miraflores Palace show their solidarity with civilians resisting the coup d’etat on April 13, 2002
Patriotic soldiers on the roof of Miraflores Palace show their solidarity with civilians resisting the coup d’etat on April 13, 2002

Caracas, July 11, 2018 ( – Following news of a thwarted coup d’etat attempt and the arrest of some 40 military personnel on May 24, Venezuela’s government has decided to activate local defense committees, officially called “Committees for Security and Integral Defense.” This decision roughly coincides with the reorganization of the country’s top military leadership that customarily takes place in early July, according to a longstanding Venezuelan tradition.

Venezuela’s newly-activated local defense committees, which will incorporate ordinary civilians into the country’s defense plans, fulfill one of the main guidelines laid out in the Homeland Plan 2019-2025, which is “to promote the participation of patriots in the defense of institutions, territorial integrity and the right to peace.” The committees, however, have even deeper roots in the idea of a civilian-military union – an alliance between patriotic soldiers and revolutionary civilians – that has been an important part of the Bolivarian Revolution since its earliest beginnings.

In a practical sense, the forming of the defense committees will mean that one spokesperson from each of Venezuela’s 50,000 communal councils will undergo training with the country’s Bolivarian Militia units. Those selected representatives will then form a link between the Venezuelan state’s militias and the communal councils, which since 2006 have organized groups of 20 to 400 families across the national territory.

This year, the traditional July reshuffling of generals and concomitant promotion of officers in all branches of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces was more or less business as usual. Maduro ratified long-standing Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez in his position along with the heads of the Bolivarian Army and National Guard, Jesus Suarez and Richard Lopez, respectively.

Likewise, the chiefs of the REDI regional command structures, which coordinate the different branches of the military and the civilian population in each of Venezuela’s main geographic regions, were left in place. It is likely that these REDI structures will be important in organizing the country’s local defense committees, which are now in the process of being formed.

The heads of Venezuela’s Navy and Air Force, however, were replaced with new faces.

Beyond the news of the thwarted coup attempt this spring, Venezuela’s leadership has also been put on guard by the recent leak revealing that US President Donald Trump explored the possibility of invading the country last year, which followed comments by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, about the desirability of a coup d’etat in the Caribbean country.

Some Venezuelan leaders fear that Colombia, under the ultra-conservative leadership of President-elect Ivan Duque, could be used to spearhead US military intervention in Venezuela.