Carmen Meléndez, Venezuela’s First Female Minister of Defense, To Head New Military High Command

Admiral Carmen Melendez will be promoted to Admiral-in-Chief and Minister of Defense, making her the first female to head the country’s Armed Forces, President Nicolas Maduro announced in a ceremony on Friday afternoon. 

By Sascha Bercovitch

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Carmen Meléndez, the new defense minister (AVN)
Carmen Meléndez, the new defense minister (AVN)
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Caracas, July 5th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Admiral Carmen Melendez will be promoted to Admiral-in-Chief and Minister of Defense, making her the first female to head the country’s Armed Forces, President Nicolas Maduro announced in a ceremony on Friday afternoon.

“I have had a task of great responsibility, and I have relied on the support of a military high command of great quality … Today a group of comrades will climb the ranks who are trained and educated to make revolution now and forever,” Maduro said.

At the top of those ranks is Melendez, whose new position as the country’s highest military official puts her in direct response to Maduro, who as president also serves as commander-in-chief, a position now fully incorporated into the military in the 2008 Organic Law of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces.

A native of the state of Barinas, the same home state as late President and former military colonel Hugo Chávez, Melendez has several decades of experience, serving as Internal Management Director of the Office of the Presidency, Vice Minister of Education for the Defense Ministry, and Female Platoon Commander in Venezuela’s Naval School before becoming the first female to achieve the rank of Admiral.

Though she maintained close relations with Chavez, who promoted her to Admiral, Melendez has been described as a military institutionalist. In 1992, she fought against Chavez’s unsuccessful military coup of President Carlos Andrés Pérez from the San Bernardino Naval Command in Caracas; and in 2002, during a brief coup against Chavez, she remained in the Miraflores presidential palace.

The private national Venezuelan newspaper Últimas Noticias noted that the only point at which she showed discomfort in an interview earlier today was upon being asked whether she belonged to the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the country’s largest left-wing party founded by Chavez in 2008. “I am an active member of the military,” she responded, explaining that those matters should be left to experts.

In addition to Melendez, Maduro made eight appointments to round out the military’s high command, including major General Vladimir Padrino as Chief of Operational Strategic Command and major General Alexis Lopez as General Commander of the Army.

Maduro made previous minister for defense, Diego Molero, the ambassador to Brazil.