The Venezuelan Military

Caracas (Venezuela), 05 de Marzo del 2014. El Canciller del Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño, participó en los actos de conmemoración de la muerte del Comandante Hugo Chávez Frías. Foto: Xavier Granja Cedeño / Cancilleria Ecuador

Our government claims that all options are on the table in response to the situation developing in Venezuela. I gather this includes military options, which according to news reports, the U.S. had yet to actually mobilize for. So, if military options are a possibility, what does the Venezuelan military actually look like?

First, Venezuela is not a small country. It is over 32 million people and almost a million square kilometers in area. Population wise, this is more people than were in Vietnam in 1965, Afghanistan in 2001 or Iraq in 2003. Area wise, it is several hundred thousand square kilometers bigger than Afghanistan, Iraq or Vietnam.

The Venezuelan Army has 128,000 troops of six divisions. They have 192 T-72s, 84 AMX-30s, 78 Scorpion light tanks, and 111+ AMX-13s, several hundred armored personnel carriers and over 100 armored cars. They also have 48 Hind Mi-35 attack helicopters. The Venezuelan Air Force has 10+ F-16s and 23 Sukhoi Su-30s. The Venezuelan Navy is 60,000 personnel including 12,000 marines. It has 2 submarines, 3 missile frigates, 3 corvettes, 10 large patrol boats and gunboats, 19 smaller patrol boats and 4 LSTs (landing ship tank). Added to that is a National Guard with police functions of around 70,000 troops. They have up to at least 191 (and eventually up to 656) of the white Chinese-built APCs that were running over people a couple of days ago (see picture). There is also a National Militia and a Presidential Honor Guard brigade. So we are looking at 258,000+ people under arms. All data is from Wikipedia.

Added to that, the source of Chavez (Maduro’s predecessor) power and popular support was the military. He was a career military officer for 17 years, He was a captain when he attempted two violent coups in 1992. To date, the government of Maduro has maintained the support of the military. This is probably the key to his ability to hold onto power.

Now, retired General Jack Keene recently did discuss three military options 1) move forces to Colombia and threaten, 2) move a coalition of forces (Colombia and Brazil) into Venezuela to provide humanitarian aid and 3) invade with the purpose of conducting regime change. See: Keene Interview

I suspect that any form of direct intervention, like we did in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq is not being seriously considered. So, one wonders what other military options is the United States considering, if any.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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One comment

  1. Monitoring of any incomming air traffic with possible interceptions (redirections), especially out of the Federation.

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