Chavez: Civilian militia should be armed full-time
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that members of the country’s civilian militia should be issued weapons to be armed and ready at all times. The Bolivarian Militia is a force of volunteers ranging from students to retirees formed in recent years by Chavez, who says it is a crucial component of the nation’s defenses.
Until now, members of the militia have regularly trained at weekend boot camps, but their guns have usually been locked away in military depots when not in use. « Who has seen a militia without weapons? » Chavez said during his Sunday television and radio program. He said he was surprised when he met some militiamen standing guard recently and learned they had no guns.
« The militias are the people with weapons in hand, » Chavez told an audience including military officers and high-ranking officials in rural Guarico state. « We need to break old paradigms because we’re still seeing the militias as if they were a complementary force, some battalions that get together once a month over there, or go and march somewhere, » Chavez said. « No, buddy. The militia is a permanent territorial unit and it should be armed, equipped and trained – campesinos, workers. »
Chavez also suggested that the country should accelerate the formation of militia units. Opponents of the leftist president say the militia is essentially a personal army for Chavez aimed at intimidating his adversaries, maintaining control and keeping him in power.