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Spain The Civil Guard
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Patterned after the French rural gendarmerie when it was formed in 1844, the Civil Guard has long maintained its own traditions and style of operation. Until the first civilian director general of the Civil Guard was installed in 1986, its head had been an army lieutenant general. The total complement of the Civil Guard as of 1986 was 65,000; in addition, about 9,000 auxiliary guardsmen performed their military service obligation in the Civil Guard.

    The Civil Guard was grouped into six zones, matching the six army regions, each commanded by an army brigadier general. These were divided, in turn, into commands coinciding with provincial boundaries and further subdivided into about 300 companies, 800 lines (lineas) corresponding to platoons, and about 3,200 posts. A post typically consisted of six to ten guardsmen, headed by a corporal or a sergeant. Posts were responsible for organizing two-member patrols to police their areas, generally by automobile. To deploy forces more flexibly, this traditional system had been augmented by radio-controlled mobile patrols of three or more members. A separate traffic group patrolled the main roads to assist in cases of breakdown or accident. A Rural Antiterrorist Group of four companies, stationed in the Basque Country (Spanish, Pais Vasco; Basque, Euskadi) and Navarre (Spanish, Navarra), concentrated its efforts against Basque extremists. This force could be supplemented by a helicopter unit and by a Special Intervention Unit as needed. Mountain Units guarded the Pyrenees frontier against terrorists and smugglers, in addition to providing general police and rescue services.

    The Civil Guard generally enjoyed greater popularity than other police elements, in part because of its reputation for courtesy and helpfulness to motorists. Nevertheless, it had not completely shed its earlier reputation as the primary instrument of the Franco regime's efforts to root out and crush any evidence of opposition. Numerous cases of torture and ill treatment were attributed to members of the Civil Guard, especially in the handling of suspected Basque dissidents (see Criminal Justice and the Penal System , this ch.). The persistence of reactionary tendencies was underscored by the participation of a senior officer of the Civil Guard, Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina, in the dramatic coup attempt of 1981, backed by nearly 300 guardsmen who made prisoners of cabinet ministers and deputies of the Cortes (see The Military in Political Life , this ch.).

    Most members of the Civil Guard were housed with their families on compounds that formed part of the stations from which they operated. A high proportion of recruits were the sons of guardsmen. Entrance was at the age of sixteen years or seventeen years, when recruits began a two-year course at one of two "colleges" or, alternatively, at ages nineteen to twenty-four at the other college where the course was of eleven months duration. Promotion to officer rank was possible after fourteen years of service. A minority of officers gained direct commissions by attending the General Military Academy at Zaragoza for two years, where they followed the regular military cadet curriculum. After an additional three years at the Special Academy of the Civil Guard at Aranjuez, these cadets entered the service as lieutenants.

    Under the 1986 organic law, the Ministry of Interior was assigned responsibility for operational matters, pay, assignments, accommodations, and equipment. The Ministry of Defense was responsible for promotions, military missions, and wartime mobilization. Recruitment, training, weapons, deployment, and conduct of the system whereby compulsory service could be performed in the Civil Guard were matters of joint responsibility. The regulations introduced in early 1988 enabling women to serve in certain categories of the armed forces also cleared the way for eventual recruitment of women into the Civil Guard.

    The 1986 law set out a new functional division of responsibilities between the Civil Guard and the National Police Corps. In addition to its rural police functions, the Civil Guard was to be responsible for firearms and explosives control; traffic policing on interurban roads; protection of communication routes, coasts, frontiers, ports, and airports; enforcement of environmental and conservation laws, including those governing hunting and fishing; and interurban transport of prisoners.

    Data as of December 1988

    NOTE: The information regarding Spain on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Spain The Civil Guard information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Spain The Civil Guard should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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