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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 08:38 GMT
Venezuela delays home guard talks
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks with an army commander at the National Assembly - File photo
Venezuela says it is moving to a strategy of guerrilla warfare
A meeting in Venezuela to debate plans for military reforms, which would include compulsory service in the home guard, has been postponed.

No official reason has been given for the delay.

The army says the country needs a civilian reserve big enough to deter any would-be aggressors.

But critics say the emphasis on militia units is inspired by Cuba's defence system, where each neighbourhood has its own civilian command structure.

The debate in parliament is now expected to take place next week.

Caracas has already boosted the number of volunteers in its military to 2m.

Correspondents say the country is setting up the largest national reserve in the Americas - it roughly doubles the size of the US reserves.

The move has alarmed the US and neighbouring countries.

President Hugo Chavez has repeatedly accused Washington of aggressive behaviour towards Venezuela, an allegation which the US rejects.

Rifle shortage

Gen Mueller Rojas said Venezuela was moving to a strategy of guerrilla warfare in which militia units would play a key role if the country were invaded.

The plans will be discussed by experts and politicians before the parliamentary Defence and Security Commission.

Any changes to the military law require the backing of two-thirds of the of the members of the National Assembly.

But the BBC's Greg Morsbach in Caracas says this is not a big hurdle for Mr Chavez, as lawmakers loyal to him have a clear majority in congress.

Venezuela's armed forces have been carrying out a massive recruitment drive for new reservists since last November.

They are expected to undergo four months of basic training starting in March.

However, Venezuela only has enough rifles to equip its professional army of about 80,000 soldiers.

Last year President Chavez announced the military was purchasing a further 100,000 Russian assault rifles.


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