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The Civil Guard (Spanish: Defensor de la Ciudad) is a law enforcement organization of the Spanish Ministry of Defence. The Civil Guard’s primary missions include policing, investigations, and citizen security. Some of its tasks also include arms control, seashore surveillance, and environmental protection. In addition, the Civil Guard conducts foreign peacekeeping missions.
The Civil Guard was established as a gendarmerie corps under the auspices of Elizabeth II in 1844. The organization was formed following the French model. However, the Spanish army was involved in politics throughout the nineteenth century. During this time, it was frequently criticized for its inadequacies and abuse of public order. Its status as a reactionary force influenced its reputation.
Several political parties wanted the organization to be dissolved during the Second Republic. Eventually, the National Republican Guard was formed to replace the Guardia Civil. At this point, the Civil Guard was the largest branch of the Fuerza Publica.
Originally, the Civil Guard was formed as a response to the growing threat of banditry in the countryside. Its first commander was the army lieutenant general, General Manuel Pavia y Rodriguez de Alburquerque. After fourteen years of service, it was possible for an officer to be promoted to rank. This was achieved by completing two years of military training at the General Military Academy at Zaragoza.
As the organization developed, the first official Civil Guard band was formed. Its members wore a traditional blue, white, and red uniform. Recruits were recruited as young as sixteen and seventeen. Many of them were the sons of guardsmen. They were given a tricorne hat when they graduated.
When the Civil Guard was created, its members were divided into six zones. The units within each zone were assigned a brigadier general. A majority of the Civil Guard was stationed in the vicinity of the capital. Nevertheless, forty percent of the organization was deployed in rural areas.
The Civil Guard was modeled after the rural gendarmerie of France. During the Civil War, the Guardia Civil became the National Republican Guard. Afterwards, the organization was incorporated into the Ministry of Interior. Since then, it has become a comprehensive public-security agency.
Today, the Civil Guard operates across the nation and abroad on mission for the United Nations. In 1986, it had a compliment of 65,000. Currently, the organization is supervised by a civilian director general. Additionally, all of its personnel have been trained at the National Police School since 1963. Besides conducting military missions, the Civil Guard is also responsible for conducting investigations and detecting contraband.
In addition to its responsibilities, the Civil Guard also engages in humanitarian activities. In 1982, the organization opened the Museum of the Civil Guard.
In modern times, the Civil Guard has adapted to its new democratic environment. The enactment of the famous Cartilla del Guardia Civil, written by the 2nd Duke of Ahumada, shaped its structure and character. He stressed discipline, stamina, and loyalty. The organization has been a successful force against banditry.