Civil Guard (Spain)

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Civil Guard
Guardia Civil
Emblem of the Spanish Civil Guard.svg
Badge of the Civil Guard
Active May 13, 1844
Country  Spain
Type Gendarmerie
Role Law enforcement
  • Highways, roads, and-or traffic.
  • National border patrol, security, and integrity.
  • Coastal patrol, marine border protection, marine search and rescue.
Size 80,000 officers
Part of Government of Spain (Spanish Constitution of 1978)
Garrison/HQ Madrid, Spain
Patron Our Lady of the Pillar
Motto El honor es mi divisa
(Honour is my badge)
Anniversaries October 12
Barracks 2,691
Decorations Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand
Minister of the Interior Jorge Fernández Díaz
Director-General Arsenio Fernández de Mesa[1]
Deputy Director of Operations Lt. Gen. Cándido Cardiel Ojer
Colonel Francisco Javier Girón, for being the founder
Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero., for attempted coup d'état
Abbreviation GC
Monogram Monogram of the Spanish Civil Guard (Variant).svg
A Nissan Patrol GR of the Guardia Civil.
Horse Guards of the Guardia Civil during the ceremonies of the Dos de Mayo 2008 in Madrid

The Civil Guard (Spanish: Guardia Civil; [ˈɡwarðja θiˈβil]) is a military force charged with police duties. The corps is colloquially known as the benemérita (reputable). It has both a regular national role and undertakes specific foreign peace-keeping missions. As a national police force, the Guardia Civil is comparable today to the French Gendarmerie, the Italian Carabinieri, the Portuguese National Republican Guard and the Dutch Royal Marechaussee as it is part of the European Gendarmerie. The Guardia Civil uses as its leading emblem the words "El honor es mi divisa" (Honour is my emblem), a motto emphasizing the unit's esprit de corps.

According to the Centro de investigaciones sociológicas (a Spanish institute for social research) the Guardia Civil is the institution in which most Spaniards trust. Guardia precincts are called casas cuartel (garrison posts) which are both minor residential garrisons and fully equipped Police Stations. In general the Guardia Civil patrol rural areas (including highways and ports) and investigate crimes there, whilst the Policia Nacional deals with serious urban situations. Most cities also have a Policia Local who concentrate on preventing crime, settling minor incidents, traffic control, and, crucially, intelligence gathering. Locally, all three forces work closely together, and are nationally coordinated under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior.


The Guardia Civil was founded as a national police force in 1844 during the reign of Queen Isabel II of Spain by the Navarrese aristocrat Francisco Javier Girón y Ezpeleta, 2nd Duque de Ahumada and 5th Marqués de las Amarillas, an 11th generation descendant of Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II.[2] Formerly, law enforcement had been the responsibility of the Holy Hermandad, an organization of municipal leagues. Corruption was pervasive in the Hermandad, where officials were constantly subject to local political influence, and the system was largely ineffective outside the major towns and cities.[3] Criminals could often escape justice by simply moving from one district to another.[3] The first Guardia police academy was established in the town of Valdemoro, south of Madrid, in 1855. Graduates were given the Guardia's now famous tricorne or Cavaliers hat as part of their duty dress uniform.

The Guardia was initially charged with putting an end to brigandage on the nation's highways, particularly in the province of Andalucia, which had become notorious for numerous robberies and holdups of businessmen, peddlers, travelers, and even foreign tourists.[4][5][6] Banditry in this region was so endemic that the Guardia found it difficult to completely eradicate. As late as 1884, one traveler of the day reported that it still existed in and around the city of Málaga:[7]

The favorite and original method of the Malagueño highwayman is to creep up quietly behind his victim, muffle his head and arms in a cloak, and then relieve him of his valuables. Should he resist, he is instantly disembowelled with the dexterous thrust of a knife...[The Spanish highwayman] wears a profusion of amulets and charms...all of undoubted efficacy against the dagger of an adversary or the rifle of a Civil Guard.[7]

The Guardia Civil was also given the political task of restoring and maintain land ownership and servitude among the peasantry of Spain by the king, who desired to stop the spread of anti-monarchist movements inspired by the French revolution. The end of the First Carlist War had left the Spanish landscape scarred by the destruction of civil war, and the government was forced to take drastic action to suppress spontaneous revolts by a restive peasantry. Based on the model of light infantry used by Napoleon in his European campaigns, the Guardia Civil was transformed into a paramilitary force of high mobility that could be deployed irrespective of inhospitable conditions, able to patrol and pacify large areas of the countryside. Its members, called 'guardias', maintain to this day a basic patrol unit formed by two agents, usually called a "pareja" (a pair), in which one of the 'guardias' will initiate the intervention while the second 'guardia' serves as a backup to the first.

The Civil War

Republican Civil Guard emblem (1931–1939)

During the Spanish Civil War, the Guardia Civil forces split almost evenly between those who remained loyal to the Republic, 53% of the members[8] (which changed their name to Guardia Nacional Republicana - "National Republic Guard")[9] and the rebel forces.[10] However, the highest authority of the corps, Inspector General Sebastián Pozas, remained loyal to the republican government.[11]

The proportion of Guardia Civil members that supported the rebel faction at the time of the 1936 coup was relatively high compared to other Spanish police corps such as the Guardias de Asalto and the Carabineros (Real Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras), where when the Civil War began over 70% of their members stayed loyal to the Spanish Republic.[12]

Loyalist General of the Guardia Civil José Aranguren, commander of the 4th Organic Division and Military Governor of Valencia, was arrested by the victorious Francoist troops when they entered the city of Valencia at the end of March 1939. After being court-martialed General José Aranguren was given the death penalty and was summarily executed on 22 April in the same year.[12]

The Francoist era and the Transition

Following the war, under the authoritarian government of General Francisco Franco (1939–1975), the Guardia Civil was reinforced with the members of the Carabineros - "Royal Corps of Coast and Frontier Carabiniers", following the disbandment of the carabinier corps.[13]

The involvement of Guardia Civil figures in politics continued well to the end of the twentieth century: on 23 February 1981, Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero Molina, a member of the Guardia Civil, participated with other military forces in the failed 23-F coup d'etat. Along with 200 members of the Guardia Civil, Lt. Col. Tejero briefly took hold of the lower house of the Cortes before the coup collapsed following a nationally-televised address by King Juan Carlos which denounced the coup.

The modern force

Today the Guardia Civil is a police force subject to the checks and supervision expected in a democratic society. Moreover, the guardias' proven effectiveness throughout history, whether in controlling banditry or in addressing the subsequent challenges and tasks given them, meant that additional tasks have been added regularly to their job description.

Guardia Civil is the largest police force in Spain in terms of area served. Today, they are primarily responsible for policing and/or safety regarding the following (but not limited to) areas and/or safety related issues (given in no special order):

  • law enforcement in all Spanish territory, excluding cities above 20,000 inhabitants,
  • highway patrol,
  • protection of the Royal Family and the King of Spain,
  • military police
  • counter drugs operations,
  • anti-smuggling operations,
  • customs and ports of entry control,
  • Airport Security,
  • safety of prisons and safeguarding of prisoners,
  • weapons licenses and arms control,
  • security of border areas,
  • bomb squad and explosives (TEDAX),
  • anti-terrorism and special operations unit (UEI),
  • coast guard,
  • police deployments abroad (embassies),
  • intelligence and counter-intelligence gathering (SIGC),
  • diving unit (GEAS),
  • cyber and internet crime,
  • mountain search and rescue (GREIM),
  • hunting permits and
  • environmental law enforcement (SEPRONA).
Mounted Guardia Civil
Guardia Civil's CASA CN235 surveillance aircraft


The Guardia Civil has been involved in operations as peacekeepers in United Nations sponsored operations, including operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Angola, Congo, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Haiti, East Timor and El Salvador. They also served with the Spanish armed forces contingent in the war in Iraq, mainly as military police but also in intelligence gathering, where seven of its members were killed . In addition to el instituto armado ("the armed institution"), the Guardia Civil is known as la benemérita ("the well-remembered"). They served in the Spanish colonies, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Spanish Guinea and Spanish Morocco.

The Guardia Civil has a sister force in Costa Rica also called the Guardia Civil. The Costa Rican 'guardias' often train at the same academy as regular Spanish officers.


Members of the Guardia typically patrol in pairs.

Members of the Guardia Civil often live in garrisons (casa-cuartel) with their families.

Since the Guardia Civil must accommodate the families of its "guardias", it was the first police force in Europe that accommodated a same-sex partner in a military installation.

The symbol of the Guardia Civil consists of the Royal Crown of Spain, a sword and a fasces. The different units have variations of this symbol.


The traditional headdress of the Guardia is the tricornio hat, originally a tricorne. Its use now is reserved for parades or ceremonies. For other occasions a cap, a beret or the characteristic "gorra teresiana" is worn.[14] A wide range of clothing is worn according to the nature of the duties being performed. The historic blue, white and red uniform of the Guardia is now retained only for the Civil Guard Company of the Royal Guard and the gastadores (parade markers) of the Civil Guard Academy.[15]

A modernised new style of working uniform was announced for the Civil Guard in 2011, for general adoption during 2012. This comprises a green baseball cap, polo shirt and cargo pants. The historic three-cornered hat is to be retained for ceremonial parades and duty outside public buildings, together with the army-style tunic and trousers previously worn. The kepi-like "gorra teresiana" is, however, to be abolished.

Uniforms of the Civil Guard
Gcivil12.png Gcivil12b.png Gcivil17b.png Gcivil18.png Gcivil18c.png Gcivil23.png Gcivil19.png Gcivil16c.png

Road waistcoat

Traffic Group

Motorcyclist ATGC







Gcivil24.png Gcivil22.png Gcivil25.png Gcivil13b.png Gcivil20d.png Gcivil14.png Gcivil15.png Gcivil21b.png





Military Police

Informal attire


Informal attire


Semi formal
Formal dress

Solemn acts

Ranks and insignia

NATO Code OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
Bandera de España Spain Guardia Civil Teniente general.gif Guardia Civil General división.gif Guardia Civil General brigada.gif Guardia Civil Coronel.gif Guardia Civil Teniente coronel.gif Guardia Civil Comandante.gif Guardia Civil capitan.gif Guardia Civil Teniente.gif Guardia Civil Alferez.gif
Teniente General General de División General de Brigada Coronel Teniente Coronel Comandante Capitán Teniente Alférez
Translation Lieutenant General Divisional General Brigade General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Captain Lieutenant lit. Knight
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Bandera de España Spain Guardia Civil Suboficial mayor.gif Guardia Civil Subteniente.gif Guardia Civil Brigada.gif Guardia Civil Sargento 1º.gif Guardia Civil Sargento.gif Guardia Civil Cabo Mayor.gif Guardia Civil Cabo 1º.gif Guardia Civil Cabo.gif Guardia Civil Guardia 1º.gif Guardia Civil guardiacivil.gif
Suboficial Mayor Subteniente Brigada Sargento Primero Sargento Cabo Mayor Cabo Primero Cabo Guardia Civil de Primera Guardia Civil
Translation Sub-officer Major Sub-lieutenant Brigade First Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Major Corporal First Class Corporal Civil Guardsman First Class
(Rank in abeyance)
Civil Guardsman


A mountain rescue group (GREIM) from the Civil Guard in an avalanche rescue training exercise.
1909–1931 Civil Guard emblem

The Corps has been organised into different specialties divided into operational and support specialties:[16]

  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Public Order and Prevention Service.svg Seguridad Ciudadana - Public Order and Prevention service, which makes up the bulk of the Guardia Civil.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Group of Underwater Activities.svg GEAS (Grupo Especial de Actividades Subacuáticas) - Divers.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Reserve and Security Grouping.svg GRS(Grupo de Reserva y Seguridad) - Riot control
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Naval Service.svg SEMAR (Servicio Marítimo) - Guardia Civil's Naval Service, tasked with seashore surveillance and fisheries inspections.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Nature Protection Service.svg SEPRONA (Servicio de Protección de la Naturaleza) - Nature Protection Service, for environmental protection.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Air Service.svg SAER (Servicio Aéreo) - Guardia Civil Air Service.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Canine Service.svg Servicio Cinológico - K-9 Unit, for Drugs and explosives detection and people finding.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Mountain and Speleology Rescue Service.svg GREIM (Servicio de Montaña) - Mountain and Speleology Rescue.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Fiscal Service.svg Jefatura Fiscal y de Fronteras - Customs and Revenue Service
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Intelligence Service.svg SIGC (Servicio de Informacion de la Guardia Civil) - Intelligence Service.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Explosive Artifacts Defuser and CBRN Defense Service.svg TEDAX (Técnicos Especialistas en Desactivación de Artefactos Explosivos) - lit, Explosive Artifacts Defuser Specialised Technicians (EOD)
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Traffic Grouping.svg Agrupación de Tráfico - Traffic Group, The Guardia Civil's Highway Patrol, tasked with the control of highways and trunk roads.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Rapid Reaction Group.svg GAR (Grupo de Acción Rápida) - Rapid Reaction Group. Special antiterrorist unit, operating within Basque Country provinces.
  • 35px UCO (Unidad Central Operativa) - Central Operative Unit, a branch of the Policía Judicial focused on complex or nationwide investigations.
  • Service Badge of the Guardia Civil Special Intervention Unit.svg UEI (Unidad Especial de Intervención) - Special Intervention Unit.


  • Spanish citizenship
  • Good standard or native Spanish language ability
  • Cadets at sixteen and adult service between eighteen and thirty-one years old.
  • More than 1.65 metres (65 in) tall (men) and 1.55 metres (61 in) (women)
  • Having obtained Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO)
  • No record of chronic illness and general good health.
  • Be able to swim



Peugeot 307 of the Civil Guard.
BMW R1200RT of the Highway Patrol of the Civil Guard.

On 23 July 2007, Roberto Flórez García, a retired GC officer assigned to the Centro Nacional de Inteligencia was charged with spying for a foreign power (allegedly Russia).[17]

Political involvement

Throughout the nineteenth century the Spanish army regularly became involved in politics; the Guardia Civil was no exception. For this reason, the guardias were seen historically as a reactionary force. On 3 January 1874, General Manuel Pavía y Rodríguez de Alburquerque stormed congress and ended the Spanish First Republic with a company of thirty guardias civiles.

The first three decades of the 20th Century in Spain was a time of great political turmoil. During this period the Guardia Civil served frequently in the restoration of order remaining mostly loyal to established regimes. Thus, it supported the dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–1930), but it also supported the Second Spanish Republic (1931–1939).

Police brutality

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Guardia Civil conducted a campaign against criminal and anarchist elements of the Andalusian population, a campaign in which numbers of otherwise innocent members of the public found themselves accused them of being members of the secret society The Black Hand. For this reason the 'guardias' of that era were portrayed negatively in the literature and popular history, particularly by Spanish expatriate artists and writers.

Critics of the Guardia Civil, particularly Republican sympathizers have alleged numerous instances of police brutality because of the organization's association with Franco's regime. The fact that the Guardia largely operated in mostly rural and isolated parts of the country increased the risk of police violations of individual civil rights through lack of supervision and accountability. García Lorca's poems have contributed to the Guardia Civil's reputation as, at least at the time, a heavy-handed police force.




See also


  1. "Dirección General de la Guardia Civil" (in Spanish). Spanish Civil Guard. 2012-03-17. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 de Rementeria y Fica, Mariano, Manual of the Baratero (transl. and annot. by James Loriega), Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, ISBN 978-1-58160-471-9 (2005)
  4. Quevedo, A. and Sidro, J., La Guardia Civil: La Historia de esta Institución, Madrid (1858)
  5. de la Iglesia, Eugenio, Reseña Histórica de la Guardia Civil, Madrid (1898)
  6. Driessen, Henk Driessen, The ‘Noble Bandit’ and the Bandits of the Nobles: Brigandage and Local Community in Nineteenth-century Andalusia, European Journal of Sociology 24, (1983), pp. 96-114
  7. 7.0 7.1 Scott, Samuel P., Through Spain: A Narrative of Travel and Adventure in the Peninsula, Philadelphia, PA: J. P. Lippincott Company (1886), pp. 130-131
  8. Muñoz-Bolaños, Roberto (2000), "Fuerzas y cuerpos de seguridad en España (1900–1945)", Serga, 2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Decreto de 30 de agosto de 1936, 1936-08-30<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. The International Bridgades - Colodny, Robert G. Accessed 2008-05-12.
  11. Hugh Thomas (1976); Historia de la Guerra Civil Española, Ed. Grijalbo, p. 254
  12. 12.0 12.1 Ramón Salas Larrazábal (2001); Historia del Ejército Popular de la República, Volumen I. De los comienzos de la guerra al fracaso del ataque sobre Madrid, pp. 58-60
  13. "Ley 15 de Marzo de 1940", Boletín Oficial del Estado, 1940-03-15<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Orden General número 1", Boletín Oficial de la Guardia Civil, 3, 1998-12-29 Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. José María Bueno, pages 164 and 168 "La Guardia Civil, su historia, organización y sus uniformes, I.S.B.N. 84-86629-34-9
  16. "Orden General 16", Boletín Oficial de la Guardia Civil, 30, 1999-10-21<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "La fiscalía acusa de un delito de traición al ex espía doble destapado por el CNI", El País, 2007-07-24<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • de la Iglesia, Eugenio, Reseña Historica de la Guardia Civil, Madrid (1898)

External links