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Panama: National Guard
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Missions and Organization of the Defense Forces > National Guard


The last of the six major entities making up the Defense Forces was the National Guard (Guardia Nacional). As reconstituted, the National Guard was scarcely a shadow of its former self. As of late 1987, it had neither a commander nor a staff element and functioned primarily as a paper entity encompassing the Presidential Guard (Guardia Presidencial), Penitentiary Guard (Guardia Penitenciaría), Forest Guard (Guardia Forestal), Port Guard (Guardia Portuaria), Customs Guard (Guardia Aduanera), and Railroad Guard (Guardia Ferroviaria). The Presidential Guard was a specially selected unit charged with guarding the president and the presidential palace. The unit, which was quartered on the palace grounds, was believed to be similar to an infantry company in organization; although used as a ceremonial honor guard, its personnel were also trained in the use of weapons and in security techniques. On parade or when mustered to greet foreign dignitaries, the Presidential Guard presented an impressive appearance in tailored white uniforms, white helmets, boots with white laces, and white belts and rifle slings. The Presidential Guard wore a variety of other uniforms as well, including a dark blue uniform with black plum cap and a solid gray uniform with white helmet and white belt. The unit was commanded by a major or a captain who answered directly to the comandancía.

Other small units of the National Guard protected specific areas or facilities. The Port Guard, Railroad Guard, and Forest Guard all were formed to handle functions and responsibilities turned over to Panama by the 1978 treaties. The Forest Guard, for example, dealt with the increasingly serious problem of deforestation in the basin drained by the canal.

Data as of December 1987

Last Updated: December 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Panama was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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