María Gámez Gámez, the first ever female Director General of Spain’s Civil Guard, presided over a ceremony in Madrid last week, to mark the 177th anniversary of the founding of the corps.
The Director General paid tribute to the Guard and to the 13 officers who have died as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Civil Guard are involved in all aspects of police and security issues facing Spain, including anti-terrorist operations, the fight against drug gangs, organised crime, anti-corruption investigations into elected representatives, search and rescue operations on the high seas and traffic control are among many of their most high profile roles.
Speaking at the Civil Guard headquarters in Valdemoro in south Madrid, Gamez said that “this has been a difficult year” but that “the corps has acted with loyalty and neutrality and integrity” in discharging its duty to the public.
The 77,000 strong Civil Guard is a gendarmerie force modeled on the French system and is part of the European Gendarmerie Force which consists of similar corps from other EU countries such as France, Italy, and the Netherlands.
It was founded in Madrid in 1844 as light military force by the Duke of Ahumada, Field Marshall Francisco Javier Girón y Ezpeleta, to fight bandits and highwaymen who were plaguing travellers across the country and particularly in Andalucia.
It was at the forefront in the fight against the Basque terrorist group E.T.A and were frequently targeted in reprisal attacks by the group.
Some 203 Civil Guard officers were killed over the course of the 30 year terrorist campaign.
Today it comes under the control of the Ministry of the Interior unless in times of war, in which case the Ministry of Defence takes control.
Apart from its high profile roles, the Guard also plays an important police and light military role including overseas peace keeping and training duties.