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Chilean Gendarmerie
Gendarmería de Chile
MottoLabor Omnia Vincit. Deus Patria Lex
Work conquers everything. God, Country, Law
Agency overview
FormedNovember 30, 1929
Preceding agency
  • Cuerpo de Gendarmería de Prisiones
Jurisdictional structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
Operations jurisdictionChile
Legal jurisdictionAs per operations jurisdiction
General nature
Operational structure
Overseen byDirección Nacional
HeadquartersSantiago de Chile
Agency executive
  • Sebastián urrua palma, National Director of the Gendarmerie

The Chilean Gendarmerie (Spanish: Gendarmería de Chile), (abbreviated to GENCHI) is the title of Chile's uniformed national prison service military. The service evolved when Chilean Army units were given police and prison duties under president Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, a move that also created the Carabineros de Chile police force.

Chilean Gendermerie is an armed service under the Ministry of Justice. It has two mottoes, "Labor Omnia Vincit" ("Work conquers everything"), and "Deus Patria Lex" (God, Country, Law). Its symbol consists of a keep with merlons on its roof with two towers to its side.

The service is currently led by Director General Sebastián Urru Palma, appointed to this role by president Gabriel Boric in April 2022.[1]

Early history

Chilean Army units were used for policing and guarding prisons from the time of Chile's independence. Chile's first "professional" prison was built in Santiago in 1843. In 1871 the "Special Guard" was created (Guardia Especial) which was Chile's first prison service separate from the army.

A Gendarme battalion, the Bulnes Battalion, fought as part of the Chilean Army during the War of the Pacific.

In 1892, under the government of Admiral Jorge Montt, the service was called "Special Guards of the Prisons of Chile" (Guardias Especiales de las Prisiones de Chile) and was responsible for prisons, executions, and prisoner transport.

Modern history

In 1911, under the government of Ramón Barros Luco, the Special Guards experienced some reforms and the title "Prison Gendarmerie Corps" was adopted (Cuerpo de Gendarmería de Prisiones). It had the additional duty of guarding prisoners in court. The vast majority of members of this new service were seconded from the Army, including officers and other ranks - the very reason for the current military heritage of today's organization. A law was passed in 1921, Law N° 3.815, concerning the organization of the service. (From 1930 until today November 30 - the day the law took effect after its approval - is considered to be the anniversary of the Gendarmerie.)

A Prison Gendarmerie School was established in 1928 to train personnel, and from 1944 onward, became the officer training school of the service.

From 1929 until 1931, the service was part of the Carabiniers of Chile, the national Gendarmerie proper. During this time, it was known within the carabiniers as the Prison Service, and its members were "Prison Carabiniers". From 1931, the title "Prison Service" was used, and the service regained its independence.

In 1944 an academy was founded, called the Penitentiary School of Chile, which in 1954 became the Technical School of Prison Security Services.

During the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, the current title of "Gendarmería de Chile" was adopted, and a new grey-green uniform was adopted which was inspired by German army uniforms of World War II. The Gendarmerie's Penological Education Academy, the staff college of the service for all junior officers, was established in 1997.


The Chilean Gendarmerie is a service which is influenced by and actively maintains its historic links with the Chilean army. As a result, it is an armed uniformed service of a military character, and it is organized on a military basis using ranks. However the rank of Director General can be filled by either a veteran officer of the force in either case under the appointment and confidence of the President. The current rank system dates from 2010 and is based on the historical ranks of the service. It is a military institution that since its inception has provided security to the country.

Ranks of the Gendarmerie

Gendarmes of the ranks
Gendarms of the ranks are those that graduate from the "Gendarme Alex Villagrán Pañinao" Gendarmerie's Penitentiary Formation School.

All future officers study at the "Pres. Gen. Manuel Bulnes Prieto" Gendarmerie Academy in Santiago de Chile and upon graduation are commissioned as sub-lieutenants.

The Gendarmiere also maintains a civilian technical and administrative corps, and although they report to both officers and gendarmes, they wear no uniforms at all.

Rank insignia

Dress High Command Senior officers Head officers Junior officers Student officers
Uniform coat
Ranks Director nacional Subdirector operativo Coronel Teniente coronel Mayor Capitán Teniente 1° Teniente 2° Subteniente Aspirante a oficial
Dress Warrant Officer NCOs Corporals Gendarms Students
Uniform coat
Ranks Suboficial Mayor Suboficial Sargento 1° Sargento 2° Cabo 1º Cabo 2º Cabo Gendarme 1° Gendarme 2° Gendarme Gendarme Alumno

See also


  1. ^ "Ministra de Justicia y Derechos Humanos, junto a Subsecretario, da a conocer nombramiento de nuevo Director de Gendarmería de Chile, Sebastián Salvador Urra Palma". Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (Chile). 30 April 2022. Retrieved 25 July 2023.