Peru to Continue with Military Draft Despite Legal Challenges

Peru’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that plans for a military draft to begin Wednesday are going ahead unchanged, state news agency Andina reported.

The Defensoria del Pueblo, Peru’s ombudsman, has come out against the draft and filed requests with the judiciary over the weekend to have it stopped.  On Monday, politicians from the Fuerza Popular opposition party presented a request to Peru’s Constitutional Court to have the draft declared unconstitutional and halted.

The draft of some 12,500 young men and women for the army is scheduled for Wednesday. Critics of the draft say it discriminates against the poor as it allows individuals to pay a fine of about $700 to be exempt from serving in the military if their name is drawn.  Also, young men and women who can prove they are the financial support of their family or who are studying at a university are exempt.

Gustavo Adrianzen, a lawyer for the Defense Ministry, said the requests from the Defensoria del Pueblo will not have any impact on the draft plans.

“The draft planned for tomorrow will continue according to the established schedule and the law, there is no reason to make changes,” Adrianzen said. He added, however, that the government will await a ruling from the judiciary.

The government says it is necessary to reinstate the draft in order to strengthen the military, which has had trouble recruiting new soldiers.

“The current military service system is more discriminatory because people who have  money don’t do military service,” said President Humala.  “We need more soldiers to dominate our territory, to generate development and growth.”

But the draft was always discriminatory,  and still conjures up memories, particularly in remote areas of the Andean highlands,  of the army trucks rumbling into town and picking young men up off the street and confining them to barracks for training.  If the person was a university student or had influence or money, he was released.   If not, he stayed in for two years.

The draft was abolished early in President Alberto Fujimori’s administration, to focus on a small but efficient force.  However, the following stages, of providing an attractive wage and providing recruits with training and higher studies to serve them in civilian life, were never followed through and the military has failed to fill its annual quota of approximately 18,000 volunteers.

Young people today see more future in driving moto-taxis or even as fare collectors on a microbus. Recruits receive a “propina”, literally a tip or stipend, rathern than a wage — a soldier is currently paid 256 soles a month (around $98), and a 1st sergeant less than 400 soles.

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