Peru Court Cancels Military Draft Backed by President Humala

Peruvian authorities canceled a military draft scheduled for Wednesday after a court sided with a challenge from the country’s ombudsman.

The government had planned to conscript 12,500 young men or women between 18 and 25 years old into the army. Authorities had argued the conscription was necessary in order to boost the size of the military, which has had trouble recruiting new soldiers.

However, the draft has also been called “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory” as it would have allowed individuals to pay a fine of 1,850 soles (about $700) to be exempt from service. The Defensoria del Pueblo – the national ombudsman’s office – filed a request to the judiciary asking for it to be suspended. On Tuesday, the judge ruled in favor of the Defensoria del Pueblo’s request.

President Ollanta Humala, who served in the military, and Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano both said they would respect the ruling, while also standing by the draft.

However, Humala said the current system is discriminatory. “We respect democratic rules, but we regret this because the Peruvian people lose,” state news agency Andina reported Humala saying. “Today, we have the most discriminatory and hypocritical military service because with the voluntary service, only the poorest do military service.”

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 enlisting 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, rather 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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