On Friday, Vice-Admiral Jose Ernesto Cueto, head of the military’s Joint Command, announced that the armed forces were short 30,000 recruits. To make up for the loss, he said the military would be implementing a draft in May, in which all 18- to 25-year-old men in Peru would be eligible to be chosen by lottery. El Comercio points out that the legal basis for this lies in an executive order issued in December by President Ollanta Humala, which received almost no publicity at the time.
The decree (.pdf) authorizes the reinstatement of the draft for the first time since 1998, to be used in the event that the number of volunteer recruits “falls below the personnel requirements” of the armed forces. It does not, however, provide a minimum number of necessary recruits, essentially leaving this decision to the military command.
University students and parents are exempt from the draft, and those whose names are selected have the option of paying a fine of 1,850 soles, which is roughly equivalent to $715. Because the fee is prohibitively expensive for most young Peruvians (government statistics put the average monthly income for Lima residents between 14-24 years old at 857 soles, or $331), and only a small, largely elite section of the population attends university, the burden of the draft will fall largely on the country’s poor.
The move has understandably met resistance. Ombudsman Eduardo Vega criticized the draft system for being “discriminatory” to those Peruvians who cannot afford the fine. Human rights activist Wilfredo Ardito expressed similar concerns to La Republica, and also argued that it undermines the push to professionalize the Peruvian armed forces.
In response to such criticism, Vice-Admiral Cueto appeared to modify the announcement somewhat. On Monday he “clarified” that conscripts would not be sent to the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (known in Spanish as the VRAEM), home to the last remaining faction of the Shining Path insurgency. But this was contradicted by Deputy Defense Minister Mario Cesar Sanchez de Bernardi, who said that some draftees would inevitably be deployed to violent areas after six months of training.
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