A new kind of draft

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Taking the whole pueblo soldado thing way too far...
Taking the whole pueblo soldado thing way too far…

Recluta… there’s a word that brings memories. (In most, if not all cases, not happy ones). For a country that’s gone over 150 years without a proper shootin’ war, the need for a military draft is a little hard to understand, and yet we’ve had one for as long as anyone can remember.

My dad used to tell me stories about the times he dodged it long ago in his hometown. Back in the day, the army could just roll into town and enlist you forcefully right then and there.

The 1999 Constitution indicates that any form of forced recruitment is now illegal. But a different version of the recluta could still be implemented in the near future.

The National Assembly has now finished the public consultation for a new reform of the Military Conscription and Enlistment Law. According to PSUV deputy/sort-of Syrian Civil War “veteran” Adel El Zabayar, this new legislation will end the idea that “…the Military is an obligation for young people”. He’s wrong. It will make the military an obligation for all.

It’s important to point out here that anyone can enroll in the military of his/her free will. However, that same person will be obligated by law to be included in the Military Register, under penalty of a hefty fine and other indirect punishments.

Human rights activist Rafael Uzcátegui recently wrote a couple of articles where he looks at the proposed reform (Part 1 here, Part 2 here). For example, he mentions that those who want an alternative civic service (which our Constitution allows), that door is kinda shut. That option will be available only for those who can’t serve in the military. It also hints that service will be connected to the FANB, downright nullifying its civilian nature.

Another aspect to consider is that the concept of conscientious objection is just plain outlawed. Only those suffering a temporary or permanent disability, married, household breadwinners and incarcerated people are considered as unfit for service in the proposed bill. So, for those who want to refuse based on their constitutional right… sorry, patria trumps conscience.

And then, there’s the issue of the indirect punishments that I mentioned earlier. Well, here’s the catch: anyone who isn’t included in the Military Register won’t be able to do all kinds of normal things, like working in public or private companies, obtain a driving license, open a bank account or ask for a mortgage loan.

The Military Register Card will become then a second cedula, creating in the process a second class of citizens. Yeap, some kind of tropicalized version of Starship Troopers.

The FANB has recently bragged about reaching a new record number of new soldiers this year, which puts to question the real purpose of this reform (the third one in four years). This isn’t about improving the military, but about keep militarizing Venezuelan society.

1 COMMENT

    • The headline should be “El Gobierno Bolivariano crea nuevo beneficio socio-económico para la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana”.
      Heck, if you get a brand new Chery, a better pay checkn than a College Professor and many other college graduates, raises that cover inflation, they are going to have to make a wait-list to join the army.

    • Exactly. I would love a (very technocratic) proposal to severely reduce paperwork in the country. Something like reducing the days to open a bussiness to 5; combining the id card (cédula), driver’s license and tax id (RIF); having the tax id (or its combined succesor) as the only proof of residence required (no more copies of utility bills), forbiding state agencies from requiring that people provide official documents from other agencies for any process, and instead having agencies talk to each other without citizen intervention, etc.

  1. In Colombia we have a thing called la Libreta Militar and it’s by far the one document covered by the most corruption, bureaucracy, inefficiency, discrimination, etc, etc in the whole country. The thing is that there is *huge* amounts of money to be made, since there’s this thing called the “cuota de compensación” for people who are exempt from service. This includes medical exemptions, people with children (at age 18), only children (my case), orphans of both mother and father, and if you’re pursuing a higher education degree. What’s the cuota? 60% of (mom+dad+kid’s month income) plus 1/1000 of “patrimonio líquido” (mom+dad+kid). That means there is a huge push to get gomelo (sifrino in cachaco) kids to be exempt since they’d pay huge amounts of money to the army, while there’s a push to not accept exemptions from lower class kids since it’s better to have them as recruits rather than as funding sources. And it’s really easy to do since the registration process is done through schools, so kids in private bilingual schools go through one thing and kids in public schools go through another.

    Of course, my parents were courted by higher ups saying that if they paid directly to them it would only be half as much. Inefficiency and discrimination at the service of corruption and personal interest. And this is in Northern Bogotá where getting a driver’s license is more like in Montreal than in Caracas (according to Quico’s bureaucracy standards), I can’t imagine how it could be in Venezuela where ideology and militarization play such a big role.

  2. You are really scraping bottom when the only way to keep people employed is via the military. They’d love to have a civil war, just ask Arturo. Take off the gloves.

  3. The same exact measure of teh forced military registration, brought to the table for the second time. Or doesn’t anyone remember anymore what happened about 3 years ago? Only that as of today the government is held tighter in the chair. Anyone saying that the government is shaking is confusing it with the rocking motion of being fucked by them.

  4. hope it’s the same as in Brazil, where you forfeit citizenship by not enlisting in the reserves… I’ve been looking to get rid of the damn thing for a while now

  5. It seems I am nostalgic today, but as anecdotes of dodgin the “recluta” go I remember that in the 80’s my highscool boyfriend wasn’t studying and had turned 18th a few months before so he was elegible. He ran into a group of national guards drafting people just outside his work. He had to choose to either arrive late at work while he waited for them to go and risk being fired or risk getting drafted. He chose the later. They stopped him and he showed his cedula. He gave it to him pretending not to be scared and after looking at it for a few seconds the guard asked him, how old are you? He answered: I’m 17. The guard looked once more at the cedula intently and said OK then, get moving. He basically wasn’t able to do the math on his head to see if he was over 18th! And his lack of mathematical skills saved my exboyfriend. The scare was enough to get him back into school though so I was always thankful National Guards don’t get math classes.

    • I got “reclutado” in the late 70’s by a bunch of Policia Metropolitanos who didn’t even bother to care that my cedula was yellow (extranjero) and therefore should not have been rounded up with the rest of my Venezuelan friends.

      When I protested I got a “rolazo” (baton) on the butt and was pushed into a “jaula” (paddywagon), plus several “sifrino mariquito” mentions etc….

      Fortunately, once we got to Conejo Blanco, an officer heard me out and promptly had a driver take me back to the exact place I had been picked up from.

      Later I learned the PM’s would get Bs.5 per head during the recluta drive. The friends that got taken in with me all got out of serving by one pretext or another, most paying for the priviledge of not serving.

      You gotta hand it to the current goons, one distraction after another, except if this passes it has the potential to really control the populace and provide another “matraca” oportunity to boot.

  6. Its not the case here and probably will never be , but in other countries and cultures a time in the army can be formative , young men learn self discipline , team work, , group solidarity , respect for authority , a trade , a taste for order , how to follow work protocoles etc so that they come out better men than when they went in. Its almost a cliche in US culture the tale of ‘lost’ young men who enter the army to mature, straighten themselves out and go on to a full life. In Israel everyone is in the army , and its an amazing country considering all that its achieved . Here evidently the agenda is very different , to transform people into politically hare brained zombies in uniform. But Venezuela has whole generations of young people with maimed characters incapable of engaging in any serious productive endevour.

    • I have a good friend in Sweden who told me marijuana consumption in the country fell off a cliff when they did away with compulsory military service: half the kids spent pretty much that whole year stoned.

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