A new kind of draft

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.