Photo: EFE retrieved

In Zulia State,  the quota designated for May to enroll in the military service was 2,763 people. Nonetheless, the amount of people who enrolled didn’t fulfill the goal and only 64% of the quota was attained.

What went wrong?

According to Andrea*, a government employee with a 24-year-long career in the military, the economic crisis is the main reason for low enrollment rates discussed within the institution.

Economic crisis is the main reason for low enrollment rates.

Since the inflation rate for July was 128.4% according to the National Assembly’s Finance Committee, we can only expect these results in an untenable situation for someone who earns a little over Bs. 6,000,000 per month, and who must enroll as a soldier to get a promotion to a distinguished rank in a two-year process, depending on their behavior.

Additionally, the food in the region’s barracks, just like in the rest of the country, is terrible. Soldiers eat mostly black beans with a side of arepas or rice. Although soldiers get CLAP boxes twice a month as an incentivewhich they can ship to their families or keep for themselvesit’s not enough. Many soldiers end up taking  informal and illegal jobs, such as trafficking basic food basket goods or selling cash in the black marketboth very common activities in this border statewhich generate ten times what they’d earn for a month in the barracks.

The outcome of this situation is that the circumscriptions in the Zulia region are willing to accept people unfit for military service, even though those in charge of performing psychological or routine tests report it to their superiors. For instance, citizens with criminal records and tattoosboth historically forbidden in the militaryare enrolling without a problem.

So far, there’s no law to regulate the qualities that must or mustn’t be allowed to young citizens willing to serve in the military.

The Circumscription and Military Enlistment Law has been going through a reform process that has lasted a couple of years. So far, there’s no law to regulate the qualities that must or mustn’t be allowed to young citizens willing to serve in the military. The result is chaos. The policies in this new law still have no publication date. We’ll see whether they’ll ignore criminal records and the use of tattoos, or whether these characteristics will be accepted.

On the other hand, between 2% and 5% of people enrolling are illiterate, and although there’s no law prohibiting this, it doesn’t seem appropriate to believe that someone who can’t read or write is ready to perform such a vital task as defending the country.

But this isn’t new. “Ten years ago, we had many enrollments. Recruits went through many phases until they reached the social department, where they had to answer a series of routine questions. As a last step, they had to sign their form and I was shocked to see that they couldn’t. They didn’t know how to do it, and the person who filled their form had to sign in for them,” says Pedro*, an employee from the psychology department with a 14-year-long career in the military.

Are people trained to participate in the country’s integral development not requested to count with a minimum educational background? Is it simpler to arm a soldier than to give him books? Perhaps that’s the idea, because it’s easier to indoctrinate people who have no education.

There have been two military recruitment campaigns so far this year. In January, the goal was to enroll 3,403 people according to the national census performed every year and discriminated by month, but once again, they were unsuccessful: only 1,207 people enrolled. Less than half.

it’s easier to indoctrinate people who have no education.

Yet, this doesn’t seem to bother the government, who didn’t make much of a fuss in the media about military recruitment in May, as they used to. There were only a couple of vague ads on the radio and none on TV, which was obviously insufficient to massively attract citizens.

Barracks are desolate while money is being spent on chavismo’s usual political proselytism. Nicolás Maduro probably has his military ranks filled with trusted high-ranking officers who don’t need promotions.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the sources.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. “Such a vital task as defending the country….” Defending the country from the opposition should not require literacy. Besides, why should a military recruit be required to be more educated than the president?

  2. I don’t see any value in any of this. When the wheels come fully off Chavismo and the country goes headlong and whole hog into the shitter, the first thing that anyone (US, EU, IMF, etc) is going to do is require that Venezuela become the next Costa Rica, with only the most rudimentary of defensive military.

    Sorry, but if it turns out that the US has no intention of invading Venezuela (despite whatever resources they have to exploit), Venezuela has zero belligerent neighbors. Colombia? If they wanted Venezuela, they would have absorbed it years ago, as the Venezuela military is no match for the battle tested Colombians. Cuba? Brazil? Guyana?

    Venezuela’s military needs to be (and will be) disbanded. Maybe the generalissimos can work in eco-tourism in their retirement?

    • A country as large as Venezuela and as important as Venezuela should be, should have sufficient military resources to uphold their UN obligations for peacekeeping forces. Any country that cannot do that will never be taken seriously.

      • Plenty of countries have defensive military forces. Even Costa Rica has one (though their primary mission is to periodically get the Nicaraguan military on their own side of the river.)

        No country needs 4000+ generals. Even the United States, with its HUGE military is limited by Title 10 of the U.S. Code to a MAXIMUM of 877 for general and flag officers (G/FOs) in the active component (AC).

        I think a good start would be about 4 flag officers for Venezuela. Domestic peacekeeping can be done by a pared down GNB.

        Is Venezuela doing any UN peacekeeping now?

  3. Honor: never had it
    As for recruiting, nobody has ever wanted to be a soldier in Venezuela. That is why the recluta existed. The army used to basically kidnap kids from the streets and force them into service.
    People started to get voluntarily into the army because of hunger, now there is no food.
    The article is misleading at best, no context at all.

    • Wanley, I differ. The pre-Chavez military had honor. A military career was an accomplishment with pride. Of course, that is easy if you never fight any wars. Graduating from the military academy required discipline and study,

      Now the military is seeing action with new skills needed. Going up against unarmed civilians has been the toughest duty the Vzla military has seen in decades. Not to mention protecting drug dealers, distributing overpriced rotting Crapbags of food and collecting their share of graft from gasoline exports to whatever else they can steal. Military doctrine follows the Cuban model of immunity for all actions. Loyalty is tested with jail time for all who disrespect Maduro.

  4. “Nicolás Maduro probably has his military ranks filled with trusted high-ranking officers who don’t need promotions”

    But they probably need money. I read somewhere in the past few weeks that the salary of the fat generals is but US$70, so unless you are in the corruption trough you ain’t doing so well. Sure there are fringe benefits like the most necessary security detail, your CLAP box and playita, but, in the gran scheme of things, unless you can afford to keep your children in Spain as Padrino Lopez does, you don’t sleep well.

      • That’s the point, Wanley, the corruption slop has to be shared among too many and greedy criminals NEVER get their fill.

        Additionally, the importance of a general is the fact that you can tell a poor sap to go out and shoot on command, if the operational ability of the military deteriorates AND the colectivos become a credible challenge, the generals become fat middle aged men in menacing customs and Venezuela becomes Somalia.

      • You’re right. And if not because of the army, another reason suffice. Chavismo-Madurismo cannot survive unless each citizen becomes corrupt, it doesn’t matter if you steal little or a lot. For pleasure or hunger

    • renacuajo67 is right. I don’t think people realize that when resources are scarce there is nothing to steal. This is not 2008 when $$$ flowed and the title of General meant easy accessibility to loot. Heck…even in 2015 there was plenty of action compared to today. You can’t steal what somebody doesn’t have.

  5. “Venezuela needs no armed forces after chabizmo”

    Yeah, genius, how the fuck are you going to deal with the over 50.000 serial killers that are butchering dozens of people daily? Will you give them a “pacification pact” so they can return to power in 5-10 years later?

  6. Venezuela like many other countries does not need a formal army. They do need a strong national guard, coast guards, and a customs/border control. Each one designated with specific tasks especially in the control of smuggling/contraband of everything. Plus a ”police of the police”, something like the FBI, etc.

    Who thinks that Venezuela will wag a war at whom? If this and past or future governments think Venezuela needs a conventional army, air force and navy, then show the enemy first.

    In that sense, the article missed the opportunity to discuss the ”why” more in-depth.

    When I was a kid, military enrollment was compulsory. But even if it wasn’t the motivation was high enough to spend 2 years in the army. The salary and the food were then horrible, what do you expect? A five-star hotel?

  7. Back in the mid 1980’s I knew a guy who got a job with General Dynamics working in Venezuela to support the F-16 jet fighters that GD had sold to Venezuela. He moved down there from Texas and was loving his life. Making bank. Hot Venezuelan girlfriend at his side.

    At the time I couldn’t figure out why Venezuela needed F-16s. A whole fleet of them. Who were they going to use them against? Brazil?

    Back to the point. Even then it seemed to me that Venezuela had more military than it needed.

    • Its a cultural thing. I am reminded of any number of movie comedies with “dictators” (Moon Over Parador, Bananas) every time I see some Latin American strongman fraud wearing a sash… I imagine all of these dupes think they exude “old European sophistication”. They also love to have their “strongman’s” face plastered all over every flat surface, lest you forget who is El Jefe.

      It isn’t just Venezuela. Argentina loves to do it. And until recently, Mexico.

  8. The quote from “Bananas” reminds of the current situation in Venezuela. Make it up as you go…

    Esposito: From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now… 16 years old!

    Fielding Mellish: What’s the Spanish word for straitjacket?

  9. The question of does VZ need a military, and the consensus here of HELL NO, I think is wrong, because we now see how it can go so wrong if the military is corrupted and conjoined or conflated into the political sphere.

    But if independent and professional, the situation in VZ would be 180 degrees different, and the consensus here would be HELL YES.

    Besides the fact that VZ has/had the population to sustain a robust Military, it has most base of reasons a country would have a military. The need to protect and safeguard. Simply put Oil, Gold, Minerals, and land.

    Comparing VZ to Costa Rica “no military” is mentally lazy. CR has an ecological bounty in beaches, mountains and a climate (to kill for), but zilch after this. The cost benefit to an invader has always been very low. And the Costa Ricans know this.

    Think of it another way. It is 2030 and Colombia after the discovery of the rare earth metal deposit (who knows the future) becomes a military powerhouse. And they want the maracaibo oil region. But VZ has no Military. Then what?

    I would not like to be the President of VZ, with a land of riches and no security.

    Since no-one can predict the future, it seems prudent to me that the VZ leadership in the past, determined that riches should be protected at all costs.

    • Besides the fact that VZ has/had the population to sustain a robust Military, it has most base of reasons a country would have a military. The need to protect and safeguard. Simply put Oil, Gold, Minerals, and land.

      Unless you are being invaded actively by a foreign country (or have rational reason to believe that you might) you don’t need a offensive military. Japan as an example. Protecting and safeguarding from internal threats isn’t the job of the military. The United States absolutely forbids it. (Posse Comitatus Act of 1878) That is why most nations have a variation of a Federal Police or National Guard.

      Comparing VZ to Costa Rica “no military” is mentally lazy. CR has an ecological bounty in beaches, mountains and a climate (to kill for), but zilch after this. The cost benefit to an invader has always been very low. And the Costa Ricans know this.

      I don’t see one damn reason why Venezuela couldn’t be a WORLD CLASS destination. God knows that Venezuela is a dream come true as far as resources… but also natural beauty. The first time I came there in 1988 I thought Venezuela was going to be “Mexico”. I was WAY surprised.

      As far as “invaders” go, who is Venezuela’s “natural enemy”? Brazil? Colombia? Guyana? Even under Chavismo, China and Russia don’t DARE build so much as a military mess hall in Latin America. While “The Big Stick” hasn’t been seen in a while, I can assure you it is ready to come out from under the mattress should China or Russia try any of their bullshit here.

  10. No one has ever invaded Switzerland, which doesn’t have a formal Army.

    The army is every man that can fire a gun. The men have their weapons at home and conduct regular training, etc. And they have a network of tunnels where the airforce keeps their planes ready to go, etc. etc. Other than that, don’t mess with their NG and Customs officers. I wish this ever happened in Venezuela.

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