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 incentive—which they can ship to their families or keep for themselves—it’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 market—both very common activities in this border state—which 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 tattoos—both historically forbidden in the military—are 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.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.