Venezuela: government backs down regarding compulsory registration for military service

In October 2010, the Venezuelan government has backed down regarding the compulsory registration for military service, which would have come into force on 21 October 2010. In October last year, the Venezuelan parliament passed a new law on military recruitment, which for the first time also introduced compulsory military service registration for Venezuelan women (See CO-Update No 52, November-December 2009). Failure to register could have been punished with a fine, and also military documentation was required in a range of situation, from entering a university to obtaining a driving licence.

According to an article in Global Voices Online, the government's decision to “reactivate” the Military Conscription and Enlistment Law has generated an attitude of resistance from civil society, stronger than usual for orders coming from President Hugo Chávez. At the beginning of October 2010, the government declared that those not enrolled in the military record before 21 October 2010 would the face penalties proscribed by the law.

The Venezuelan human rights organisation Provea and a range of other organisations and individuals launched a campaign against the law on recruitment, especially highlighting the unconstitutionality of the law, as it fails to guarantee the right to conscientious objection.
According to a report on the website of Venezuelan state TV channel VTV, the Venezuelan parliament was to vote on amendments to 17 articles of the only one year old law on 12 October. According to the report, the chair of the Defence Committee of the parliament, Juan José Mendoza, said that the deadline for registration would be scrapped, and that also there would be no punishment for non-registration. In addition, the military documentation would not be required in order to study, work, obtain a driving licence, or for other reasons, and neither universities nor employers would be allowed or required to ask for it.

So far WRI has not been able to obtain the details of the amendments.

Sources: Global Voices Online: Venezuela: Reactions to the Law of Military Service, 12 October 2010; Correo del Orinoco: Reforma de Ley de Conscripción y Alistamiento Militar fue aprobada en primera discusión, 12 October 2010; VTV: AN elimina sanciones de la Ley de Conscripción y Alistamiento Militar, 11 October 2010; Provea: La Constitución debe respetarse: No a la obligatoriedad del Registro y Servicio Militar, 8 October 2010; El Universal: Exigirán nulidad de Ley de Alistamiento Militar, 8 October 2010; El Universal: Dejarán sin efecto fecha tope para el Registro Militar, 7 October 2010; Ley de Conscripción y Alistamiento Militar, 21 October 2009