Country report and updates: Venezuela

Last revision: 08 Jan 1998
08 Jan 1998
08/01/1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is enshrined in art. 53 of the Constitution which states that military service is compulsory and is to be performed, regardless of an individual's social status, as and when the law requires. [2]

Compulsory military service is regulated by the 1978 Law on Conscription and Military Enlistment (Ley de Conscripcion y Alistamiento Militar). [1] [6]

The Venezuelan armed forces are very popular as they were established by Simon Bolivár, Venezuela's liberator from the colonial oppressor Spain.

military service

All men aged 18 to 50 are liable for military service. [3]

Military service lasts for two years. [1] [3]

postponement and exemption

Regulations on postponement are not known.

A conscript may be exempted if he is medical unfit, married, the sole family breadwinner, a widow's eldest son or the eldest of orphaned siblings, a college student with an average of 15 academic marks, a trainee religious minister or a convicted criminal. (Art. 78 of Reglamento de la Ley de Conscripcion Militar). [1] [5]

recruitment

All men are legally obliged to register for military service when they turn 18. In practice many do not register. Of those who register only 20 percent are actually recruited. [1]

The military registration and recruitment is done by Municipal or Parish Conscription Boards. Every district is assigned a recruit quota. The recruitment officers are paid for each young men they recruit. In 1994 they got 200 Bs. per recruit. It is not unusual for conscripts to 'buy themselves out' by offering the recruitment officer more money than he would receive for recruiting. [1] [6]

The average age for performing military service is between 18 and 24. [1]

Conscripts past their mid-twenties are unlikely to be recruited. [5]

forced recruitment

Recruitment takes place in public at places were many people gather, such as cinema entrances, schools and market places. Recruitment officers, sometimes dressed as civilians and assisted by the military and police, 'verify the documents' and then arbitrarily force recruits into buses bound for to the barracks. The officers are paid for each young men they recruit. According to Venezuelan COs only lower class recruits get picked as those with economic means are able to buy themselves out. Such forced recruitment constitutes systematic violation of the physical integrity and the freedom of movement and becomes a man-hunt. Furthermore, it is prohibited by law. [1] [6]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognised. [1] [2]

Many who resist military service try to evade recruitment and do not respond to call-ups. [1]

In November 1997 for the first time in Venezuela a group of 34 COs publicly announced their conscientious objection to military service. As of now, the armed forces have not proceeded against them. [6]

3 Draft evasion and desertion

penalties

Evading military service is punishable by a fine or by imprisonment, according to art. 41 of the Law on Conscription and Military Enlistment. [3]

Desertion is punishable by 2 to 4 years' imprisonment and exclusion from the armed forces (art. 525, Military Penal Code). [1]

According to a government source, the penalty for desertion is one to 5 years' imprisonment. [5]

practice

Apparently, draft evasion is widespread and draft evaders are not searched for.

Venezuelan COs estimate that there are approximately 180 deserters every year. [1]

Anyone who has deserted or failed to report for reserve service without justification is considered a deserter and, up to the age of 60, faces arrest and imprisonment. [5]

6 Annual statistics

The armed force are 79,000 strong, which is 0.35 percent of the population. They include some 31,000 conscripts. [4]

Every year about 220,000 young men reach conscription age. [4]

An average of 100,000 young men are called up annually, of whom 50,000 actually perform military service. About 120,000 of the registered conscripts are exempted for various reasons. [1]

Sources

[1] ROLC 1994. Informe del taller de formacion para la objecion de consciencia i encuentro latinoamericano de objecion de consciencia. Serpaj, Asuncion, Paraguay. [2] UN Commission on Human Rights, 1991. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1989/59. United Nations, Geneva. [3] Amnesty International 1991. Conscientious objection to military service. AI, London, UK. [4] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [5] Consulate of Venezuela in Ottawa, 8 August 1991. Telephone Interview from DIRB with Representative. [6] Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y la Paz 1997. Corrections and amendments to the draft report. Red de Apoyo, Caracas, Venezuela.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Venezuela

18 Nov 2015

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Rafael Uzcategui is a Venezuelan conscientious objector, author, and human rights activist who has been active with War Resisters' International, and in antimilitarism more generally, for many years. Here, he summarises the main tendencies of the Latin American conscientious objection movement, and details how his own nonviolent anarchist position fits into this picture.

During the eighties, many Latin American countries were living under military dictatorships or suffering the consequences of civil war. These were also the days of the Cold War, during which the US considered Latin America one of its 'zones of influence': almost like a back garden. The traumatic and progressive democratisation process meant that broad swathes of the continent's youth developed an antimilitarist sentiment, which began to take on an organised and political dimension. As an adolescent at the beginning of the nineties in Barquisimeto, a town 5 hours away from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, my peers and I had to hide ourselves twice a year for fifteen days, to avoid compulsory military service. Otherwise they would seize us on the streets and, without wasting words, force us into a truck, with others just as terrified, and from there take us to the barracks. For many of us, these forced recruitment raids or 'press gangs' were the starting point for our rejection of authority and of the military uniform.

08 Nov 2010

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).

05 Nov 2009

On 6 October 2009 the Venezuelan parliament passed a new law on conscription and recruitment, which replaces the law from 1978, which was no longer in line with the Bolivarian Constitution. While Venezuela's oppositional media mostly reported on "obligatory military service" in Venezuela, the real differences between the law from 1978 and the new law are elsewhere.