Skip to main content

Is fine to avoid military service fair? Debate surges in Peru

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Authorities say Peru will likely hold a selective draft this May
  • Those who don't want to serve can pay a $715 fine
  • Critics say the measure allows the wealthy to avoid military service
  • Military leaders say the new measure is not discriminatory

(CNN) -- Is paying a fine to get out of military service fair?

The question is at the center of a debate surging in Peru this month as the South American country's government reveals new rules for a possible draft.

Authorities say if the government can't fill thousands of vacancies with volunteers, it will start a draft this May. Men and women 18 and over are eligible. But those called up who do not want to serve can pay a fine of 1,850 soles ($715).

Critics say the measure will allow the wealthy to avoid military service and leave the poor with no other choice than to join.

Military leaders say the new measure isn't discriminatory and that the draft is a necessary step to shore up dwindling ranks.

The option of paying a fine to avoid service has drawn sharp criticism from Peru's government ombudsman. And opposition lawmakers have said they will summon Peru's defense minister to testify over the matter.

An editorial in the El Comercio newspaper this week described the new policy as "discrimination against those who have the least."

"This is a hurdle designed so that only the people who have economic resources can jump over it," the editorial said.

Nearly a third of Peru's population lives below the poverty line, according to government statistics. A minimum wage salary is 750 soles ($290) per month.

The debate over who serves in the military, and why they join the ranks, resonates far beyond Peru's borders.

In Israel, thousands of demonstrators last year demanded an end to rules that make ultra-Orthodox Jews exempt from that country's military draft.

For more than a decade U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel has been pushing a controversial proposal to reinstate a draft in the United States.

"Currently the burden of defending our nation is carried by less than 1% of the American population," the New York Democrat wrote in an opinion column published on CNN.com in January. "The 2.2 million members of the armed forces in active duty, the National Guard and the Reserve have become a virtual military class that makes the ultimate sacrifice of laying down life and limb for our country."

Bringing back the draft, he argued, "would compel the American public to have a stake in the wars we fight as a nation."

Many countries around the world require military service. Colombia, which borders Peru, also fines those who refuse to serve after they're called up.

In Peru, officials say sheer numbers have forced them to consider a draft, more than a decade after the country passed a law eliminating obligatory military service.

Jose Cueto, chief of the joint command of Peru's armed forces, told the state-run Andina news agency that there has been a "drastic decrease" in the number of people who join the military since the country switched to a volunteer force.

Journalist Maria Elena Belaunde contributed to this report from Lima, Peru.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:45 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
updated 7:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 6:44 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
updated 5:26 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
updated 5:54 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT