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 10:39 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Tethered to an IV drip, 71-year-old Shin Young Ja lies under a thin fleece blanket, nursing a broken back and wracked with survivor's guilt.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Family members of the missing passengers are pinning slim hopes on floundering air pockets.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
The Hadza are one of the last communities of hunter-gatherers in the world -- but losing their land.
updated 9:22 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
In choosing to change a traditional practice, Francis is being as radical as Jesus was in his own time.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Too weak. Can't handle pressure. Unattractive to sponsors. Susie Wolff has heard it all.
updated 10:49 PM EDT, Sat April 19, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
It's like finding a needle in a universe-wide haystack. Researchers have located a planet roughly the size of Earth that could be habitable.
updated 5:40 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Dubai, long champion of all things biggest, longest and most expensive, will soon have some competition from a neighboring country.
ADVERTISEMENT