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 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
updated 4:06 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
updated 8:24 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
It's a very big challenge but NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan thinks it can be done.
updated 7:39 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert explains how the most recent ISIS video differs from the other previous hostage execution videos.
updated 12:38 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
A Syrian cleric condemns ISIS and its execution of U.S. hostage Peter Kassig.
updated 12:20 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Volunteer fighters in eastern Ukraine dig down just 800 meters from the front line.
updated 12:29 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
TV anchor wears the same suit for a year. Female colleague wears new outfit daily. Who gets criticized?
updated 7:04 AM EST, Fri November 21, 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