Venezuelan National Assembly to Eliminate Penalties for Not Registering with the Military

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan National Assembly took up discussion of a reform to the Law on Conscription and Military Service that would eliminate penalties for people who do not register with the military.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

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National Assembly legislators and military officials meet (NA website)
National Assembly legislators and military officials meet (NA website)
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Mérida, October 12th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Tuesday, the Venezuelan National Assembly took up discussion of a reform to the Law on Conscription and Military Service that would eliminate penalties for people who do not register with the military.

A previous reform to the law in October 2009 set a deadline of October 21, 2010 after which citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 who had not registered with the military were to be fined and restricted from university enrollment as well as some government jobs and financial assistance. 

Juan José Mendoza, head of the Defense and Security Commission of the National Assembly and author of the law reform presented to the legislature on Tuesday, said the sanctions should be eliminated because Article 134 of the Constitution prohibits forced military recruitment.

“Military service is voluntary, and although registration [with the military] is obligatory, people’s constitutional right to education or work cannot be cut back just to subjugate them to military registration,” said Mendoza.

The October 2009 law reform “humanized military service by giving Venezuelan soldiers the possibility to study, obtain financial aid, and job training; but it made the error of creating a deadline for military registry and penalties which, by our criteria, should not have been established,” Mendoza argued.

Tuesday’s law reform includes changes to 21 articles and “totally eliminates the entire schema of sanctions that had been established,” Mendoza said.

It also eliminates penalties for those who fail to notify the military of a change in residence after registering with the service, and for employers who fail to require proof of military registration from employees who will use firearms while on the job.

Mendoza said the possibility of using Venezuela’s electoral registry to automatically update the military registry is being discussed in a series of meetings among officials from the National Assembly, the Defense Ministry, and the National Electoral Council.

Another change to the law lifts the requirement that military registrants possess a birth certificate, allowing them to identify themselves simply with a personal identification card. Also, citizens will eventually be able to register through the internet, said Mendoza.

“For military registration, the people will have the administrative and technological facilities that the state should offer as a public service, because the reform of this law requires it,” Mendoza explained.

In Chapter 10 of the Constitution, titled “Duties,” Article 134 states: Everyone, in accordance with the law, has the duty to perform such civilian or military service as may be necessary for the defense, preservation and development of the country, or to deal with situations involving a public calamity. No one shall be subjected to forcible recruitment.” The Constitution was written by an elected assembly and passed in a national referendum in 1999.