Venezuela: Reactions to the Law of Military Service

The government's decision to “reactivate” the Military Conscription and Enlistment Law has generated an attitude of resistance from civil society, stronger than usual for orders coming from President Hugo Chávez. But Chávez opponents are not the only ones rejecting the law; there is a shortage of the usual unconditional support among government supporters.

At the beginning of October, the government declared that those not enrolled in the military record before October 21, 2010 would face penalties, such as: (see original in Spanish)

Article 82 On the failure to register in the Military Record Venezuelans who do not register in the Military Record will be sanctioned with a fine equivalent to twelve tax units [unidad tributaria in Spanish] (12 U.T) [one tax unit equals 65 Bs.F (Bolivar Fuerte) or $15.14 US dollars; 12. U.T equals $181.68 US dollars]

Article 83 On the failure to notify Venezuelans of military age who fail to notify a change in residence or domicile, in civil status, or any other circumstance that could affect their eligibility to qualify for the purposes of military service, will be sanctioned with a fine equivalent to six tax units (6 U.T) [$90.84 USD]

Article 84 Failure to cooperate Civil and military authorities who breach the obligation in article 15 of this Law, will be sanctioned with a fine equivalent to twelve tax units (12 U.T) [$181.68 USD]

Article 85 On not requiring documents of military service for the use of weapons Representatives, officials of public or private agencies with the ability to hire staff, whose work includes the use of weapons and do not require the presentation of documentation that certifies military service, will be sanctioned with a fine equivalent to twenty tax units (20 U.T) [$302.8 USD]

Article 86 On not requiring documents certifying military service Representatives and officials able to hire personnel from Public Administration organs and agencies who do not require documentation that certifies registration [in the military record] or military service, will be sanctioned with a fine equivalent to twenty tax units (20 U.T) [$302.8 USD]

Article 87 Imposing of sanctions The sanctions provided for in this Law will be imposed by the Chief of the corresponding Military Circumscription.

On Twitter, with the hashtag #SoyCivil (I'm a Civilian), Venezuelan users repudiated the order during the first days following the announcement:

Willy McKey (@willymckey) writes about the military:

¿Y si obligan a los militares a hacer un servicio civil obligatorio? #SoyCivil

Why don't they force the military to do a compulsory military service? #SoyCivil

Iria Puyosa (@NSC) makes a reference to article 134:

Art 134 CRBV: ” Toda persona, d conformidad con la ley, tiene el deber de prestar los servicios civil o militar”. Yo elijo #SoyCIVIL

Art 134 CRBV: “Every person, according to the law, has the duty to perform military or civil service” I pick [civil] #SoyCIVIL

Mati Aristeguieta (@MatiAriste) says:

Leo “la ley es inconstitucional” ¿quién decide eso, nosotros o el TSJ [tribunal supremo de justicia] arrodillado ante el militar-militarista Chávez? #estamosjodidos

I read “the law is unconstitutional” who decides that, do we or does the Supreme Court who kneels in front of the militarist Chávez? #wearescrewed

The population's discomfort comes from the obligation “to be” registered and “to give” military service. Blogger @Kareta explains in her blog ExplíKame [es] that there are contradictions in the law:

La Ley contempla en el Art. 7 que ninguna persona puede someterse a “reclutamiento forzoso”, pero si la leemos con detenimiento, la misma se contradice. En el Art4 se habla de las ”obligaciones militares” que tenemos todos los venezolanos y el Art6 remata diciendo que los venezolanos en edad militar “tienen el deber” de prestar el servicio militar en la FANB [Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana].

The Law provides in Article 7 that no one can submit themselves to “forced recruitment,” but if we read carefully, it contradicts itself. In article 4 it talks about “military obligations” that all Venezuelans have and Article 6 says that Venezuelans in military age “have to duty” to perform military service in the FANB [National Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela].

Government sympathizers have also reacted to the Law on military service. Twitter user @GigiFrasca tells her friend Adolfo Alfonso (@CAMUFLAJEblog):

Que fastidio con ese Registro Militar, perdon pero me da fastidio!!

That Military Record is so annoying, I'm sorry but in annoys me!!

El Guardian Creativo (@Jo8a) tells the President (@chavezcandanga) via Twitter:



On October 7, through their Twitter account (@SecretariaAN), the National Assembly informed:

La fecha del 21 de octubre estipulada en la Ley como fecha tope para la inscripción en el registro Militar queda sin efecto. Favor retwitear

The date of October 21 stipulated in the law as the deadline for registration in the Military record is not in effect. Please re-tweet

It is not known exactly why the Government decided to extend the deadline of October 21, 2020 to “permanent,” with no expiration date, referring to the call to register before October 21. Likewise, on October 8 the President assured via [es] :

Los medios de comunicación privados han lanzado en los últimos días una campaña mediante la cual han generado ansiedad en la población diciendo que hasta el 21 de octubre hay plazo para inscribirse en el Registro Militar obligatorio.

The private media in recent days have launched a campaign through which they have generated anxiety in the people telling them that October 21 is the deadline to register in the obligatory Military Record.

On the other hand, organizations like PROVEA (Venezuelan Program for Education-Action in Human Rights [es]) demand that the National Assembly and the Supreme Court repeal the Law of Enlistment:

Por ello solicitamos a las autoridades garantizar nuestro derecho constitucional a la objeción de conciencia, así como el restablecimiento pleno de la no obligatoriedad del servicio militar, derogando esta y cualquier ley que pretenda desconocer los derechos humanos presentes en la Carta Magna. Cualquier normativa que desee interpretar los artículos 61 y 134 debe realizarse de manera democrática protagónica y participativa, después de una amplia consulta de carácter nacional que involucre a todos los sectores de la vida nacional.

We ask the authorities to ensure our constitutional right to conscientious objection, and the full restoration of non-compulsory military service, repealing this and any law that attempts to deny human rights present in the Magna Carta. Any law that seeks to interpret articles 61 and 134 must be made in a democratic participatory way, after an extensive national consultation that involves all sectors of national life.

The reform of the Military Conscription and Enlistment Law will be debated on Tuesday, October 12.

Thumbnail image from Flickr user Ariel López, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license


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