Personnel and Training - Conscription
According to Article 143 of the 1988 constitution, military service
is obligatory for men, but conscientious objection is allowed. Women
and clergymen are exempt from compulsory military service. At age
seventeen, men are required to register for the draft and are expected
to serve when they reach age eighteen. About 75 percent of those
registering receive deferments. Generally, those from the upper
class and upper middle class find ways to defer, and as a result
the ranks are made up primarily of lower-class and lower-middle-class
recruits. A growing number of recruits are volunteers, accounting
for about one-third of the total. Those who serve generally spend
one year of regular enlistment at an army garrison near their home.
Some are allowed six-month service terms but are expected to complete
high school at the same time. These are called "Tiros de Guerra,"
or "shooting schools," which are for high school boys
in medium-sized interior towns, run by army sergeants. The army
is the only service with a large number of conscripts; the navy
and air force have very few.
The conscript system is primarily a means of providing basic military
training to a sizable group of young men who then return to civilian
life and are retained on the reserve rolls until age forty-five.
The army recognizes that it provides a public service by teaching
large numbers of conscripts basic skills that can be valuable to
the overall economy
when the young men return to civilian life.
Data as of April 1997