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Chile: Student movement blamed for fall in numbers of volunteers for the military

Chile reformed its military service seven years ago, to focus recruitment for military service on volunteers. Ever since, Chile's armed forces were able to fill their ranks entirely with volunteers, although generally a process of conscription was started in October to select potential conscripts as a backup. In October 2008, 70,461 youth were chosen in the "sorteo general" (recruitment lottery) and had to report to the recruitment authorities, but in the end nobody was called up for military service against his will. This was repeated in the following years.

However, in October 2011, the military announced that only 14,127 persons had so far volunteered for military service, compared to 20,431 the year before. The military plans to recruit 11,340 soldiers by spring 2012, and according to the recruitment department they would need 2.5 times the number of volunteers.

While the recruitment lottery is not unusual - it happened every year since the reform of military service, even if there were sufficient volunteers in the end - the situation is different this year. The number of volunteers dropped by about 30% compared to last year, so that it is highly likely that this time some people will be called up for military service against their will. Last year 38,937 young men were initially selected through the recruitment lottery, but in the end the armed forces could attract sufficient numbers of volunteers. This year, with the drop in volunteers, 56,793 young men have initially been selected in the recruitment lottery.

Blame has fallen upon the student protest movement for the lack of volunteers. El Mercurio reported that with the shutdown of many high school and college campuses, military recruiters have not been able to attract volunteers.

Gen. Gunther Siebert, head of the Directorate of National Mobilization (DGMN), told El Mercurio, “Volunteers this year have dropped substantially, there is no clear interest in military service, especially due to the national situation with education.

Sources: Ley 20045, Moderniza el servicio militar obligatorio, 10 September 2005; The Guardian: Chilean military in mass call-up, 18 October 2011; Santiago Times: Facing low recruitment Chile’s military drafts thousands, 17 October 2011