The focus of this year's International Conscientious Objectors' Day is a country - Chile - but also Latin America in general.

As Javier Garate and P Carvallo point out in their leading article, militarism is deeply rooted in Chilean society. Even after the return to civilian rule, the military plays an important role in Chilean society. No surprise then, that the right to conscientious objection is still far off in Chile. Although presently no conscientious objectors are imprisoned, those who declare themselves COs refuse to register for the draft, and therefore break the law - they are at the mercy of the authorities, who could easily decide to punish them.

Chile is only one country.

Although the situation is different in the different countries of Latin America, conscientious objection is recognised in only a few (see page 2). In some countries - for example Colombia, where a war rages - conscientious objection can take a variety of forms, to refuse to be part of the war on either side.

All this is more than enough reason to focus on conscientious objection in Chile and Latin America. As their fellow COs in Israel, South Korea, or on the Balkans, the CO movements in Latin America need our support, to achieve the right to conscientious objection, and to work for the demilitarisation of Latin American societies.

Andreas Speck
WRI CO Campaigning Worker


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