Colombia’s army has acknowledged that forcing youths into trucks on the pretext of checking their military status is against the law, newspaper El Espectador reported on Thursday.
In late August, after allegations made in the media about arbitrary raids for recruitment purposes by the Army, better known as “batidas”, the then Head of Army Recruiting General Felix Ivan Muñoz was relieved of his duties. Colonel Mauricio Martinez was confirmed as the replacement and now has the role of promoting “the improvement of processes for defining the military situation of Colombian men.”
This is a recurring issue. The Colombian military has in the past been accused of forced and irregular recruitment of young people and citizens exempt from military service.
These “illegal raids” are carried out in cities where army trucks illegally and forcibly pick up young men on the pretext of checking their military status.
Several courts have said that the army has arbitrarily detained youths to lead them to military districts. The Constitutional Court banned the “illegal raids” in 2011 but the recruitment authorities have interpreted this law to their own liking despite concerns raised by social organizations and political entities such as the Office of the Ombudsman.
Martinez admits that the Army cannot do this. A check should be done online or by phone.
The army admits that the “illegal raids” are carried out in order to meet recruitment needs. The army’s goal is to recruit 80,510 men. Currently 28,000 troops are still needed. Colonel Mauricio Martinez explains that this has “increased because new units were created,”
Military service is mandatory for Colombian men over the age of 18. There are, however, exceptions. A man can be considered exempt if he is a victim of the conflict, student, disabled, parent or head of household.
If a young man can afford to study he will therefore ensure exemption from the army. This is explains why the poorest sectors in the country who do not have access to higher education are more likely to join the ranks. This is also why the poorest neighborhoods are the locations of the “raids.”
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