ASUNCION – The Paraguayan government announced on Monday that this year it will propose a reform to the 1975 law establishing compulsory military service for all males that will include repealing the tax levied on conscientious objectors who decline to serve in the armed forces.
The announcement was made Defense Minister Gen. Bernardino Soto, after a meeting with National Ombud Miguel Angel Godoy and members of Congress’ Standing Committee.
“Although it’s true that the military taxes were used for a time to improve the infrastructure situation in the barracks, for some time they have not been generating additional resources due to the impossibility of forcing them to be paid,” the minister said.
Enacted in 1975 during the 1954-1989 dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the law requires all males between the ages of 17 and 20 to do military service for a period usually ranging from 30 to 90 days.
In 2010, Paraguay adopted legislation establishing the right of conscientious objectors to refuse military service on religious or ethical grounds.
“There is no way to coerce a young person to do military service or to pay the military tax. A law that does not have a specific punishment is a dead letter,” Soto said.
The defense minister also denied that “roundups” of young people to sign up for military service were being conducted and accused people on social media of creating a “situation of psychosis” in recent weeks.
According to the information provided by the minister, the budget for compulsory military service only allows 4,067 young people to participate in the training next year.
Meanwhile, Godoy acknowledged that the National Conscientious Objection Council is working to prepare over the next six months the appropriate public agreements allowing objectors to perform community service in lieu of military training.
Late last month, hundreds of youths stood in line for hours outside a government office in Asuncion to apply for recognition as conscientious objectors amid a mobilization against conscription.
The heightened interest came after statements by conservative President Mario Abdo Benitez praising mandatory military service.
“I have signed the authorization for my son Santiago to do Mandatory Military Service. I’m proud that he can serve his country with patriotism. I’m convinced it will be an experience that will serve him for the rest of his life,” the president wrote on Twitter.