Salvadoran Assembly Increases Military Service to 18 Months

Salvadoran Assembly Increases Military Service to 18 Months

By Dialogo
April 12, 2011

The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly has approved an increase in the period of military service to eighteen months, according to an official announcement. Prior to the legislative decree of extension, military service lasted twelve months.

According to the information published in the Salvadoran newspaper El Diario de Hoy, the revision to Article 5 of the Military Service and Armed Forces Reserve Act also includes authorization for President Mauricio Funes to extend that service to twenty-four months, with the obligation to explain his reasons for doing so to the Congress.

“Military service will be performed for a period of eighteen months. Nevertheless, for reasons of an administrative nature, with regard to a class of those called to the service of the President of the Republic, he may provide for the extension of that period up to a maximum of twenty-four months. In this case, he must inform the Legislative Assembly of the reasons justifying this measure within fifteen days,” according to the revision approved by the Salvadoran congressional deputies at their last plenary session in March.

Although the opposition party Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) was hesitant to approve the extension at first, ARENA deputy César Reyes Dheming said that the Assembly’s defense commission did enough work to ensure that the legislative text would be as clear as possible.

“It’s necessary to be able to extend the term of service in the Armed Forces so that they have room to complete their training and specialization,” the ARENA legislator said.

Concretely, the reform extending the period of military service was put forward approximately a month ago by the FMLN, which was an opponent of the Armed Forces prior to the January 1992 peace agreements.

Even though the decree justifies the extension as not solely in order to have troops available for a greater length of time for security tasks, the Army has carried out that function, by presidential order, since 6 November 2009, due to the high crime rates that have affected El Salvador for a number of months.

In May 2010, Funes extended for a year the Army’s presence in the streets to combat crime, added three thousand soldiers to military forces in twenty-nine areas, and expanded the troops’ activities to “blind spots” or unmonitored border locations, in addition to sending military personnel to some of the country’s prisons. The Salvadoran Armed Forces have over fifteen thousand members, including officers and enlisted personnel.

Responsibility for public safety was withdrawn from the military by the peace agreements, but under exceptional circumstances, the president may require them to provide support for this purpose to the National Civil Police (PNC), an institution that is independent from the Army and was created, together with other bodies, following the end of twelve years of hostilities, from 1980 to 1992.

For his part, Minister of National Defense Gen. David Munguía Payés said several weeks ago that with the possible extension of military service, the possibility of teaching soldiers some trades could also be evaluated, so that upon leaving the military, they would also be prepared to earn a living and contribute to the economy of their municipalities and of the country.