Chile is giving nearly 57.000 18-year-olds one month to report for potential military duty, saying the government needs to fill gaps in its armed forces because a nationwide student protest movement has reduced the number of volunteers it usually gets.
Military Service is compulsory in Chile, but there are usually enough volunteers to fill the ranks so that no one has to serve against their will.
So far this year, only 14,127 men and women born in 1993 have signed up, and Armed Forces deputy secretary Alfonso Vargas said they need a bigger pool to choose from to fill the 11.340 spots.
That's why 56.793 more teenagers will need to report in a month for potential duty in 2012, he explained on the draft office's website. Vargas blamed the student movement that has been campaigning since April for education reform for boycotting schools, and thus closing doors to military recruiters.
Brigadier Gen. Gunther Siebert, who directs Chile's military draft, also blamed the student movement in an interview published Monday in the El Mercurio newspaper, and said that 2.5 candidates are needed for every spot because many can't serve for physical or other reasons.
But Chile's military also had a shortage last year, before the movement began, and at that time they called up fewer than 39,000 for the draft.
Unlike in some other countries, attending a university does not enable Chilean 18-year-olds to avoid the draft. The only exceptions are physical limitations, providing the primary income for a family, being married or expecting a child; being convicted of an immoral crime, or being the child of someone imprisoned or tortured by Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship.