EL SALVADOR: Plans to increase the number of military personnel in the Armed Forces raises questions about compulsory military service

Salvadorian Armed Helicopter Unit Serving with MINUSMA
Natalia García Cortés


At the beginning of 2021, the Salvadorian government, while discussing possible reforms to the Constitution, raised the possibility of establishing compulsory military service. Currently, the Salvadorian Constitution in its 215 article states that military service is mandatory for all men between 18 and 30 years old. However, after the war ended, in practice the military service is voluntary.

The Ombudsman for the Defence of Human Rights of El Salvador Apolonio Tobar urged the government not to include the compulsory military service issue in the discussion as it goes against the principle of progressiveness and Human Rights.

More recently, the Ministry of Justice and Security announced that it’s planning to increase, within five years, from 20,000 to 40,000 the number of members of the Armed Forces. These plans for the future raised again the question around the compulsory military which for now will continue to be voluntary. However, the Minister of Justice and Security Gustavo Villatoro affirmed that “the military service is an opportunity for young men to contribute and defend their country”.  

Source: Agencia EFE; Ombudsman salvadoreño pide a vicepresidente excluir tema de servicio militar; August 8, 2021. La Prensa Gráfica, ¿El servicio militar será obligatorio en El Salvador? Esto respondió el ministro de Seguridad; August 8, 2021.

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