Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2017, 11:39 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Venezuela

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Venezuela, 2004, available at: [accessed 25 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 25.2 million (9.9 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 82,300
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 23 September 2003
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138

Venezuelans over 18 are liable for military service of up to 18 months. Under-18s in the last two years of school are required to undergo pre-military instruction. Children from 14 years old can attend military schools under the authority of the Defence Ministry where they can attend approved courses regarded as equivalent to military service. There were reports of Colombian armed political groups recruiting under-18s in border areas of neighbouring countries, including Venezuela.


There were increasing fears that the armed conflict in neighbouring Colombia was spreading through the region. Refugees fleeing the conflict and seeking asylum in Venezuela increased in number. Colombian armed political groups frequently crossed the border, engaging in armed hostilities with other armed groups, forcibly recruiting asylum seekers, and trafficking drugs and people.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution states that "Everyone, in accordance with the law, has the duty to provide the necessary civilian or military services for the defence, preservation and development of the country, or to deal with situations of public emergency. No one may be subjected to forced recruitment" (Article 134).2

The Military Conscription and Enlistment Act establishes that all Venezuelans between 18 and 50 are of "military age" and have military obligations (Article 4). No one under the age of 18 has military obligations or is required to register for military service.3 Compulsory military service is for a maximum of 18 months (Article 15). Women must register for service and may volunteer to serve in the armed forces during peacetime. In a state of emergency, women may be subject to conscription (Article 65).4

Military training and military schools

The Military Conscription and Enlistment Act requires all secondary school students to complete pre-military instruction during the last two years of schooling, when they are usually 15 to 17 years of age (Article 71). This is in addition to compulsory military service (Article 73). In state or private military secondary schools, students who complete military instruction courses approved by the Ministry of Defence are deemed to have completed military service (Article 63).5 Such military schools enrol children from 14 years of age and are under the authority of the Ministry of Defence.6

On 17 November 2000 human rights organizations in Venezuela applied to the courts for annulment of a decision by the Education Ministry to establish compulsory military instruction, on the grounds that it was in breach of the constitution. The case was still awaiting decision in early 2004.7

Armed political groups

UNHCR reported that armed political groups from Colombia were recruiting under-18s in border areas of Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela.8 In 2002 UNHCR in Venezuela warned of an increase in the recruitment of children by Colombian armed opposition groups, with dire consequences for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, in particular children.9

1 UNHCR, "Colombia: Aumenta temor por inseguridad en fronteras" in Actualidad en las Américas, No. 2, 1 October 2002,

2 Constitution, cited in Declaration made by Venezuela on ratification of the Optional Protocol,

3 Declaration by Venezuela, op. cit.

4 Ley de Conscripción y Alistamiento Militar, (Legislación).

5 Ley de Conscripción y Alistamiento Militar, op. cit.

6 Jauregui Military School, (Misión).

7 Communication from Programa Venezolano de Educación y Protección de los Derechos Humanos (PROVEA), Venezuela, 3 March 2004.

8 BBC Mundo, "Grupos armados 'reclutan niños'", 21 May 2002,

9 UNHCR News, "Colombia: preocupación de ACNUR por el reclutamiento de niños refugiados", 21 May 2002.

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