Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Chile's Military, Police Personnel Rapidly Diminishing

The number of applicants to become non-commissioned officers in Chile's national police force plummeted 86% from last year, while police officer applications declined almost as much. Only 380 Chileans have applied this year, far fewer than the 2,137 average applicants over the past decade. Carabineros blame the decline on Covid-19 quarantines, but they also acknowledge that political turmoil has hurt the institution's image. Distrust in government runs high, and that includes the police. There's also a sense of frustration among many Chileans that the justice system doesn't punish crime effectively, which is fueling recidivism. The armed forces have a similar problem. In 2020, fewer than 4,000 volunteered for military service, less than half the number from 2019. The number has been trending down for years. Army brass have cited demographics as one reason (there are fewer draft-age men and women). But they also admit the military and police have an image problem. In 2019, a survey found that 69% of Chileans believe Carabineros and the military are responsible for abuses. The political upheaval that began with mass riots in October 2019 only contributed to that image, even if the military reluctantly took to the streets. Under Chilean law, the armed forces can draft the numbers they need to fill their ranks each year. But it's not difficult to get a deferment. Military leaders would rather work with volunteers, anyway.