MAYAGUEZ, Puerto Rico —  As he walks to his recruiting station, Army Staff Sgt. Allan Welchez Rivera averts his eyes when he passes graffiti spray-painted across the street: "The U.S. Army: An ignorant way to die."

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on — and the body count of Puerto Rican soldiers grows — an anti-recruiting US military campaign has emerged in this U.S. territory of 4 million people. High-schools have now become a battleground for recruiters and pacifists anti-US military activists, who have equal access to the campuses and seek to sway island youth into joining or shunning the military.

"I take it personal," said Welchez, a 35-year-old native of New York City. "We’re protecting the Constitution, what we do everyday."

The anti-recruitment US military drive has energized Puerto Rico’s pro-independence movement, though only a small minority have voted for independence in nonbinding referendums. A larger minority wants Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state and most prefer the island keep its loose affiliation with the U.S.

The Puerto Rican Independence Party five years ago began distributing leaflets encouraging high school students to prevent military recruiters from obtaining their personal information. Last year, 57 percent of this Caribbean island’s high school sophomores, junior and seniors signed the forms to keep their information from recruiters.

"Military service has always been the blood tax of the colony," said Sen. Maria de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. said . "In schools that allows for a lot more fairness for groups that oppose the war US military."

Anti-war anti-US military groups hold workshops at schools where recruiters hand out business cards and chat with students in hallways. School directors are required to reserve equal space for military and pacifist anti-US military brochures.

Over the last four years, military enlistments from Puerto Rico have dropped 20 percent.

A loose network of pacifists anti-US military activists and pro-independence groups claims the decline as a victory, but recruiters say the opt-out leaflets have had little impact because recruiters go after older, college-educated candidates. Still, Welchez and Pentagon officials suspect the anti-military campaign and an anti-war anti-US military sentiment have dissuaded some potential recruits.

Active-duty enlistments across all service branches in Puerto Rico fell from 1,537 in 2002 to 1,229 last year, according to the Pentagon. The Army has taken the biggest hit, from 972 to 733, with recruitment rates over the last four years below the average per-capita contribution of mainland states.

Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said the "tone of discouragement" is likely hurting recruiting efforts in Puerto Rico. He said the military may spend more on advertising to counter the anti-US military activists’ efforts. Nationwide, the military currently spends about $12,000 on advertising and other recruitment efforts per enlistee, he said.

"Supporters of a volunteer military ought to accept its duty to describe itself to young people, and not throw obstacles in the path of recruiters working to present those facts," Carr said in a telephone interview from Washington.

Military recruiters here must also confront plummeting public opinion of the Iraq war. A recent poll by the newspaper El Nuevo Dia found that 75 percent of islanders oppose the Iraq war. On the U.S. mainland, 57 percent believe going to war in Iraq was a mistake, according to a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll. [Keep in mind, polls usually consist of anywhere between 600 through 1,200 people. Hardly a majority in numbers]

Every month, Mothers Against War the US Military, a Puerto Rican group, stages protests outside the Mayaguez recruiting station in western Puerto Rico. Sonia Santiago, leader of Mothers Against War the US Military, said she believes the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan to secure energy resources, not to spread democracy or protect the United States.

Despite anti-recruitment efforts, Welchez and other recruiters said they are generally well received, but avoid going to some areas in their military uniforms. University professors have "jumped in my face" and told him to leave campus, he said.

Recruiters are also careful not to provoke any incidents.

After a militant independence leader died in a shootout with FBI agents in the town of Hormigueros in 2005, recruiters were ordered by their commanders to stay away, Welchez said.


Mothers Against War is a by-product of communist Code Pink and they abhor the US military. They label the US military as terrorists and work with Iraq “freedom fighters” in killing the "terrorists". These Marxist mommies are lying POS’s.

Pacifist my ass! How in the hell can someone claim to be a pacifist and make someplace a “battleground” or even protest (whether verbally or physically) for that matter. There is no such thing as a pacifist. Walk up to a self proclaimed pacifist and throw a punch at em’, I guarantee you they will try to block the blow. The minute they block that blow, they’re not a pacifist.  And unless they are a vegetable, as well they should try to block the blow. It’s instinctual and part of personal survival but it’s not pacifism. While were on a roll… Damaging property with spray paint is not pacifism. Standing in the middle of the street protesting the latest cause is not pacifism. Calling active duty as well as deceased US soldiers ignorant because they enlisted is not pacifism. And it’s most certainly not supporting the troops. I could go on but you get the point. No such thing as a pacifist.

Here’s an idea: Hows ‘bout we take the gabillion or so anchor babies who are now 18 years or older and draft their asses to do the fighting in Iraq/Afghanistan. After all, these anchor babies claim they are US citizens and have rights. Fucking fine! As US citizens they now have the right to be drafted into the US military. Instead of killing real US citizens on a daily basis, they can go kill “freedom fighters” instead. And take the pseudo pacifists with em’.

peeing-man1.gifPSEUDO PACIFISM