Human rights advocates have been criticizing Mauricio Funes' plans to require at-risk youth to receive military training and discipline. IPS has a story about the program and its critics:
Under the proposed scheme, some 5,000 at-risk youngsters between the ages of 16 and 18 would receive six months training from army officers in military discipline and physical fitnes but without weapons. They would be trained to work in civil protection and risk prevention efforts during emergencies.
They would then receive six months of courses in mountain climbing and other sports, first aid and vocational and skills training. The entire process would take a year, and during that time they would receive 250 dollars a month and would stay in "citizen training centres" specifically set up for the purpose and run by the army. The focus is on social integration and harnessing the productive potential of the youths, while putting them out of the reach of criminal groups.
But the plan has drawn criticism.
The government "has no idea of what it's about to do, and the big problem is that it will increase the risks faced by these young people, because they will emerge from the program as skilled labour power for gangs and drug traffickers," Benjamín Cuéllar, director of the Human Rights Institute at the Jose Simeón Cañas University (IDHUCA) of El Salvador, said vehemently.
Cuéllar told IPS a better idea would be to open sports facilities and skills training centres for young people, while guaranteeing them work, because after a year with the army they will return to the same poverty and crime-stricken surroundings, and the same pressure from gangs.
Creating options for at risk youth makes sense. Military style training might be good for certain youth. It might make sense as an alternative to incarceration for youth who are arrested. But involuntary service, for youth who someone deems "at-risk" without having committed a crime, impermissibly violates the human rights that must be respected, even for those "at-risk."