Fourteen-year-old Cristian competes with stray dogs, scavenging birds and hundreds of other trash-pickers for food at a Honduran dump, but when the army offers him a square meal, he warily declines.
Colonel Elvin Corea, whose uniform stands out against the rotting piles of garbage at the Tegucigalpa dump, says the teenager is probably scared of being targeted by one of Honduras's notoriously violent gangs if he takes part in "Guardians of the Nation," a controversial army program to steer at-risk youth away from drugs and crime.
"Signing them up is getting difficult. The youngsters don't want to participate because the gangsters threaten them," said Corea, who heads the program in the capital.
"The gangs feel threatened because the program cuts into their recruitment."
When the program first launched at the dump, where the gangs have a tight grip, police had to provide protection for families that enrolled their children, Corea said.
The gangs are not the only ones who dislike the program. Rights groups say the army should not be trying to fill social policy gaps left by the government.Nothing about the conditions under which these young people work at the dumps or the military program that seeks to help them escape seems optimal. I get that. However, we are often looking for less than ideal solutions/programs and this one might help.
Unfortunately, there's not really a great deal of information in the article about the "Guardians" program to weigh in on its effectiveness.