"Young Sentries Against Malnutrition” was created in the framework of the Civic Service Law, in force since 2011, which requires Guatemalans between the ages of 18 and 24 – both male and female – to serve their country for a total of 728 hours. They are able to opt for either military or social service, and are paid 1.10 dollars an hour.
According to the legislation, military service “trains Guatemalans for the armed defence of the homeland, within a doctrine that respects human rights and civic, political and moral values,” in addition to providing first aid and risk management training. Social service, meanwhile, promotes young people’s participation in areas like health, education, the environment and other social assistance-related sectors.
The new law, put into effect by the administration of former social democratic President Álvaro Colom (2008-2012), was welcomed by human rights activists because it regulates military service without making it compulsory – a practice that led to a series of abuses during the 1960-1996 civil war between leftist guerrillas and the armed forces, in which at least 200,000 people were killed or forcibly disappeared.I share many of the same concerns shared by Guatemalans in the article. It's important to promote service of a nation's young people, both military and social. Youth in both programs are learning essential skills (first aid, emergency response) and, obviously, some not so essential skills (familiarity with weapons and shooting practice). However, the programs are overseen by the Ministry of Defense, an institution with little history of transparency. And like other government programs, authorities somehow always find a way to use them to promote political and electoral advantages.
But, as Arturo Chub of Seguridad en Democracia (Security in Democracy) told IPS, young people no longer being forced into compulsory military service is a step in the right direction.
At the sametime, I wonder how effective these programs are - economic and opportunity costs, benefits to the individual, institution, and nation and whose idea was it to call them "sentries."