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Recruitment and Training

Historically, the ranks of the Honduran army have been filled not though regular recruitment procedures, but through force and intimidation. According to Article 276 of the 1982 constitution, all able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and thirty are liable for up to eighteen months of compulsory service. In reality, however, exemptions are common for members of the upper and middle classes, and young men from the lower classes, usually between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, are pressed into service against their will.

The absence of a respected and institutionalized draft, coupled with low salaries for enlisted personnel, provides little incentive to enlist in the armed forces. The problem is compounded by the unfavorable view that urban youths have of enlisted armed forces personnel, who are mostly illiterate, poor, and rural. Recruitment in urban areas is accomplished through the recogida (harvest), which consists of military sweeps through the major cities. Army patrols pick up young men at the plazas and entertainment centers, such as movie theaters, ask for their military identification cards, and abduct anyone without one. Military personnel are often posted at bus stops and seize youths who are classified as "vagrants." Sometimes it is possible for the youth to prove student status or have his family pay for his release. Those who cannot do either are taken directly to training barracks. Forced conscription became increasingly common after 1980 because of the escalation of conflict within the region and the growth in the size of the ground forces.

Peasants appear to have a somewhat more favorable view of life in the armed forces because it often represents their first opportunity to receive the benefits of modern society. In addition to receiving new clothes, a balanced diet, and medical treatment, they have the opportunity to learn to read. The Francisco Morazán Military Academy teaches aspiring officers how to instruct their troops in a variety of subjects, including hygiene and occupational trade skills, that sometimes prove useful later in civilian life.

Despite the benefits enjoyed by recruits, military service among the enlisted ranks is widely perceived as a burden of the rural poor. The life of an enlisted soldier is harsh and sometimes brutal. The practice of forced conscription is hated and feared by most Hondurans, and it has contributed to the growth of antimilitary sentiment in the country. Such sentiment became a political factor in the 1990s. During the 1993 presidential campaign, Carlos Roberto Reina Idiáquez, one of the leading candidates, made conscription a campaign issue. He promised to replace forced recruitment with an all-volunteer system. He also promised to improve conditions in the military for the average recruit. The military leadership, headed by General Luis Alonso Discua Elvir, the chief of the armed forces, opposed his plan, claiming that the country could not afford an all-volunteer system and that it would result in the crippling of the armed forces.

The process of recruitment and training of officers has been a different matter. Before the 1950s, it was difficult to attract high-caliber personnel into the academies, and the desertion rate among cadets was high. As the salaries and status of military officers improved during the 1960s, however, the academies began to attract cadets much more motivated to succeed as military officers and more willing to pursue careers in the armed forces.

The Francisco Morazán Military Academy was established in 1952. Partly to raise academic standards within the armed forces and, thus, attract cadets of higher caliber, a program of civil education was incorporated into the curriculum to supplement the military-related courses. These changes allowed cadets to earn a bachelor's degree in arts and sciences, which appealed to those from the urban, lower middle class.

A prospective cadet, who has to be at least eighteen years of age, qualifies for admission by taking a competitive entrance examination that tests knowledge of primary-school subjects. For many cadets, the academy's three-year program of studies is capped by an additional one-year stint at the United States Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, where a cadet receives advanced training in infantry tactics, weapons skills, and the martial arts.

In 1981 the Armed Forces Command and General Staff School was established in Tegucigalpa. The design of its curriculum was influenced by two visiting Argentine military officers, who were sponsored by the Argentine General Staff College. The school is attached to the Francisco Morazán Military Academy.

Fusep has its own training school in Tegucigalpa, where both recruits and officers receive training in police communications, criminal investigation, crowd control, interrogation, drug interdiction, civil procedure, and the criminal code. Some Fusep officers also receive training at the International Police Academy in Washington. Beginning in 1986, Fusep officers began receiving tactical training from the regular army as part of a stepped-up effort to combat rising crime rates in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.

Data as of December 1993

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