Sociologist Tahira Vargas Garcia disputes statements by Cardinal Nicolas Lopez Rodriguez and others who favor the modification of the Children’s Code in order to increase penalties for children who commit crimes. The pressure to modify the code has increased following gruesome revelations about five minors who have been accused of murdering seven taxi drivers. Vargas said that increasing penalties against minors has not worked in Guatemala and El Salvador, where violence and crime has increased. “Punishment and jail do not change conduct. It generates more violence, more children in crime networks and does not get to the real reasons that cause delinquency. She attributes the causes of the increase in child criminals to the conditions of vulnerability and lack of protection. “A population of children and teenagers that has to hit the streets to make a living (selling eggs and sweets, cleaning shoes) from the age of 6 or 7 is easy prey to criminal elements seeking an easy buck.
She criticized the deficiencies in the quality and coverage of the school system, and the fact that children are witnesses to horrendous crimes committed by the police in their own neighborhoods. “Children learn from these actions…” she writes.
“Juvenile delinquency has not happened overnight,” she writes. “It is the product of governments that do not invest in quality education systems, and of inefficient policies for eliminating poverty. It is also the result of a lack of systems for protecting children and teenagers, and a failure to provide them with recreation and arts (music, painting, dance schools) or sports that may reach the barrios and communities.