Police searching for a 2-year-old boy who went missing from a marketplace in southern Mexico led authorities to a house where 23 abducted children were being kept and forced to sell trinkets in the street.
The children were being kept in squalid conditions and physically and psychologically abused and manipulated to sell handcrafted carvings and embroidered cloth in the colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas, authorities said.
Most of the victims were between the ages of 2 and 15, but police said they discovered three babies between 3 and 20 months old during the raid of the house on Monday. Three women were arrested and may face child trafficking charges, Chiapas state prosecutors said.
Authorities believe the older victims were also used to lure or kidnap younger children to add to the group. All of the rescued children are now in the custody of child welfare officials.
“According to the children, many of them were forced to go out on the streets to sell things, and moreover they were forced to return with a certain minimum amount of money for the right to get food and a place to sleep at the house,” said state prosecutor Jorge Llaven.
According to video presented by the prosecutors, many of the children slept on what appeared to be sheets of cardboard and blankets on a cement floor and suffered from malnutrition.
Police were originally investigating the disappearance of Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez, who went missing from a public market in San Cristobal on June 30.
A surveillance camera from a nearby shop showed that a young girl who appeared to be about 13 grabbed the little boy by the hand and led him away.
Despite the grisly discovery in the house, prosecutors did not confirm that Pérez was one of the victims that were rescued from forced labor and his mother is pleading with authorities to widen the investigation to find him.
“None of the children (rescued) is my son,” Pérez’s mother said in an interview with local news reporters outside of the National Palace in Mexico City, where she traveled to petition President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to help find her son. “I haven’t heard anything about my son,” she said tearfully.
Mexican police arrested three women in connection with the rescue, who are facing charges of human trafficking and forced labor.
Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico and is located on the border with Guatemala.
One can have one foot in Chiapas and the other in GuatemalaChivis Note: San Cristóbal de las Casas also known by its native Tzotzil name, “Jovel”, is a town that is one of the “Pueblo Mágicos”. It is in the highlands of Chiapas, with an indigenous population. I became familiar with SCC when working with the Zapatistas in 5 caracoles spread out in the area. It is not easy getting to SCC flying in to Tuxla Gutiérrez, then driving, but it truly is magical, that term is used frequently, but in this case, it is by far the most magical of all the “Pueblo Mágicos” of Mexico. Getting to caracoles is arduous. Horseback, ATV for hours or fly in an ‘aircraft’ and landing on a treacherous makeshift landing strip directly adjacent to the forest, and the wild.
As for this story, it involves elements that make it prime for unabated exploitation, indigenous populations are largely ignored in places like Chiapas, racial discrimination, isolation, and complete indigenous distrust of the ‘Bad Government’.It is a perfect environment for those who wish to conduct abuse, and criminality such as this. An involuntary servitude of children, starting with their kidnapping.
Sexual exploitation, and human trafficking and forced labor. Without pay while living in appalling conditions of abuse. I tried for years to ‘get in’ to the Zapatista world just to help in some way, a tribute to my half Maya grandmother. I finally was able to by partner with Schools for Chiapas. A terrific group originating out of San Diego. With SFC along with my grandmother being “part Maya” I was able to conduct amazing work. I have letters from the leaders making note of my grandmother. If you want to learn more about SCF or perhaps donate use this link.