The search for a missing toddler in southern Mexico led police to a home where 23 abducted children, including infants, were being held in deplorable conditions.
The children were rescued from a home in the tourist town of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, where they were forced to undergo physical and psychological abuse to sell handcrafted carvings and embroidered cloth in the street, Mexico state’s attorney general said in a statement Monday, July 20.
Authorities said the children were abducted from their families. Most of the victims were between 2 and 15 years of age. Police also rescued three infants aged between 3 and 20 months. Police didn’t reveal whether two-year-old Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez, who vanished from a marketplace in southern Mexico last month, was among those rescued.
A video presented to the prosecutors showed many of the children, malnourished, being forced to sleep on what appeared to be sheets of cardboard and blanket on a cement floor.
“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,” Fox 40 quoted state prosecutor Jorge Llaven as saying.
Police arrested three women and they may face child trafficking charges. All of the children were reportedly handed over to child welfare officials.
Pérez disappeared on June 30 and prosecutors concluded there were two minors involved in his kidnapping. A girl and a boy, both around 12 years, were seen in surveillance footage talking to a woman, the adult suspect in the disappearance of the toddler, near the place where the boy’s mother worked in the colonial city. Police had declared a $13,500 reward for whoever helps them locate the suspect or the toddler.
The southern Mexican state of Chiapas is known to be the most impoverished state in the country, where children hawking handicrafts in the street is a common sight.
Pérez’s mother, a fruit vendor, told local media that her son was not one among those children found in the house and urged the authorities to widen the search operations to find him.