Mexican authorities say that 458 children rescued from a slave-like orphanage in the centrally located city of Zamora are now safe, according to a report from news agency Reuters.
Conditions in the Mexican home were truly shocking. The children now rescued were allegedly fed a diet of rotten food and many report that they suffered sexual abuse, although it is not clear if sex slavery was a part of the business. Disease ran rampant through the facility, with inhabitants sharing a floor to sleep on with rats, ticks, fleas and a host of other putrid garbage and insects, reported Reuters. At a news conference following the investigation, the local state’s governor Salvador Jara said:
I’m in utter dismay because we weren’t expecting the conditions we found at the group home.
Among the 458 children rescued were 278 boys, 174 girls and six infants. Included in the total count were 138 adults as old as 40, reported news channel Al Jazeera. The locale was called “La Gran Familia”, or “The Big Family” in English, and from its Facebook page claimed to house Mexican children abandoned by their own parents.
The proposed mission of the hellish compound where the 458 children were rescued from was also a lie. Nearly 50 complaints in total were brought against the owners, but the most persistent calls for action were from parents who had attempted to recover their children from the operation. Parents offered to pay as much as $770 for the return of their children, but were repeatedly met with refusals to allow the children to come home. Babies born to other Mexican children living in the residence were registered in Verduzco’s name and immediately became her property, Al Jazeera reports.
The New York Daily News published accounts from one mother Veronica Gamina, 28, who was forced to take her son to the center because of extreme poverty when the boy was 9 years old. The Mexican house of horrors refused to release Gamina’s son to him throughout the next four years, demanding $2,800 for the boy. The paper also reported that an unnamed women had given birth to two children who she was not allowed to take with her when she was able to leave.
Rosa Verduzco, the leader of the home, is the only name that has thus far been released to the public in connection with the scandal. Verduzo is being questioned by police, but no details have emerged of what charges she will face or what possible defense her lawyers may arm in the face of 458 rescued children as witnesses. She has been dubbed a “Mexican grandma” by both foreign and domestic press. Eight other works have also been detained by Mexican police.
Such homes where children are exploited to perform as beggars in the street are common in many third-world countries across the world. In 2007, the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire depicted one such institution in India — where children are routinely sold into prostitution and other forms of slavery. The 458 children rescued cast a hopeful light on global efforts to eradicate child slavery.
[Image via Fox News Latino and “La Gran Familia” Facebook]