Mexican police find hundreds, mainly children, living in squalor

AFP
Mexican federal police stand guard in Michoacan State, Mexico, on January 14, 2014, where authorities have found nearly 600 people, most of them children, living in squalid conditions amid rats and insects in a residential facility
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Mexican federal police stand guard in Michoacan State, Mexico, on January 14, 2014, where authorities have found nearly 600 people, most of them children, living in squalid conditions amid rats and insects in a residential facility (AFP Photo/Hector Guerrero)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican authorities Tuesday found nearly 600 people, most of them children, living in squalid conditions amid rats and insects in a residential facility.

Police raided the home, known as "La Gran Familia", which has operated for more than 40 years in the town of Zamora in western Michoacan state, amid reports that five kidnapped children were being held there, prosecutors said.

They found those five children and much more: a total of 450 minors and 138 adults, living against their will, said Tomas Zeron, an investigator with the attorney general's office.

He did not detail how these people were held their against their will or for what purpose.

The adults ranged in age from 18 to 40, while the children included six babies or toddlers.

Early reports are that the director and founder of the facility, identified as Carmen Verduzco, forced children to beg for money and sleep on the floor with rats and insects, and endure sexual abuse. They were fed sub-standard food, Zeron said.

Children born in the facility were registered as offspring of Verduzco, and their parents were denied the right to raise them, officials said.

One victim said that when she turned 18 she asked Verduzco for permission to leave but the answer was no and she stayed another 13 years, Zeron said.

That woman had two daughters at the residence and they were not registered as hers, he said.

Verduzco and eight people who worked for her were arrested, said Rodrigo Archundia, a prosecutor specializing in organized crime.

Michoacan governor Salvador Jara said the report on the five kidnapped children, which prompted the raid, was filed more than a year ago.

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