Parents tell horror stories of abuse at shelter

2014-07-17 05:00
(Hector Guerrero, AFP)

(Hector Guerrero, AFP)

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Mexico City - Parents of some of the 458 children rescued from the festering squalor of a shelter in western Mexico told horror stories on Wednesday after authorities raided it for sexual assaults and other abuses.

"I came to get my daughter back," an emotional Rosalba Karina Contreras told TV network Televisa outside the facility, "La Gran Familia" (The Big Family), in the town of Zamora in Michoacan state.

She said her 13-year-old daughter and other children at the residential shelter had been subjected to "mistreatment, abuse, threats, beatings" by Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, the director and founder of the home.

Another mother, Bertha Saucedo, told Foro TV the facility had effectively kidnapped her daughter, who has Down's syndrome.

"They took my daughter away from me when she was three months old. When she was six years old I started coming to see her and she [the director] never let me see her because she had Down's syndrome and if I didn't pay her she was never going to give her back," she said.

"I didn't file a complaint because I was afraid they would treat her badly, hit her and take her food away."

Police found 596 people including 138 adults living amid rats and insects when they raided the home on Tuesday after complaints of abuse and kidnapping.

Early investigations indicate the director and her staff inflicted "a variety of physical and psychological abuse" on the residents, said Tomas Zeron de Lucio, an investigator at the attorney general's office.

The children were forced to beg in the street, sleep on the floor and eat unfit food, he told journalists.

Verduzco and eight people who worked for her have been arrested, officials said.

On Wednesday, the children were being kept at the facility under the care of social workers, Foro TV reported.

La Gran Familia had operated for more than 40 years and housed residents ranging from newborns to adults more than 40 years old.

Authorities did not explain how the adults at the facility had been held against their will.

Michoacan governor Salvador Jara said the raid was prompted by a report of five kidnapped children that was filed more than a year ago.

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