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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

July 28, 2020
Some of the 23 abducted children who were rescued by the police in Chiapas, Mexico, on Monday while they were searching for Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez. Authorities shared this photo of some of the children having a boxed lunch after their rescue - image: AP - Dailymail

The frantic search for a missing two-year-old boy has led the police to a southern Mexico home where 23 kidnapped children were being kept and forced into hard labor.

The horrifying discovery took place Monday in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, where authorities were looking for the whereabouts of Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez, who was last seen on a surveillance video being led away by a young girl from a market.

Chiapas state prosecutors said Tuesday that most of the children were between two and 15 years old, but three babies aged between three and 20 months old were also found during a raid at a house in the Tlaxcala neighborhood.

But the Chiapas state prosecutors office did not immediately confirm whether Dylan, who will turn three in November, was among the children rescued from forced labor this week. His mother said he has not been found.

The indigenous colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas is popular among tourists and it is common to see children and adults hawking local crafts like carvings and embroidered cloth on its narrow cobblestone streets.

However, few visitors to the city suspected that some of the kids selling trinkets had been snatched from their families and kept in deplorable conditions.

The Chiapas state prosecutors' office said in a statement that the children 'were forced through physical and psychological violence to sell handicrafts in the center of the city,' adding the kids showed signs of 'malnutrition and precarious conditions'.

'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.

Three women - identified as Maribel o María, María Hortensia and Juana - have been detained in the case and may face human trafficking and forced labor charges.

The children were handed over to child welfare authorities. Authorities showed a photo of some of the children having a boxed lunch after their rescue.

Gómez Pérez was kidnapped June 30 after he wandered away from his mother at a public market in San Cristobal de las Casas.

A surveillance camera from a nearby shop showed that a young girl, who appeared to be about 13, had grabbed the little boy by the hand and led him away, raising the possibility that some of the children were used to abduct other kids.

After the disappearance of the boy, who reportedly speaks the Indigenous language Tzotzil, his mother and relatives began a desperate campaign to locate him.

Interviewed Tuesday outside the National Palace in Mexico City, his mother, 23-year-old Juana Pérez, said officials told her that her son had not yet been found.

'None of the children (rescued) is my son,' Pérez said, sobbing. 'I haven't heard anything about my son.'

Pérez, who traveled to Mexico City to ask President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to help find her son, works at the market selling fruit and vegetables. She said her son would sometimes wander off to play, but that no children had ever been snatched from the market before.

'My son is gone. Thank God for the search for him there are already other children who will be in their homes,' she said. 'But I'm still looking for my son.'

The boy's father emigrated to California to find work, and thus Pérez has had to raise Dylan and his sister by herself.

She described him as a chubby, happy boy who market vendors nicknamed 'Gordito,' and tearfully appealed for help in finding him.

Government data released by the National Search for Missing Persons Commission on July 13 found that 73,201 people are listed as missing.

Those figures were up dramatically from just January, when data showed 11,500 fewer people reported missing. Overall, 177,863 people have been reported missing between 1964 and July 14, 2020.

The published report indicated that 75 percent of those missing are between the ages of 15 and 30. At least 75 percent of that group consists of males.

The data showed that more than 12,000 children are missing - most of them girls.


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