Mexico begins moving children out of squalid shelter

July 21, 2014 - 5:31:17 am

ZAMORA, México: Mexican authorities yesterday moved 161 children and six adults out of a shelter where investigators say hundreds of minors were kept in squalid conditions and subjected to abuse. 

Police raided the home, known as “La Gran Familia” and located in the western town of Zamora, Tuesday amid reports that five kidnapped children were being held there.

They found those children and much more: 400 minors and 200 adults living among large piles of rotting food and other fetid trash, as well as horror stories about sleeping amid rats and insects -- and even being forced to perform oral sex on adults.

The shelter is operated by Rosa del Carmen Verduzco, an octogenarian known as “Mama Rosa.”

The children and the adults were moved to shelters operated by the DIF, the state-run family services office, in three other states and Mexico City, DIF head Laura Vargas told reporters yesterday. 

“We are going to give them a dignified place where they can live with better conditions,” Vargas said, speaking from Zamora.

The remaining residents will be moved to other shelters next week, Vargas said.

Verduzco, who founded the shelter some 60 years ago, was hospitalized due to hypertension and kept under police guard pending charges after the raid. By late Saturday all charges were dropped and Verduzco was allowed to go free.

However six of the eight workers who had been arrested with her were jailed, local media reported, citing attorneys for the workers.

At least one of those detained has confessed to sexual abuse, investigation spokesman Tomas Zeron has said, adding that some of the children at the shelter reportedly suffered physical abuse such as beatings or were kept in isolation with little food. 

Prominent Mexicans rushed to Verduzco’s defence, including former president Vicente Fox.