Mexican officials this week raided a shelter in Michoacán and rescued nearly 600 people including 458 children who received all sorts of abuse, resided in squalid conditions and were obligated to eat spoiled food. For families of some of the residents of the “La Gran Famila” (“The Great Family”), the liberation of their loved ones couldn’t have come soon enough.
In the case of twenty-eight-year-old Veronica Gamiña, she claimed that she left her nine-year-old child at the residence four years ago but her subsequent attempts to reclaim her child were made nearly impossible by shelter founder Rosa del Carmen Verduzco.
“First they told me that I had to fill out documents explaining why I wanted to take my child back then they asked me to pay 37,000 pesos (roughly $2800). I only earn 800 pesos a week and I cannot save enough money,” said the restaurant worker to the press outside of the raided shelter on Wednesday.
Another parent alleged that she gave birth to two kids while she was at the shelter that had been functioning for forty years. She was permitted by to leave the compound but forced to leave her children behind where “Mama Rosa” claimed the minors as her own according to Tomas Zeron, federal chief of criminal investigations.
"Victim No. 4 said she had been held in the group home against her will since she was 18," said Zeron about another supposed case of abuse at “La Gran Famila”. "She was sexually abused by one of the administrators, and got pregnant as a result of the abuse. The same person beat her to cause an abortion, beating her in the stomach on several occasions."
Michoacán Gov. Salvador Jara told the press that he was in the dark about the supposed horrors in the shelter until he became governor last month. Yet that cannot excuse the apparent incompetence of local and federal authorities that may have been aware of the problems for years. As reported in SDPnoticias.com, an August 2010 investigation by one of Mexico’s most important newspapers described the abuses at the shelter and possibly why “Mama Rosa” may have gotten away with her actions for decades:
At the time, the reporters (for “El Universal”) referred to “La Gran Famila” as a “shelter that is in reality a detention center for children where once inside they cannot leave until they reach adulthood even if their parents try to take them out”…
Sauri’s assertion may help explain why ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox publicly defended her in a message via Twitter.
“The accusations against the shelter are not recent and have been made over the past twenty years but they have never been properly investigated since (Verdusco) apparently is politically well connected,” said in 2010 the former director of the Infants Rights Network (Gerardo Sauri).
“In solidarity with Mama Rosa, I know you’re strong and that you’ve done plenty of good for thousands of children and young people,” tweeted Fox. (It's worth noting that Fox signed an agreement with the shelter when he was governor of Guanajuato and prior to his presidency.)
Another high-profile defender of Verdusco was historian Enrique Krauze who blamed “the parents who abandoned their children” at the shelter and urged officials to prevent the “public lynching” of the 67-year-old. For Berta Saucedo, a former resident of the shelter, Verdusco kept her unfairly separated from her family during many years.
“I went there to study and in the end she wouldn’t let me see my family and she told them that I had run away,” explained Saucedo who was not allowed to regain custody of the child she gave birth to thirteen years ago.
Video Source – Associated Press via YouTube
Online Sources – Twitter; NBC News; ABC.es; Noticieros Televisa; The Guardian; SDPnoticias.com; 20minutos.es; El Universal