Twenty-three children have been rescued after being abducted and forced to sell handicrafts in a tourist town in southern Mexico.
The children were released from a house in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, according to a statement published by the state’s attorney general Monday.
Three women were arrested on human trafficking and forced labor charges.
The children, ranging in age from three months to 15 years, were abducted from their families and forced to work selling handicrafts under threat of “physical and psychological violence,” according to the statement.
The rescue mission began after the attorney general’s office launched a search for Dylan Esaú Gómez Pérez, a toddler who went missing on June 30 while at a public market with his mother, according to an earlier statement from the attorney general.
Authorities did not immediately confirm whether Dylan was among the children rescued.
Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico and sits on the border with Guatemala.
Tourists visit for its immense biodiversity and a climate that ranges from fresh and cool in the highlands to humid and hot in the jungle lowlands.
Home to some of the most impressive Mayan archeological sites and a large indigenous population, it is one of Mexico’s most diverse regions both in culture and nature.
It is also the most impoverished state in the country, and was hit hard by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake in 2017.