Mexican officials are investigating allegations of sexual exploitation and human trafficking after weekend raids targeting businesses in downtown Juarez resulted in the roundup of 1,030 men and women, the El Paso Times reported.
The federal Public Safety Ministry announced that the operation on Friday and Saturday was part of Mexico’s National Amber Alert Program, modeled on the U.S. program, in an effort to find young women who have been reported missing, the Times said.
“As a result of these actions, 20 female minors were rescued,” federal officials said in a news release. “In addition, officers detained 500 men and 530 women on suspicion of possible links to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.”
Julio Castaneda, spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office, said authorities released 400 of those detained after questioning, the Times said.
“We didn’t arrest them,” Castaneda said. “They were taken to a state police station to set up a database with their names, ages, positions and so on.”
One of those picked up in the weekend sweep is being held as a suspect in the slaying of Eva Esparza Sanchez, whose body was found July 15 with a plastic bag taped around her head and the index finger of her left hand amputated, the Times said.
Officers yanked people out of 24 bars, three hotels and two guest homes during the two-day sweep, taking them to state police offices and have been interviewing men and women about allegations of sexual exploitation and missing young women, the paper reported.
Police also said several women who were detained said they were prostitutes, the Times said.