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Hundreds of Addicts 'Rescued' by Authorities from Mexico's Abusive Drug Rehab Centers

Mexico’s authorities provide almost no services for addicts and also rarely do anything to stop the systematic abuse that is common in the country’s many private rehab centers.

by Nathaniel Janowitz
May 19 2016, 5:10pm

Photo via le bureau du procureur général de Jalisco

Mexican authorities have closed down two rehabilitation centers in the western state of Jalisco and "rescued" hundreds of addicts they say were being held in "sub-human conditions."

A statement released by the Jalisco attorney general's office on Tuesday said police found 91 men, 68 women, and 112 minors locked inside the "Spiritual Awakening" rehab center on Tuesday.

It said that 18 minors showed signs of abuse, which included sexual abuse. Around two thirds had been beaten and burned with cigarettes.

The office also released photographs of the squalid living conditions inside the blue and white building in Tonalá, a large municipality on the outskirts of the metropolitan area of the state capital, Guadalajara. The pictures showed food kept in buckets on the floor and garbage bags.

"The conditions were very seriously overcrowded," Jalisco's attorney general, Eduardo Almaguer Ramírez, said in the statement. "The food was also in very bad condition. It was sub-human."

Tuesday's closure led to the arrest of 11 men for allegedly mistreating women and children at the center.

(Photo via Jalisco attorney general's office)

Jalisco's governor, Aristóteles Sandoval, visited the center on Wednesday and posed for a photo in a dormitory that he then posted on his Twitter account.

"We will inspect all the rehabilitation centers in order to avoid a repeat of what we found in this shelter," the message ran.

(Photo via Twitter)

That same day, the authorities busted a second center in Tonalá and announced it had freed a further 103 adults and seven minors. There was no additional information available about this center.

Mexico's authorities provide almost no services for addicts, and these kinds of private rehabilitation shelters are common.

Referred to as anexos, they are notorious for forcefully taking addicts against their will, holding them for months at a time, and punishing them with physical abuse. They are often owned and run by ex-addicts who commit the same systematic abuse that they themselves suffered in anexos.

Last month, VICE News gained unusual access to one such anexo just outside of Mexico City. We documented physical and mental abuses within the center, and learned how the system rarely helps addicts kick their habits, and usually works with almost no interference from the authorities.

Related: Inside the Secretive, Abusive World of Mexico's Private Drug Rehab Centers

Follow Nathaniel Janowitz on Twitter: @ngjanowitz