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Mexican police arrest more than 1,000 in human trafficking raids

By the CNN Wire Staff
Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivers a speech in Mexico City, July 18, 2011.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivers a speech in Mexico City, July 18, 2011.
  • Federal police arrest 500 men and 530 women in the border city
  • At least 300 officers are involved in the nine-hour operation, prosecutors say
  • Police say 20 female minors are rescued
  • Mexico is reforming its human trafficking laws

Mexico City (CNN) -- Authorities in Ciudad Juarez arrested more than 1,000 people over the weekend in an operation aimed at cracking down on human trafficking, police said.

Federal police said raids in two dozen bars, hotels and boarding houses netted arrests of 500 men and 530 women they suspect are connected with human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In addition, 20 female minors were rescued, police said.

At least 300 federal police officers were involved in the nine-hour sweep, which began Friday night and ended early Saturday morning, the Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office said in a statement.

Authorities said the operation was part of Mexico's AMBER Alert program, created to help find missing children.

Violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez shares a border with El Paso, Texas.

Earlier this month Mexican President Felipe Calderon approved several changes to the country's constitution aimed at cracking down on human trafficking -- one that requires those accused of human trafficking to be imprisoned during trials, and one that guarantees anonymity of victims who denounce the crime.

Calderon gave Mexico's Congress 180 days to approve a new nationwide human trafficking law that will reform and streamline how authorities handle such cases across the country.

With increasing frequency, he said, criminal organizations that ship and sell drugs and weapons have added human trafficking to their repertoire.

"There are thousands and thousands of cases, in a society that is still unaware of the seriousness of this crime," he said. "We have to break through this curtain ... that is hiding from the Mexicans a criminal reality that is in front of us."