SANTIAGO, Chile – A 10-year-old boy who ran away from his home in Bolivia's highlands to find his mother has ended up in Chile after traveling 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) hidden in a metal container beneath a transport truck.
Franklin Villca Huanaco was trying to reach Cochabamba where his mother had been serving a 3½-year sentence for transporting chemicals used to make cocaine, authorities said Wednesday. The boy hid in a container roughly the length of a body among the truck's wheels, thinking it was heading to the Bolivian city. Its real destination was Iquique in northern Chile. The driver was unaware of the stowaway.
"I wanted to see my mother," the boy told Chilean state television.
Authorities said the boy was lucky to survive the two-day journey without food or water while crossing Bolivia's Andean altiplano, where temperatures at night can fall below freezing. He was only wearing pants, a shirt and ragged shoes.
A woman later found the boy wandering the impoverished streets of Alto Hospicio township, which neighbors Iquique, and took him to her home, according to the National Service for Minors, or Sename, in Tarapaca, Chile.
The Sename statement said Huanaco is currently staying with the woman's family.
Huanaco's parents were separated, and he had been living with his father and four siblings in their house in Oruro, Bolivia.
The mother, Zenobia Huanaco, was released from prison a month ago and had been working in the countryside outside of Cochabamba.
Zenobia Huanaco told Bolivian TV station ATB she couldn't travel to Chile because of a judicial order restricting her movements but would grant legal authority to a Bolivian official to retrieve her son for her.
She had been expected to fly late Wednesday to Iquique to get the boy.
"I've never been separated from my son until I went to jail," she told ATB.
She said she wants to be back with him.
"Franklin, my child, I'm here crying for you," she said. "Where have you gone, little one? I love you. You know that I was in prison and then in the fields and you told me 'I am content with my papa.'"
The boy told police and Chilean state television that he was mistreated and beaten by his 14-year-old brother in his house in Oruro.
Associated Press writer Carlos Valdez contributed to the report from Bolivia.