Bolivian Boy Runs Away From Home to Find Mother, but Ends up in Chile

SANTIAGO, Chile -- A 10-year-old boy who ran away from his home in Bolivia's highlands to find his mother mistakenly ended up in Chile after traveling 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 3 1/2-year sentence for transporting chemicals used to make cocaine, authorities said Wednesday.

The boy hid in a roughly body-length container 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 in which he crossed Bolivia's Andean altiplano, where temperatures at night can fall below freezing. He was only wearing pants, a pullover shirt and ragged shoes.

The boy was found wandering the streets of the poor community of Alto Hospicio, which neighbors Iquique, by a woman who took him to her home, according to the National Service for Minors, or Sename, in Tarapaca, Chile.

The Sename statement said Huanaco was currently staying with the woman's family, where he will remain for the time being because of the good conditions there.

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 a month ago and had been working in the countryside.

Bolivia's Foreign Ministry said the mother will fly shortly to Iquique.

"I've never been separated from my son until I went to jail," she told ATB television station.

She said she wants to be back with Franklin.

"Franklin, my child, I'm here crying for you. 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,"' she said.

The boy told police and state television in Chile that in his house in Oruro he was mistreated and beaten by his 14-year-old brother.