Guatemala starts crackdown on illegal baby trade

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Subject: Guatemala starts crackdown on illegal baby trade
From: Bruce Harris - Casa Alianza (bruce@casa-alianza.org)
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 21:31:16 EDT


     05 Apr 2000

Guatemala starts crackdown on illegal baby trade:

The Independent newspaper, UK

By JAN MCGIRK LATIN AMERICA CORRESPONDENT

ESPERANZA TEMA had almost given up hope: her only daughter,
whom she had
never seen, had gone missing from the Guatemalan clinic where
she was born
six months ago.

But Baby Esperanza turned up last weekend when police,
investigating a gang
that sells newborn infants to adoptive parents in France and Spain,
raided
four houses in Guatemala City and found a kidnapped baby in each.
Prosecutors in Guatemala City are cracking down on the lucrative
international baby trade, which accounts for 95 per cent of
adoptions in
this poor Central American country.

Pressure to act grew after the release of a United Nations report
last week
which described how "baby farms" provide infants for Western
couples willing
to pay Dollars 25,000 (pounds 15,600) for a healthy child.

Ms Tema, nuzzling her daughter and blinking back tears, said she
was made to
sip a bitter liquid during labour. "They gave me a drink that must
have been
alcoholic." It knocked her out for hours. When she woke, her baby
had gone.
She agreed to show police residences she had visited with Lucinda
Bautiza,
an educated woman accused of tricking her into signing away her
power of
attorney and they recovered her daughter.

Another woman, Maria Lopez, was reunited with her stolen baby,
Jose, on the
same night. Ms Bautiza was taken in for questioning while search
orders for
the offices of two lawyers were prepared, though no arrests have
been made.
Meanwhile, thousands of genuine orphans languish in under-funded
government
homes until they are too old for any chance of life outside the
institutions. It can take up to seven years to process papers for
local
adoptions without resorting to criminal short-cuts. Government
figures
confirmed that 1,332 Guatemalan babies were placed with
foreigners in 1998.

Lawyers, eager to earn 50 times the typical fee for a private
adoption in
Guatemala, tend to expedite the sale of babies abroad.
Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, a UN childcare official who visited
Guatemala City,
said poor women were often "contracted" to produce babies and
give them
away. Pregnant prostitutes or indigent single mothers were
frequently
threatened or tricked into handing over their children, she said. If
they
changed their minds, like the mothers of Esperanza and Jose, their
babies
were stolen from them.

Outraged that the collusion of attorneys and criminals reduced
children to
"commercial objects to be offered to the highest bidders", Ms
Calcetas-
Santos urged Guatemala to pass long-delayed laws regulating
adoption and
to ensure private adoptions were eliminated. Her report concluded
that
attempts should be made to place babies with Guatemalan parents
and that
international adoptions should only be a last resort.

Leonel Lopez Rodas, president of the Guatemalan Congress,
admitted to Ms
Calcetas-Santos that he knew of widespread baby-selling in his
country. He
assured her he was pushing for an adoption Bill to become law.
The Guatemala City prosecutor, Candito Breman, said he believed
those caring
for the four kidnapped babies had been tipped off about the raid.
Minutes
before police arrived they fled, leaving the infants unattended. The
babies
appeared healthy and all had been lodged in well-to-do homes.
 

--------------------------------------------
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SJO 1039
PO Box 025216, Miami FL 33102-5216 USA

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-------------------------------
"In their little worlds in which children have their existence,
there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt,
as injustice...."

Charles Dickens, "Great Expectations"


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