Guatemala announces legal review of all 2,300 pending adoption cases

Date: 2008-05-01

Associated Press Archive
Author: JUAN CARLOS LLORCA; Associated Press Writer
Dateline: GUATEMALA CITY

Guatemalan prosecutors said Wednesday that they will conduct a legal review of all of the country's pending adoptions, after an initial probe turned up irregularities.

The Attorney General's Office said that 2,286 case files will be re-examined. The vast majority of prospective adoptive parents are U.S. couples.

"We are going to study the case files deeply," said Jorge Meng, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office. "We have found some deficiencies in some of them."

Some 1,027 case files that are missing documents or show other irregularities will be returned to the notary publics who prepared them for correction or clarification, he said.

Meng could not estimate how long the review process would take.

"We hope that it will be soon, but we don't want to say two weeks, because that would create a deadline."

Elizabeth Hernandez of the country's National Adoptions Council said she hoped the review process would be quick.

"It doesn't make any sense to delay the process longer and have the children in institutions," Hernandez said. "We hope that this can be reviewed quickly, and have children whose cases are in order be delivered as soon as possible" to adoptive parents.

Prosecutors want to work with the council to interview birth mothers and check children's medical condition.

Meanwhile, four birth mothers who claim their children were stolen from them in 2006 and 2007 began a hunger strike in front of the offices of President Alvaro Colom to demand that their children be located.

Norma Cruz, whose non-profit organization, Survivors, is supporting the women, said they are demanding that officials open government archives.

"We are asking for access to the case files on adoptions carried out between 2006 and 2007, as well as immigration files and asking that the Attorney General's Office and the national adoptions board show us some of the girls who could be their daughters," Cruz said.

An investigation of Casa Quivira adoption agency turned up a slew of irregularities, including at least five cases in which birth mothers were allegedly given false identities to avoid having to seek permission from family members and a judge to give up their babies.

Last August, 46 children in the process of being adopted by U.S. families were seized in a government raid at the agency.

Eighteen other mothers could not be found under the identities that case files provided, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors describe the probe of Casa Quivira, considered one of Guatemala's best adoption agencies, as their first serious attempt to investigate a US$100 million (euro64 million) industry that has made tiny Guatemala the largest source of adopted U.S. babies after China.

Some 29,400 Guatemalan children have been delivered to U.S. homes since 1990 -- so many that one of every 100 Guatemalan babies born each year has been growing up in an American home.

Under the country's new adoption law, which took effect Jan. 1 to comply with an international treaty to prevent human trafficking, adoptions will be taken out of the hands of agencies and lawyers and handed over to Guatemala's notoriously sluggish courts and the National Adoptions Council.

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