SELLING BABIES TO FOREIGNERS A BOOMING, ILLEGAL BUSINESS
Miami Herald, The (FL)
Author: MIMI WHITEFIELD Herald Staff Writer
Dateline: RIO DE JANEIRO
Arlete Hilu is denounced in Brazil as a baby trafficker -- a woman accused of selling Brazilian infants to foreign couples for thousands of dollars each.
In Israel, where many of her tiny charges allegedly ended up, couples saluted her as a "martyr" and a "benefactress" when she appeared before local judicial authorities in April.
Hilu, 37, was arrested in Tel Aviv when she tried to enter Israel on a false passport.
If she re-enters Brazil, she will face far more serious charges. Brazilian federal police suspect Hilu, who lived in the state of Parana, may have arranged more than 1,000 illegal adoptions.
"It was a factory that didn't stop," says Geovani Barros de Azevedo, a federal police spokesman in Rio de Janeiro. "The last adoption she is suspected of arranging cost $7,000." And Hilu is only part of what Brazilian authorities say has become a booming business in illegal adoptions by foreigners.
"It (baby trafficking) is becoming a big problem," says de Azevedo, with Israel, England and Canada the biggest markets for the illegally adopted babies.
Children from southern Brazil, where large populations of German descent tend to produce blue-eyed, fair-haired babies, are in special demand by foreigners.
In June, federal police raided the home of lawyer Carlos Cesario Pereira, a local maternity hospital and several secret nurseries in the southern state of Santa Catarina. They found 20 children. Police said that women pretending to be social workers sought out poor pregnant women and tried to convince them to hand over their babies as soon as they were born.
Brazilian authorities say there is no need for foreigners to go the illegal route and face the possibility of having to return illegally adopted children. Foreign couples 30 years and older who have been married at least five years may legally adopt a Brazilian child if they meet economic and other requirements.
If the child has already been selected and all paperwork is in order, the process shouldn't take more than 30 days after a foreign couple arrives in Brazil, says Dr. Antonio Campos Netto of the Judgeship of Minors in Rio de Janeiro. After a year the adoption is reviewed and if there are no problems, it becomes final.
Nevertheless, Jornal do Brazil, a daily newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, recently editorialized about the difficulties foreigners face when they try to adopt a Brazilian child.
"Foreigners wishing to adopt a Brazilian child immediately get entangled in a veritable jungle of legal difficulties that motivate them to look for recourse in the offices of lawyers who are not always entirely trustworthy," the paper said. "Such attorneys often try to get around difficulties with dubious expediency."
Sometimes foreigners think they are playing by the rules of the game when they aren't.
Police in Rio de Janeiro recently detained a Tel Aviv couple in a Copacabana apartment. Parry Lionel Rosemberg and Rachel Rushansky had planned to leave in a few days with an 18- day-old baby.
The couple told police that they had consulted a lawyer in Tel Aviv who later put them in touch with a Rio couple who arranged lodging and brought them the baby.
"This couple apparently thought this was a serious way to do business and that everything had been taken care of," says de Azevedo.
It would seem that Brazil's teeming cities would provide an endless pool of children for adoptions. Girls and boys sometimes no more than 3 years old sleep on the streets of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The federal Foundation for the Welfare of Minors estimates that there are seven million abandoned children in Brazil.
"Ninety-nine percent of these children have some family and are therefore not eligible for adoption," says Campos.
Adoption isn't always the best solution for street kids who don't have relatives either, says Miltes Medeiros Santa Cruz, executive secretary of UNICEF's Street Children Project in Brazil.
She says she would recommend adoption of street children under three years only. By the time street kids have reached the age of five or six, life in the streets has already become too ingrained, she says.
"Adoption (by foreigners) is very difficult here, too, because the greatest number of children are reserved for Brazilian (adoptive parents) and a large number of these children are unadoptable," Campos says.
In the past six years, Campos says, the juvenile court in Rio has placed only 80 children with foreign parents.