Guatemalan army stole children for adoption, report says

September 12, 2009 /

The Guatemalan army stole at least 333 children and sold them for adoption in other countries during the Central American nation's 36-year civil war, a government report has concluded.

Around 45,000 people are believed to have disappeared during Guatemala's civil war, 5000 of them were children.

Many of those children ended up in the United States, as well as Sweden, Italy and France, said the report's author and lead investigator, Marco Tulio Alvarez.

In some cases, the report said, parents were killed so the children could be taken and given to government-operated agencies to be adopted abroad. In other instances, the children were abducted without physical harm to the parents.

"This was a great abuse by the state," Alvarez told CNN on Friday.

Investigators started examining records in May 2008 for a period that spanned from 1977-89, said Alvarez, the director of the Guatemalan Peace Archive, a commission established by President Alvaro Colom.

Of 672 records investigators looked at, Alvarez said, they determined that 333 children had been stolen. The children were taken for financial and political reasons, he said.

Alvarez acknowledges that many more children possibly were taken. Investigators zeroed in on the 1977-89 period because peak adoptions occurred during that time frame, particularly in 1986. They will investigate through 1995 and hope to have another report ready by early next year, he said.

A presidential ministry has determined that about 45,000 people disappeared during the nation's civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. About 5,000 of those were children, the ministry said. Another 200,000 people died in the conflict between the leftist guerrillas and right-wing governments.

The nation's public ministry and attorney general's office will determine whether anyone is prosecuted over the abductions, Alvarez said.

Asked if he would like to see prosecutions, Alvarez answered, "I hope so."

Alvarez said he has attended several reunions of abducted children -- now adults -- and family members.

"I can't tell you how happy that makes me," he said.

Adoption has served as a source of income in Guatemala for decades. The war just made it easier for abuses at the hands of soldiers to occur.

Guatemala has the world's highest per capita rate of adoption and is one of the leading providers of adoptive children for the United States. Nearly one in 100 babies born in Guatemala end up with adoptive parents in the United States, according to the U.S. consulate in Guatemala.

Adoptions can cost up to $30,000, providing a large financial incentive in a country where the World Bank says about 75 percent of the people live below the poverty level. Officials fear that often times mothers are paid -- or coerced -- into giving up their children.

Some unscrupulous lawyers and notaries, who have greater power in Guatemala than they do in the United States, have taken advantage of the extreme poverty and limited government oversight over adoptions to enrich themselves. Alvarez said corrupt lawyers and notaries were the driving force behind many of the army abductions of children.

The problem is confounded because many Guatemalan parents can't provide for their children. The United Nations' World Food Programme says Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean. Chronic undernutrition affects about half of the nation's children under the age of 5, the U.N. agency said.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom Caballeros declared a state of national calamity this week because so many citizens do not have food or proper nutrition.

Despite the nation's problems, Alvarez hopes some good will come of the report, which was released Thursday.

"We have to tell the truth about what happened," he said. "Guatemalan society must know what happened and must never allow it to happen again."


Here's the VERY WORST part....

there are AP's out there who learn their child was stolen, but refuse to return the children because they have already "bonded" and established their "forever family".


As long as PAP's keep demanding children to adopt, nothing will improve.... the corruption will not stop.

no shame

This article made me pretty angry. The results of the investigation means half of all the adoptions from Guatamala were illegal over the period 1977-1989. That was not even the hey-days of Guatamalan adoption, which really started to boom over the last decade. In 2003 Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain stopped inter-country adoption with Guatamala and raised objections with the Hague conference, which was an unpresedented move. The result was a further expansion of adoption from Guatemala, as if now news began trickling down how easy adoptions from Guatemala were. In 2003 the number of children adopted from Guatemala by American families was 2328, that number had grown to 4727 by 2007. So in spite of serious warnings about the illegality of Guatemalan adoptions, the number doubled in only four years time.

To me that sounds like: take it while it lasts.

To add insult to injury the group called guatemala900 considers itself the real victims and have lobbied Sen. Boxer to send a letter to the Secratary of State Hillary Clinton to push through the pipeline adoptions. 52 lawmakers support this action. 52 lawmakers who raise the interests of AP's who have fallen in love with a photo above the interest of the children involved.


52 lawmakers who raise the

52 lawmakers who raise the interests of AP's who have fallen in love with a photo above the interest of the children involved.

um....those 900 children need homes. they aren't going to go back to loving parents in guatemala if they aren't adopted here, they will go back to living in an orphanage in a third world country with no social services plan because they were surrendered for adoption or abandonned. those 900 parents think the children are victims for being kept in limbo even when many of their cases have been cleared. now that adoptions are over, there are still people abandonning their children. the only difference is that now those children have no hope for a future.


Those children were put  in the adoption pipeline long after the corruption and child trafficking was widely known. Adoption from Guatemala has never been about children, it's always been about the easiest and fastest means to deliver children to people wanting to adopt.

I totally agree...

I saw and felt just what you are saying.  I was there and SAW the corruption; I FELT the pain they caused by forcing people to do things so others could gain money.  It was a con game.  I saw other children who were waiting and others leave. I know of the money that changed hands.  It was all a game of who could make the most money.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Looking with both eyes open

My Adad used to tell me, "Look, with both eyes open"  -- meaning, look and see, and don't be lazy.

I too often believe those who "strongly" advocate adoption see only what they want to see.  They don't see the corruption, they don't see the crap/bull-shit because if they do, it would mean they are contributing to something that is not as nice as it superficially appears.  Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear does NOT make it safe and good for anyone.  Ignoring the truth as is does, in fact, exist is NOT going to solve serious long-term (on-going) problems.

People may believe what they want to see... I believe the world is full of illusions and delusions, and the adoption industry is NOT immune to the evils of deception.

I cannot respect those who refuse to look at a situation with both eyes open.

I can't; I won't.


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