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Guatemalan Court Rules
on Child Abduction for Adoption Case
September 7, 2011
by Karen Smith Rotabi, Guest Blogger on Americas Quarterly (www.americasquarterly.org)
Loyda Rodriguez finally received a long-awaited Guatemalan court order
on July 29, 2011, which found her daughter’s intercountry adoption to
the U.S. to be illegal. The court order gives a 60-day window for return
of the child.
In the ruling, the courts determined that the adoption was processed
with fraudulent paperwork (including an illegal passport) and require
repatriation of the young girl, now a U.S. citizen. This comes after
five years of searching for the child, engaging high-profile human
rights defenders and staging hunger protests to demand justice. Still,
her daughter’s return home remains up in the air.
The ruling is a watershed moment for Rodriguez and at least two other
women seeking to have their daughters returned from the United States.
All three of these children now live with U.S. families after coming to
the country through what initially appeared to be legitimate
adoptions—any initial wrongdoing by the families is not clear. But
when all three U.S. families were informed that the adoptions were a
result of alleged abductions, the children were not returned to
Guatemala. The U.S. families remained silent and may have even worked to
block concerted efforts for DNA testing and desperate pleas from the
mothers for justice.
And with this recent court ruling, the U.S. Department of State remains
silent while deferring all questions to the U.S. Department of Justice
(DOJ). Will DOJ require the foreign court order to be enforced? That is
unlikely given DOJ’s decision to decline formal requests from the
Government of Guatemala for DNA tests in each of the three cases. But
there is a glimmer of hope. At the end of last month, Senator Mary
Landrieu (LA) visited Guatemala and met with the mothers; hopefully
Senator Landrieu will attempt to influence U.S. legal collaboration.
Meanwhile, the U.S. family in the Rodriguez case has reportedly hired a
lawyer and a public relations firm to act on its behalf. Insiders
predict that the family has resources to fight the case, possibly for
years. The family’s public statement refers to the child in question
as their daughter and uses the term “best interests” while claiming
a legal adoption. Clearly these are not good signs for the Rodriguez
family as the US system is known for its legal maneuvers and stall
Meanwhile, in Guatemala, the Rodriguez family awaits the return of their
young daughter; the hopeful mother has reportedly even decorated a
bedroom in anticipation of a reunion. This comes after a Guatemalan
daily newspaper, Siglo 21, published on August 8 that the young girl’s
return is expected. However, insiders believe this report is premature
and only a recount of the court order. Broader analysis reflecting the
complications in an international adoption case and the untested legal
scenario were not mentioned.
Now, we wait to see what will happen. What will be the families’ next
move? If a legal battle ensues on U.S. soil, the outcome will inevitably
require consideration of “the best interests of the child.” This
will be a point of contention as the child does not speak Spanish and
would face poverty if returned to Guatemala.
Regardless, the child will inevitably endure certain trauma. This is
indeed a story of the “haves” and “have-nots,” and the inherent
right to raise one’s child. The case also challenges our notions of
child adoption and brings forth concerns about abduction—an activity
vehemently denied for years by adoption agency directors and others who
promoted Guatemala as an ideal adoption nation. Now, at least one
high-profile Guatemalan lawyer has been incarcerated for her role in
this abduction for adoption. In the U.S., the agency that processed
Rodriguez’s child has a notorious record of poor practices. Will its
director and others involved be held accountable for child trafficking?
There are indications that Guatemalan authorities are considering
further charges and this route of prosecution is a possibility.
Ultimately this is a sad scenario for all involved and it is a test of
what is to come as Guatemalan human rights defenders continue to push
for truth and reconciliation for intercountry adoption fraud. According
to the most vocal of Guatemalan advocates, Norma Cruz of Survivor’s
Foundation, this is one of many cases of force, fraud and coercion in
the nation’s previous intercountry adoption system. Cruz and others
see the act of abduction as interwoven with the nation’s notorious
problems of violence against women. The Rodriguez and other cases are
symbolic of the violence, power and oppression that grip the system.
As it all unravels, a very human story of sadness, hope and family life
Note: the serious adoption irregularities of the aforementioned
“stalled cases” are reviewed in detail in the UN Impunity
Commission’s report on the matter.
Karen Smith Rotabi is a guest blogger to AQ Online. She is an assistant
professor at the Virgina Commonwealth University School of Social Work
and a Hague Evaluator for the Council on Accreditation of inter-country
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is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are
and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there
is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting
Alex Haley, Author of Roots