Mexico adoptions: Irish
couples 'thought process was legal'
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The Irish couples
ensnared in an apparent illegal adoption ring in western Mexico thought
they were involved in a legal process and are devastated by allegations
organisers were trafficking in children, the families said.
“All the families have valid declarations to adopt from Mexico as
issued by the Adoption Authority of Ireland,” they said in a statement
read over the phone by their lawyer in Mexico, Carlos Montoya.
Prosecutors in Mexico contend the traffickers tricked destitute young
Mexican women trying to earn more for their children and childless Irish
couples desperate to become parents.
For 15-year-old Karla Zepeda, the story began in August when a woman
came to her dusty neighbourhood of cinderblock homes and dirt roads
looking for babies to photograph for an anti-abortion ad campaign.
Karla said the woman, Guadalupe Bosquez, asked to use her nine-month-old
daughter Camila in a two-week photo shoot for $755, a small fortune for
a teen mother who earns $180 a month at a sandwich stand and shares a
cramped, one-story house with her disabled mother, stepfather, and three
Ms Bosquez later returned with another woman, Silvia Soto, and gave her
half the money as they picked the child up. She got the rest two weeks
later when they brought Camila home.
“They showed me a poster that showed my girl with other babies and
said ’No To Abortion, Yes To Life’,” said Karla, a petite teenager
cleaning her house to loud norteno music. “I thought it was legal
because everything seemed very normal.”
Before long, the message spread to her neighbours. Seven other women,
most between the ages of 15 and 22, agreed to let their babies be part
of the ad campaign.
Some already had several children. Some were single mothers. Two of them
didn’t know how to read or write.
Five of them said they did not even have birth certificates for their
babies when they came across Ms Bosquez and Ms Soto.
One said she needed money to pay for her child’s medical care. All
deny agreeing to give their children up for adoption.
But instead of just posing for photographs, Jalisco state investigators
said Camila and other babies were left for weeks at a time in the care
of Irish couples who had come to Mexico thinking they were adopting the
Camila and nine other children have been turned over to state officials
who suspect they were being groomed for illegal adoptions.
And authorities hint that far more children could be involved: Lead
investigator Blanca Barron told reporters the ring may have been
operating for 20 years, though she gave no details.
Prosecutors also say four of the children show signs of sexual abuse,
though they did not say how or by whom.
Nine people have been detained, including Ms Bosquez and Ms Soto, but no
one has yet been charged.
At least 15 Irish citizens have been questioned, the Jalisco state
attorney general’s office said, but officials have not released their
names and their lawyer says all have returned to Ireland after spending
weeks or months in Ajijic, a town of cobblestone streets and gated
communities 37 miles away, trying to meet requirements for adopting a
child. None was detained.
In their statement, the Irish couples said they would not comment
further because of the ongoing investigation.
The Mexican mothers said that Ms Bosquez and Ms Soto persuaded three of
them to register their children as single mothers so they could
participate in the anti-abortion campaign, even though they live with
the children’s fathers.
Children’s rights activists say that also could have made it easier to
release the child for adoption: only the mother’s signature would be
The mothers were assured that the babies were being taken care of by
several nannies and checked by doctors. The children often returned home
wearing new clothes.
Some of the mothers said they began having second thoughts. But when
they declined to send their children back, they say, Ms Bosquez and Ms
Soto insisted they would have to pay for the buggies, car seats, nappy
bags and everything else they had bought for the babies.
“We’re going through a nightmare,” said Fernanda Montes, an
18-year-old housewife who said she took part to pay a $670 hospital bill
from the birth of her three-month-old. “How could we have trusted
someone so evil?”
The plan began to unravel on January 9, when local police detained
21-year-old Laura Carranza and accused her of trying to sell her
Investigators said Ms Carranza denied that allegation, but acknowledged
she was “renting” her eight-month-old son. She then led authorities
to Ms Bosquez and Ms Soto.
Both are now being held on suspicion they ran the alleged anti-abortion
ad campaign as a front for an illegal adoption ring. It was not clear if
they have lawyers and they have not yet been brought before a judge to
say if they accept or reject the allegations.
Ms Carranza is also being held, as is Karla’s mother, Cecilia
Velazquez, who has not worked since she lost both legs in a traffic
accident in 2010. Karla says her mother’s only fault was agreeing to
the ad campaign.
Seven of the mothers interviewed said that the children had most
recently been picked up by Ms Bosquez and Ms Soto between December 27
and December 30 for an alleged photo shoot.
They returned the babies on January 9 and 10, saying “there had been
The mothers said they did not notice anything wrong with the babies or
any signs of abuse.
Then state police investigators showed up at their homes and drove them
and their children to the police department for questioning. The babies
were taken from them and put into state protective custody.
The women complained that only four of them have been allowed to see
their babies since, and only once.
A statement from Jalisco state prosecutors’ said authorities seized Ms
Carranza’s two children from her and the other seven while they were
with the Irish couples.
Prosecutors did not respond to requests to clarify the discrepancy.
Residents of Ajijic, a town on the shore of Lake Chapala favoured by
American and Canadian retirees, say Irish citizens looking to adopt
Mexican children began appearing there at least four years ago.
Jalisco state prosecutors’ spokesman Lino Gonzalez said none of the
Irish had been charged with a crime.
Even if they had adopted the children, Ireland might not have accepted
them because the adoptions were handled privately, said Frances
FitzGerald, Ireland’s minister for children.
“Obviously, for any couple caught up in this, it’s a nightmare
scenario,” she said. “What you can’t have in Mexico is people
going to local agencies or individuals doing private adoptions because
when they come back, there is going to be a difficulty.”
Prosecutors say they have been trying without success to reach the
attorneys who were handling the adoption paperwork in the neighbouring
state of Colima.
Custody release statements signed by all of the mothers carry the logo
of Lopez y Lopez Asociados, a firm owned by Carlos Lopez Valenzuela and
his son, Carlos Lopez Castellanos.
Authorities raided their home last week.
here to return to the news page