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Americans demand the “pipeline” cases be rammed through, despite the Guatemalan adoption climate first glance, what might appear a bit of “good news,” America’s refusal to participate in the Guatemalan adoption pilot program, turns out to be just another call to “resolve” the so called “pipeline” cases.

Essentially, the U.S. is saying regular imports of Guatemalan children will not resume until this backlog of cases from before the country closed are dealt with.

No new outlays of cash or ongoing business until this old business results in whatever number of kids being adopted here in the U.S..

For a country looking forward to an influx of American dollars, that can be one hell of an incentive to get those cases moving.

The new Guatemalan Attorney General looks to be just the man for the job,  (but we’ll get to that a bit further down in the post.)

By way of a bit of background, back, almost a year ago, there were rumblings of Guatemala reopening.

By May of this year there were efforts to get a least a limited number of adoptions flowing again, see GUATEMALA: Foreign Adoptions Are Back – Along with the Doubts.

The pilot program was announced back in 2008, as a means to move certain cases, but the child trafficking networks remained firmly in place, if anything moving those with ties to the criminals into key government positions.

…human rights groups are worried.

”We are against the reopening of international adoptions now because the same structure of organised crime that generated a major international market to which the country exported between 5,000 and 6,000 children a year is still in place,” the head of the Survivors Foundation, Norma Cruz, told IPS.

In 2008, the National Adoption Council suspended foreign adoptions, which were mainly to couples in the United States, to shut down a thriving business that profited lawyers, judges and doctors.

Until the suspension of foreign adoptions, Guatemala was the fourth country in the world in terms of the number of children placed in adoption, after Russia, China and South Korea, according to UNICEF. But in proportion to the population, it was the global leader.

Adoptions were suspended in compliance with the new adoption law in effect since 2007, which created the National Adoption Council and banned ”undue benefits, material or otherwise, to accrue to the persons, institutions and authorities involved in the adoption process.”

It also put a priority on placing children with Guatemalan families and established that ”the poverty or extreme poverty of parents is not sufficient reason to put a child up for adoption.”

According to United Nations figures, half of the population of this Central American country of 13 million people is living in poverty, and 17 percent in extreme poverty.

Activists say that behind the booming adoption market in Guatemala was a ”mafia” of lawyers, notaries public, ”jaladoras” or baby brokers who entice poor young women into placing their children in adoption, so-called ”casas de engorde” or ”fattening houses” where the expectant mothers’ pregnancy and birth-related expenses were covered, officials in civil registers, pediatricians, adoption homes and foster families.

To soothe the fears of other countries, or at least to maintain some semblance of doing due diligence, DNA tests will be administered in all cases begun post 2008, with the samples being handed by the Forensic Anthropology Institute this time.

Last time Guatemala turned to DNA tests as some form of “proof” that adoptions were by consent only an international scandal erupted involving falsified tests, swapped samples, women paid to “give consent” and the coercive circumstances surrounding some “consents” finally came to light.

Which leads us up this latest announcement, US won’t participate in Guatemala adoption program:

The U.S. State Department says Guatemala hasn’t provided enough details on how cases will be processed under a system enacted in 2008 and corruption remains a concern.

Guatemala suspended international adoptions in 2007 after discovering some babies had been stolen and others had fake birth certificates. Guatemala had been the world’s second-largest source of babies to U.S. citizens after China.

On the face of it, it first looks like the U.S. actually did the right thing for once. But a much closer examination is warranted, because as always, first impressions can be dead wrong.

Here’s the link to the state department FAQ  U.S. Withdrawal of Interest in Participating in Guatemala’s Pilot Adoption Program. Lets tease it apart a bit.

Again, the U.S. is concerned that this limited reopening will not be up to the standards laid out in the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, as for the U.S. the Hague has become some mythic gold standard by which so long as everyone follows the ‘rules’ no one is left to blame, (or the industry and their outsourced, private regulator, the Council on Accreditation rationalize.)

A: The U.S. Central Authority, under the Hague Intercountry Adoption, Convention withdrew its letter of interest in the pilot program because of concerns that adoptions under the program would not meet the requirements of the Hague Convention. Specifically, the United States is concerned that the CNA has not yet addressed and resolved vulnerabilities that led to widespread corruption and ultimately to the 2007 moratorium on intercountry adoptions. Specifically, the United States believes that more safeguards for children should be in place before the CNA could start processing new intercountry adoptions.In addition, the Guatemalan Government has not yet provided specific details for how adoption cases under the pilot program would be processed under Guatemala’s new adoption law.

As far as the Hague goes,  I’ve written and documented  repeatedly, and linked to other analysis of (link opens PDF) the ongoing systemic failures .

In signatory countries it has not ended, and more to the point, simply is not capable of ending inter-country adoption corruptions.

As I wrote in How’s that Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption workin’ out for you then?

The Star-Tribune has previously delved into some of the investigative problems inherent to the current system, see Adoption treaty sets up double standard in U.S.:

The job of investigating complaints was given to the Council on Accreditation, a nonprofit organization in New York that also handles accreditation duties. Only the state of Colorado will investigate its own cases. If an investigation confirms that an agency violated standards, it can lose its accreditation, shutting it out of the 77 treaty countries.

But in an interview, Richard Klarberg, the council’s chief executive, conceded that the council isn’t prepared to conduct international inquiries into complaints of corrupt adoption practices. Baby stealing or other fraudulent adoption practices have been alleged in Vietnam, China, Liberia, Guatemala and India. Some countries halted adoptions after such revelations.

“The reality is that the Council on Accreditation lacks the resources, either in staff or financial resources, to send someone to China to review a complaint. … We lack that capacity,” Klarberg said.


Klarberg said the council has just three staff members to investigate complaints against U.S. adoption agencies. They can question U.S. agencies and gather documents related to their foreign activities. So far, the agency has opened at least 17 investigations, but no agencies have been sanctioned. The council will leave the more complicated job of investigating foreign conduct to foreign governments or the State Department.

That’s not good enough, said Gina Pollock, an adoptive mother and board member of Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, a group that lobbies for changes in federal laws. She said the job of investigating international wrongdoing should be the government’s, not a nonprofit organization’s.

That outsourcing is precisely part of the problem. The very same non-profit agency that provides accreditation to agencies is also responsible for investigating their crimes. On the very face of it, that’s laughable at best.

But the  FAQ also addresses the ongoing question of the “pipeline” cases, the real core of the matter as far as the U.S. is concerned.

These represent the adoptions that were already in process when adoptions from Guatemala were closed. (Emphasis added by me.)

Q: How will this withdrawal affect active “grandfathered” cases that are already in the pipeline?

A: The United States is only withdrawing its interest in participating in the pilot program at this time. This means that the United States does not wish to begin NEW adoption cases. Withdrawal of U.S. interest in participating in the pilot program should not impact the processing of active “grandfathered” adoptions in progress.In fact, we hope that our withdrawal will result in a shift of resources by the Government of Guatemala towards resolving these pending cases.

This is the key, and the portion of the FAQ that adoption industry lobbies and would-be-adopters of Guatemalan children are also pulling and utilizing.“Resolving these pending cases” is highly problematic, as these “pipeline” cases were kids who were offered to the adoption process in the midst of the all out babyselling when the 2007 moratorium went into effect.

These cases then, are products of precisely the circumstances of fraud and corruption that led to the closure in the first place.

Sorting out who these kids genuinely are, how they came to enter the process, whether or not they have relatives searching for them and whether or not adopting them could ever be considered any version of “ethical” has already taken years and in a number of cases, there may simply be no way to resolve how the child became available to the process.

Going forward with these adoptions then would be little more than the all out acknowledgement that when it comes to U.S. foreign adoption policy, ends justifies pretty much ANY means, including murder, kidnapping, bribes, etc, etc, etc.

Not that many of these American would-be-adopters care. They want what they want, and have no qualms about bullying their way right over anyone who dares stand in their way.

Which is pretty much precisely what I saw in person in the session on Guatemala at the Adoption Ethics and Accountability Conference in Virginia back in 2007.

It is altogether fitting that these are referred to as “pipeline” cases as that’s precisely what adoptions from Guatemala were, a structure for resource extraction of kids. Just another form of trade, large sums of cash for “product” i.e. kids.

Once those on the ground saw the lucrative amounts of money to be made, extra-legal structures were rapidly built to satisfy that market demand.

The “pipeline” cases then, those American families demand be “grandfathered in” are products of precisely that context. Again, turning to the FAQ:

Q: What does it mean to be a “grandfathered” case?
A:  Guatemala’s new adoption law to implement fully its obligations under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption was approved on December 11, 2007 and went in effect on December 31, 2007.  A new Guatemalan Government agency to serve as the “Central Authority” for adoptions, the CNA, was created at that time.  Notarial adoption cases that were in process before December 31, 2007 would be permitted to continue but only if the cases were registered with the CNA by spring 2008.  Cases that were registered with the CNA would be considered “grandfathered” and allowed to continue their notarial adoption process under Guatemala’s previous law.  For relinquishment adoption cases to continue, the CNA and PGN were also required to interview the birth mother by August 2008.

However, it is important to note that any irregularities found in the notarial process of a particular case could negate the “grandfathered” status and prevent the case from being able to proceed.

In their pursuit of these kids, Americans continue to ignore the broader context adoptions from Guatemala took place within.

To name just a few facets, all set against a backdrop of grinding poverty, which seems to always be key:

* The murders of thousands of women, more than 3,800 women and girls since the year 2000. Amnesty International characterizes the climate thusly:

“the brutality of the killings … reveal that extreme forms of sexual violence and discrimination remain prevalent in Guatemalan society”

Also see pieces like To Fight Femicide in Guatemala, New Law, But Same Culture, and part V of this post.

All of which brings who new meaning to words like “Guatemalan orphan.”

Kids were/are offered to this adoption process in the aftermath of the murders of their mothers.

(American and other) adopters benefited directly from this process.

* The Guatemalan army itself procuring kids for adoptions- Guatemalan Army Stole Kids for Adoption (go read the Firstmother Forum contextualization, here are but a few paragraphs)

The number of corrupt adoptions–333--involving stolen children in the government report came from examining a mere 672 adoptions between between 1977-89, the time of peak adoptions from that country. Those numbers mean that roughly half of all adoptions examined during that period involved stolen children sold through state-run agencies. So the 333 number has got to be the mere tip of the iceberg. During the country’s protracted civil war, about 45,000 people disappeared from 1960 to 1996, about 5,000 of which were children.

The story also noted that Guatemala has the world’s highest per capita rate of adoption and was 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. As we reported earlier on E. J. Graff’s piece in Foreign Policy, many, if not nearly all, adoptions from poor nations are suspect.

Guatemalan 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. The report concludes that the lawyers and notaries who were the middlemen for this human trafficking (yes, it is human trafficking) were the driving force for the babies stolen from their parents. Many induced the women to give up their babies, or simply paid soldiers for product, i.e., a baby–because they knew they had a place to market the kid.

* The outright kidnappings and child stealings that I’ve blogged previously- News- U.S. Adoptions Fueled by Guatemalan Kidnappings, and articles like  DNA tests confirm first stolen Guatemalan baby, At least 500 have been stolen – Three thousand children are awaiting adoption, and US couple almost adopted stolen Guatemalan baby to point at just the very tip of the iceberg.

* Agency fraud, see Claar Foundation and Lisa Novak as but one American example, along with the rest of my posts about the Claar mess, and articles such this, Guatemala Adoption Fraud May Hit U.S., about agencies like Casa Quivira on the Guatemalan end.

Also see Burned by a baby broker for an example of brokers making off with the cash.

Be sure to see Pound Pup Legacy’s overview on Susana Luarca- Guatemala – Susana Luarca case.

* Fabricated DNA tests, Guatemala City: Hunger Protests Amid Allegations of Child Kidnapping and Adoption Fraud, and the push for DNA testing for kids brought to the U.S.. See  Guatemala pushes for DNA tests of kids adopted in U.S..

At times false “birthmothers”  matching the switched DNA samples came forward to give “consent” while being paid for their part in the lies.

In other cases, women were placed in coercive situations and forced to give DNA samples.

See Debunking the Orphan Myth: Responses to Criticisms:

In Guatemala, research reveal that the child-finders were, too often, using suspect methods to acquire children for international adoption. In some cases, families were approached and offered money for their children. In other cases, women appear to have been getting pregnant and giving birth serially to earn money. In still others, women were coerced out of their children: for instance, women were offered free places to stay while pregnant, but later were told that they owed back rent—and could either give up the newborn or owe impossible amounts of money. Women in these coercive situations may have allowed DNA to be taken and may have signed the relinquishment forms.

In still other verified cases, children were kidnapped for adoption. The U.S. government instituted DNA tests and birthmother exit interviews because “relinquishment” adoptions were tainted by fraud, coercion, and criminality. However, recent evidence suggests that the chain of custody of these DNA tests may also include fraud.  In some unknown percentage of these cases, DNA tests appear to have been falsely verified; some of the doctors who were allegedly taking and certifying DNA samples may have lied about who was tested, and about when and where these tests were done. For instance, Ana Escobar’s child Esther Sulemita had passed both DNA tests somehow and was going to go to Indiana; only because Escobar kept daily watch on the relevant ministry offices did she see her child in line and insist on fresh DNA testing, which showed that the Escobar was in fact the real birthmother. Similarly, an American prospective adoptive parent named Jennifer Hemsley discovered that the DNA test filed for her prospective daughter included falsified dates; she refused to accept the test as valid. Other Guatemalan women whose children were kidnapped believe they have found their children’s pictures in the Guatemalan government’s immigration visa files. If their beliefs are correct, those tests (of children who have already been adopted to the U.S.) were also fraudulent. Dr. Aida Gutierrez, who signed off on Esther Sulemita’s and the Hemsley’s prospective daughter’s DNA tests, also certified hundreds of other tests. Such results cast doubt on the entire DNA testing process.

* Outright financial bribes to mothers for their children, see Guatemala adoptions: a baby trade?

Mr Manrique believes the fact that a third of the mothers involved in the adoption process give up more than one child supports the claim that they are motivated by financial reward, with $2,000 rumoured to be the going rate.

The clear implication being that even if you have a DNA match and even if you have a mother testifying that she willingly gave over her child for adoption, that does not mean she wasn’t outright coerced for her “consent” or outright paid for the kid.

* Notaries falsifying paperwork see Lawyers accused of involvement in illicit activities, leading the process of adoptions and PGN dennounces 19 notaries.

*Judges, Courts, the very system itself. See From Guatemala, an international network of child trafficking.

The problem is not any one given individual though, it’s been the whole damn system.

In fact, attorney general Telesforo Guerra Cahn alleges that 20 local gangs are engaged in buying or stealing children and that one of the biggest illegal- baby-trafficking lawyers is the current president of the Supreme Court, Juan Jose Rodil Peralta. “We’ve tried to prosecute him, but it’s hopeless because he controls the court system and the judges,” says Cahn. “He’s also protected under parliamentary immunity.”

See part IV where I quoted MP seeks preliminary against Judge Escuintla for several offenses, at length:

“There is evidence to show that Mario Castañeda Fernando Peralta committed the crime of human trafficking, abuse of authority, dereliction of duty and prevarication,” said Rony Lopez prosecutor against organized crime.

The official referred to two cases: that of Karen girls Abigail López García, given up for adoption on December 10, 2008 to a family and that of Naomi Yahaira Muyus, both stolen from their biological mothers. The latter investigates the whereabouts and the date it was given to another family. It is assumed that the real name of the former is Aniely Hernandez, daughter of Loyda Rodriguez.

However there are at least 20 more cases that are investigated.Thus the section called yesterday to the Administrative Center for Management of Criminal Judiciary (OJ), which started a process against the preliminary judging. According to the MP, there are documents which indicate that Peralta Castañeda is involved in a network used for the trafficking of children.

*The response has been primarily Guatemalan, with few here in the U.S. giving a damn.

See my posts about the Mothers hunger striking to regain their stolen children.

and campaigns like Three Days for Three Daughters that I blogged:

Clearly, all these links are but starting places. There is more, so MUCH more.

The rest of my Guatemalan posts can be found on my Guatemala tag.

The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism page on Guatemalan adoptions provides somewhat of an overview of many of the media reports on the adoption context of the time period.

Pound Pup Legacy also has an incredible round up, Guatemala – more trafficking articles and stolen children cases.

But again and again, these are only starting places. When you begin looking at adoptions from Guatemala you pull a string and you rapidly find you’re unraveling a seemingly endless sweater of child trafficking, fabricated paperwork and DNA samples, Government corruption and outright murders.

All of which is what I referred to all the way back in November 2007 when I wrote my first post about the situation in Guatemala: The post I can’t write – Guatemala.

If there was ever a poster child for what not to do in Inter-country adoption Guatemala would have to be it.

So what do the adoption marketing weasels at the The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) do?

Give those trying to shove through the pipeline cases an award.

I kid you not.

This year, one of the  “Angels in Adoption” awards went to one of the couples behind the “Guatemala 900″ campaign (i.e. those demanding an additional “900 kids” who were “in process” as the corruption was coming to light and Guatemalan adoptions were being ended be grandfathered in.)

family 7 mths 3See Congressman Lipinski Honors Ann and David Roth as Angels in Adoption™.

The Guat900dotorg would-be-adopters with their ongoing tactic of utilizing photographs, both of themselves and their existing families & of usually wide eyed photos of the kids they were “matched” to,  were promised, or in some cases essentially put the down payment on, form nothing short of an ongoing political lobby demanding these Guatemalan adoptions  be rammed through, regardless of the process by which the kids became available.

Where does one even begin?

With the kids of course.

There are genuine issues (of privacy among other such) in using photographs of kids in another country who one has not adopted and has no legal right to in a political campaign.

These would-be-adopters appear to have missed adoption 101 whereby a picture either sent to them or from the internet can mean any number of things. Multiple families may be “matched” to a single kid’s photograph. The kid in the picture may be nothing more than a child trafficker’s niece. In some of these cases, you simply have no way of knowing.

Even when families have been to other countries to spend initial visits with what they all too often term “their” kid, many couples have come up sorely disappointed down the road when learning who that child actually was, or that they were never available for adoption in the first place.

But none of that seems to bother these folks. Their website, their efforts, even photobooks used in talking with politicians are plastered with pictures of kids. The pictures form sort of a background wallpaper to their campaign.

Much as they insist this is about the individual kids, the way they utilize the kids’ pictures reduces them to little more than objects in an intercountry tug of war, they treat the kids in the photos as mere props.

The Trib local article, of course fails to mention the extent to which some of the Guatemalan courts were in on the scam.

So when one reads details such as,

Over the past 3 years the Guatemalan courts determined that the raid was illegal and that the children’s adoptions were to proceed.

in the article, it’s important to keep in mind that a number of courts were in on the game as well.

So how bad is it really?

Bad enough for the Spanish judge leading a United Nations commission charged with fighting Guatemala’s corruption, to simply gave up last June.

What brought him to this point?

The New Attorney General’s ties to adoption child traffickers and drugs.

See Guatemala: Frustrated, Chief of Corruption Panel Resigns

Carlos Castresana, the Spanish judge leading a United Nations commission charged with fighting Guatemala’s corruption and impunity, has given up in frustration. After two and a half years at the head of the commission, known as Cicig, Mr. Castresana, above, resigned on Monday, saying that Guatemala had failed to keep promises to follow the panel’s recommendations. The catalyst for his resignation was the appointment of Guatemala’s new attorney general, Conrado Reyes. Mr. Castresana accused Mr. Reyes of having ties to illegal adoption rings and drug traffickers. Castresana

…authored the original complaints filed in the name of the Progressive Union of Prosecutors against the Military Junta in Argentina and Chile in 1996, with which the “Pinochet Case” was opened before the National Court of Spain.

For him to resign in “frustration” is pretty telling.

Anyone who thinks they are going to get fair or just rulings in the “pipeline” cases in this climate, let alone going forward towards any kind of reopening, even under the Hague is either naive or lying.

Not to worry though, Americans have found their own way around the adoption closure.

As Niels over on Pound Pup has documented, Surrogacy or inter-country adoption, what’s in a name?, former adoption weasels have simply changed their coporate name and reopened as “surrogacy” businesses.

Same corrupt business, same assholes, merely reinvented to meet with the changing times:

The crack down on inter-country adoption from Guatemala has put an end to a soaring export of infants to the U.S., but as it looks now, the baby producing industry has reinvented itself and continues business as usual through another form of infant export. It’s time for Guatemala to review its surrogacy legislation, before this new scheme reaches the same level the old one had.

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