July 28, 2008
© Photographer: Yooperjb | Agency: Dreamstime.com
A Guatemalan woman is celebrating a remarkable and emotional reunion with
her abducted daughter who was about to be adopted by an unsuspecting
http://rbd2008. wordpress. com/2008/ 07/26/guatemalan -mother-reunited -with-baby
-stolen-and- sold-for- adoption- by-us-couple/
By Philip Sherwell in New York
Last Updated: 1:06PM BST 26 Jul 2008
AP Ana Escobar had clutched her only picture of her missing child when she
tearfully described to The Sunday Telegraph last year how six-month-old
Esther was stolen from her by a gunman in March 2007.
But her anguish ended last week when DNA tests confirmed that a girl, now
almost two years old and assigned for adoption by an unidentified US family,
was indeed the daughter of the 27-year-old shop worker.
³I can¹t explain how excited and happy I am,² Ms Escobar said last week
after hearing the good news. ³There are people who don¹t believe in miracles
and then there are people to whom miracles happen.
³Carrying the picture of Esther gave me comfort and company through these 16
long months. I will tell her the story as soon as she can understand what
The case is the first proven link between child-snatching gangs and the
international adoption system that was previously one of the highest foreign
currency earners for the impoverished Central American country.
³This was run by a mafia, and we going after them,² said Jaime Tecu,
director of a team now reviewing all pending adoptions from Guatemala. ³This
is the first time that we¹ve been able to show with irrefutable evidence
that a stolen child was put up for adoption.²
One in 100 children born in Guatemala eventually grow up in the US, with new
parents who paid on average about $30,000 to lawyers, doctors and brokers to
process fast-track adoptions.
But the Guatemalan authorities had long suspected that some children were
stolen and then sold to supply the adoption industry, which was
ill-regulated before a major crackdown launched last year.
The reunion is a testimony to the dogged maternal perseverance of Ms
Escobar, who at one stage went on hunger strike with five other women whose
babies had similarly been abducted at gunpoint to demand official action.
She spent months trawling hospitals and orphanages that supplied adopted
babies, or simply staring at children in the street.
³I looked in every child¹s face I could,² she said.
Then in May, she was sitting in the National Adoption Council offices,
hoping to gain access to babies whose adoption cases were being reviewed.
She briefly glimpsed a toddler, being ushered into another room, who
reminded her strongly of Esther.
The brief encounter haunted her, but she was assured that the girl¹s papers
were in order - and included the results of DNA tests that identified
another woman as her birth mother.
But Ms Escobar convinced the authorities to compare her own DNA with the
child¹s. Even then, she feared the results would be tampered with, but on
Wednesday she heard the joyous confirmation that the girl was indeed her
Mr Tecu said officials will investigate everyone associated with Esther¹s
proposed adoption, including the lawyers who handled the case and the doctor
who signed the falsified DNA tests.
Ms Escobar had gone into hiding last year after identifying the gunman from
police mug shots and mounting her high-profile campaign.
³My mother¹s instinct tells me she has already been sold for adoption,² she
told The Sunday Telegraph when this newspaper was investigating the
controversial foreign adoption programme.
Last year, the country¹s congress passed a new adoptions law to clean up a
system ridden by allegations of corruption and fraud.
The United Nations had urged a suspension of all adoptions in what it called
a ³corrupt² trade.
Guatemala is now implementing the Hague Convention which strictly regulates
international adoptions, removing lawyers from the process and handing
responsibility to an independent commission responsible for putting more
stringent new rules into effect.
In 2006, the last year before the system was tightened, Americans adopted
4,135 children from Guatemala - second only to China, from where there were
In recent years, dozens of mothers reported stolen babies.
At least two were found in orphanages, although they had not yet been put up
Hysteria about child-snatching rings reputedly operating in remote rural
areas has ended in dozens of lynchings of suspected baby thieves - victims
who often turned out to be innocent outsiders.
Even more prevalent, campaigners said, was so-called ³baby farming² by
impoverished young women who were paid to become pregnant to supply the
Many other children were put up for adoption freely and legitimately by
mothers who could not afford to raise their children and wanted them to have
a better life abroad.
International adoption agencies argue that the crackdown could prevent some
children from having the chance of a better life abroad, condemning them
instead to years abandoned in orphanages.