Journalists Google "babies for sale".
By Carlos Arrazola
GUATEMALA CITY -- The work of some journalists and a Spanish NGO that unmasked a ring adopting out Guatemalan children on the Internet has become the key evidence in a court trial in this Central American country.
The testimony of Armando Lusquiños and two journalists who carried out an investigation of groups engaged in the business of illegal adoptions in Guatemala could send to jail two mothers who put their children up for sale.
"It was very easy to find these people. We only had to search the Web for a few minutes to find these women offering to sell children," Lusquiños told Efe after giving testimony before the Guatemalan Attorney General's Office on the way this gang operates.
Lusquiños, who directs the Spanish non-governmental organization Gaudium Paidos, which sponsors care programs for unprotected children in Latin America, was alerted by journalists from Spain's Telecinco television that is investigating the scheme.
"They know that in Gaudium Paidos we are working on several projects in Guatemala, which is why they asked me to collaborate with them to unmask this mafia," he said.
During August and September, the journalists, who passed themselves off as a Spanish couple in the market to "buy" a baby, kept up communications by e-mail and video conferences with the Guatemalans Evelyn Garcia and Gloria Giron, who in exchange for $5,000 (just under 4,000 euros) offered a 2-year-old child.
"The little boy they sold us is Marlon, supposedly the son of Gloria, who was pregnant, but they also put up for sale the baby she was expecting," Lusquiños said.
To win the women's confidence, the journalists sent money to Gloria for prenatal check-ups, and pretended to be carrying out procedures for the two women and Marlon to travel to Spain to close the deal.
With the e-mails and recordings of the video conferences in his possession, Lusquiños contacted the Casa Alianza, a Guatemalan affiliate of U.S.-based children's charity Covenant House, which filed a criminal complaint against the women.
The story of the adoption ring was aired in Spain by Telecinco in the first days of October, just when the Guatemalan judge issued and arrest warrant for the women.
Evelyn and Gloria were arrested Oct. 4 in Guatemala City on charges of people trafficking and crimes against infancy, but they were scarcely in prison for a month.
Last week a judge released the pair on bail of $800 each.
"It's infuriating that despite the evidence presented, these women have been freed even though they make money off their own children," said Lusquiños, who asked the Guatemalan AG's office to be accepted as a plaintiff "in order that justice be done in this case, and to set a precedent against these mafias."
A source at the AG's office told Efe that "it is preparing to appeal the bail" so the women can't flee the country, and "will do everything possible" to keep Marlon, currently under state protection, from being given back to his mother.
To complete the investigation, the AG's office has asked for a statement from the Spanish journalists that carried out the investigation, whose names were not revealed.
"If it is indispensable, they (the journalists) will travel to give testimony in Guatemala; if not, they'll do it through the Guatemalan Embassy in Spain. What's important is that they are available to collaborate," he said.
Illegal adoptions in Guatemala up to last January brought in more than $200 million a year and put up for adoption more than 5,000 children, 90 percent of them to U.S. couples.
Since January, there has been the congressionally mandated National Adoptions Council to regulate and control the adoption process and put an end to the illicit trade. EFE