Guatemala's Attorney General's Office has received 22 reports of stolen children in seven months, indicating that the trade in illegal adoptions continues to flourish despite regulations, and also highlighting an even more disturbing phenomenon -- the use of children for organ trafficking.
According to children's prosecutor Erick Cardenas, the majority of stolen babies are sold for irregular adoptions or for their organs. Cardenas said that hospital workers including doctors and midwives are themselves often involved in the illegal business, helping criminal networks get false birth certificates for newborns, reported Prensa Libre.
In one reported case, an intruder dressed as a nurse is believed to have administered a sleeping pill to a new mother before taking her baby. The baby, who was later found abandoned, had apparently been stolen by a couple who wanted to be parents.
Nonetheless, the case led to the investigation of nurses on duty at the time of the incident. Meanwhile, reviews of one hospital center found that staff fail to use electronic bracelets with an "intelligent chip" to identify the mother and child, even though the bracelet was introduced as a preventive measure against infant theft in 2012.
InSight Crime Analysis
Illegal adoption is a crime that has plagued Guatemala for decades. Despite measures taken in recent years, in June, the director of a Guatemalan child welfare center reported a resurgence in the sale of children. High levels of impunity for illegal adoption cases, coupled with a complex process for legal adoptions, contribute greatly to the perpetuation of the crime.
Prior to 2007, when the country ratified an international convention on child trafficking, Guatemala was the second most common country of origin for adoptions in the world, with the vast majority of children sent to the United States. In 2008, Guatemala halted international adoptions due to growing concerns over child trafficking, though the measure has created serious complications for parents who were already in the process of adopting legally.
The number of cases reported by the Attorney General's Office for 2013 shows that the trade in illegal adoptions is still alive, while Cardenas' comments suggest that child snatching is not limited to adoptions but also has even more sinister purposes -- organ trafficking, which is a rising phenomenon in Latin America, though one more commonly associated with adults.