Guatemala’s Stolen Orphans
Last July news broke that Esther Sulamita, a baby up for adoption in the United States, had been previously kidnapped by armed men from her birth mother in their native Guatemala. In order to better investigate potential corruption in the system, a moratorium was placed on all potential adoptions in Guatemala, the second most popular country for international adoptions after China.
Now government reports reveal that potentially hundreds of orphans from the country’s 36-year civil war were put in government-run orphanages and sold to parents. Marco Tulio Alvarez, director of the government’s Peace Archive, reported in a press conference Monday that with so many cases, there is reason to believe that “the business was very profitable.” (Thaindian News)
The Peace Archive is a government project set out to “reconstruct the country’s historical memory” by investigating the files of citizens who “disappeared” during the country’s brutal war from 1960-1996, with the final report set to be published next month. Human rights groups estimate that about 40,000 disappeared and 200,000 died.
This is not the first time a nation has had generations of “stolen” children. Spain, Australia, El Salvador and Argentina have histories of mass abductions. Some of the “stolen” have been fortunate as adults to be able to reconnect with their families or discover their roots, but many hold their histories as question marks. With Guatemalan children, reconciliation may prove to be even more challenging given that many have been adopted across borders, particularly by American families.
However one encouraging sign is that Guatemala’s own government is actively involved in investigating the thousands of stolen citizens. Guatemala witnessed countless human rights abuses during its war; identifying the stolen orphans and possibly reuniting them with family are two key ways to move forward as a healing nation with its historical memory intact.