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Babies in illegal adoption ring returned to mothers

June 8, 2012

After several months in the care of social welfare institutions, ten of the 11 children involved in the Irish adoption scandal that blew open in January have now been returned to their biological mothers in Guadalajara.

In a shocking revelation, nine of the children had been sexually abused, confirmed FIND Foundation President Juan Manuel Estrada, a private investigator in Guadalajara who helped uncover the child-trafficking ring.

Seven suspects are in federal custody in Mexico City, including two women accused of scouring poor neighborhoods in search of babies. Two others were released from prison six weeks ago due to a lack of evidence: the 21-year-old woman first arrested for allegedly seeking to “rent” her baby, and a grandmother accused of complicity in the adoption ring.

The illegal adoption operation involved taking newborn children from poor mothers and handing them over to foreign couples seeking to adopt.

It had been happening for years, with the most recent case involving Irish couples who were introduced to their would-be adoptees in a Guadalajara hotel, before being taken to temporary accommodation in Ajijic. Easily blending in with the large expatriate community, they would live there with the children while the adoption process was completed, usually within three to 12 months.

Aside from legal costs, the Irish couples were charged for all medical fees, plus 1,200 pesos per week during the pregnancy period to those mothers yet to give birth. There has been no suggestion that the adoptive parents were to blame for the alleged sexual abuse or were aware the process was not legitimate.

The cases were processed in the neighboring state of Colima, where legal oversight in such matters seems to be more lax than in Jalisco. There may have been as many as 300 illegal adoptions approved in Colima in the last five years alone, Jalisco Attorney General Tomas Coronado Olmos revealed this week.

A formal warrant has been issued for the arrest of Carlos Lopez Valenzuela and his associate from Guadalajara firm Lopez y Lopez y Asociados, who are suspected of arranging the illegal adoption of Mexican babies to foreigners since as far back as the 1980s.

Among the suspects still being held is Mario Melendez Orozco, an independent, Chapala-based taxi driver who frequently transported those involved to and from Guadalajara. Melendez was well known among the expatriate community and had many clients in the Lakeside area.

Jalisco authorities returned all but one of the 11 infants to their mothers on Friday (the exception being an under-age mother, whose pregnancy was the result of rape, who is still undergoing tests to prove her maternity).

“They are the victims and the offended parties,” said the mothers’ lawyer Yuri Marquez Gomez. She said her clients were all illiterate women from neighboring slums on the outskirts of Guadalajara.

The mothers said they were tricked into believing their babies were being photographed for an anti-abortion campaign. They signed contracts worth 500 pesos a day to release their children for up to 15 days at a time, purportedly to be photographed in different sites across Jalisco. The children were actually being secretly shown to Irish couples looking to adopt.

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