The Americas

The troubled legacy of Guatemalan adoptions - Harper's April 2019

Source - Harper's, April 2019: "Destined for export"       

Overview of Guatemalan history: in 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemala, as the major US company United Fruit was unhappy with the government's plans for land reform. From 1960 through 1996, Marxist rebels in the countryside gave the right-wing military dictatorships a justification for widespread slaughter of civilian populations. This peaked in the 80's under the General Efrain Rios Montt, a Pentecostal Christian who stepped up attacks on the peasantry whilst training his officers at the infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning. Reagan was an enthusiastic supporter of Montt and supplied him with weapons usng Israel as a conduit to avoid scrutiny from Congress. Antigua is the old colonial capital of Guatemala, a counry of 17 million people, 40% of whom are of Mayan descent.

In 1977 the Guatemalan government removed judicial oversight from the adoption process; adoptions could be arranged privately without a judge. For prices ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 foreign couples could privately arrange to adopt a Guatemalan baby. Jaladoras or "pullers" could be hired to find suitable infants. Montt's generals would target rural villages for attack and then profit from selling the surviving children into foreign adoption. By the late 80's, the US Embassy was aware of these problems and began requiring DNA tests on babies to ensure they matched a surviving mother - but these tests could be faked. By 2008, the US acting in concert with UNICEF convinced the Guatemalan government to ban foreign adoptions. But prior to that, Guatemala was "one of the top exporters of babies in the world".

Other similar events - the Nazis had a "Lebensborn" program in which racially pure infants were kidnapped from conquered countries and raised in Germany by Aryan couples. From 1976 to 1983, in Argentina's "Dirty War", at least 500 children were taken from their dissident parents who were executed. The infants were placed with military families. And Franco did similar things to thousands of children in Spain.