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Page last updated at 08:09 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 09:09 UK

'My baby was stolen'

Two Guatemalan mothers whose babies have been stolen spoke to the BBC in November 2007 about their desperate efforts to find them.

Both were among a group of young mothers to wheel empty prams in front of government buildings a month earlier in a call for justice. They believe their babies were taken to be put up for international adoption.

Ana Escobar, 26, from Guatemala City, had her six-month-old daughter Esther Sulamita taken from her on 26 March this year.

Ana
Ana was held at gunpoint in her shop while her baby was stolen

I used to have a business selling shoes and I usually kept my daughter with me.

One day two women came into the store, looked around, then they left and waited on the corner of the street.

Five minutes later, two men came in. After a while one of them went outside and the other one stayed in the store. He asked me for everything I had. All I had was 10 quetzales ($1.50) and a phone.

He told me I had to do everything he said. I said 'take whatever you want, please don't hurt me'.

He told me to go to the storage room. I tried to resist and that's when he took a gun out and said I had to do whatever he wanted or he would kill me.

He hit me with the gun, threw me to the floor, unbuttoned his trousers and almost raped me.

I was really mad, I felt like I was going to die

In the meantime, the people who were outside took my baby.

I asked him to let me get my kid but he said nothing was going to happen to her if I did what he told me to.

He started to pull shoe boxes in front of me to make it difficult for me to get out. I got desperate and started throwing boxes out of the way.

I went to the pram and the baby wasn't there.

When I saw she was gone, I went crazy. There was a police station half a block away so I went there - but they told me they couldn't help me because the new shift hadn't arrived.

Since then, I've been looking for her... I've no idea where she has gone. She would be 14 months old now.

Esther Sulamita, the stolen daughter of Ana Escobar
Esther Sulamita was six months old when she was stolen

I went to the authorities to report the crime... They've closed the case now.

[Ana was not happy with the way her case was investigated. Eventually, after talking to the media, she was directed to the Sobrevivientes non-profit group, which is supporting her in her search for her child.]

Here they are helping me with a psychologist, so I have therapy sessions. They've also helped me search for my daughter in some children's homes.

I was really mad, I felt like I was going to die. I was so angry that I was taking it out on people who weren't to blame.

Now, with the help that I'm getting here I'm feeling better - not much, but a little bit better.

I'm 100% sure that we will find my daughter.

Ulga Angelica Lopez, a 31-year-old mother of four from Guatemala City

Ulga
Ulga believes she has found her baby in an adoption home

My daughter, Arlene Escarlet, was stolen on 27 September 2006.

I had left her with my mother while I went out. As I was leaving, I met three women who had been asking me about the baby some days before and one of them walked with me.

On the way back, I met my niece who said she coming to ask me where my daughter was.

She told me a woman had come to the house and said I was asking for my daughter. My mother had dressed the baby to go out and started walking with the woman.

The woman [whose description matched one of the three who had spoken to Ulga earlier] took her from my mother's arms and started walking faster and faster. My niece said my mother began feeling so ill she couldn't keep up.

When my niece told me that, I went mad and rushed home. My mother asked me if I had asked her to bring the baby to me and I said no.

Arlene Escarlet, stolen daughter of Ulga Angelica Lopez
Arlene Escarlet was snatched while in the care of Ulga's mother

Before she had even finished explaining, I went to the police station - but they didn't help me. I went to another police station and they didn't do anything either.

I couldn't sleep so at about 3am I got up. A neighbour helped me put an announcement in the papers with my daughter's picture, and then we went to different radio stations to put out a cry for help to find my daughter.

[Ulga reported the theft of her baby to the authorities but found herself accused of having sold her child. She decided to search for herself, obtaining court orders for girls in children's homes who matched her daughter's description to be brought before a judge.]

The fourth girl had all the same characteristics. My daughter had a little hole in front of her ear and this little girl had the same hole. They decided to do a DNA test.

[The DNA test eventually came back negative - but Ulga has doubts over how it was performed. A different government agency is now investigating and the adoption process for the girl has been stopped.]

I'm really hoping and I have faith in God that He's going to give her to me if it is my daughter - and if not, that he's going to give her to me anyway.


The BBC asked the Guatemalan Solicitor General's Office (PGN) to comment on the reports of babies being stolen for adoption.

Victor Hugo Barrios Barahona, the director of the section that reviews adoptions, said he did not believe there were any problems with Guatemalan adoptions, except that the process needed more regulation.

He said his office did not deal with complaints about stolen children, only with the adoption paperwork. Its task is to verify that all the papers are correct and that there are no suspect documents.

The PGN received 82 complaints last year and has had 46 complaints this year. The majority of them have been about altered documents. It does not comment on individual cases.


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