The US government has told Guatemala it will not return a girl adopted in 2008 after allegedly being snatched from her Guatemalan mother, because the two countries had not signed the Hague Abduction Convention at the time of the kidnapping, a Guatemalan official said on Monday.
Guatemala’s Foreign Relations Ministry spokeswoman Celeste Alvarado quoted a diplomatic cable from the US State Department as saying the two countries formally ratified the convention on Jan. 1, 2008, after toddler Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez was reported abducted by her biological mother in November 2006.
Alvarado said the US note cites Hague Convention articles indicating it is not required to return the child if there was no treaty in force at the time.
The girl was adopted by a Missouri couple, and a Guatemalan judge ordered government agencies to petition for her return.
The adoptive parents are Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Liberty, Missouri. A public relations firm they hired said last year that they “will continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child.”
The US embassy in Guatemala referred all questions about the court ruling to the State Department.
A leading Guatemalan activist in the case disagreed with the State Department’s position, arguing that the US government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within the past five years.
The girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records, and that date and not her abduction date should be taken into account, said Claudia Hernandez, assistant director of the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for the child’s biological mother, Loyda Rodriguez.
“Unfortunately, the case was filed with the girl’s original abduction date in 2006 when the US and Guatemala did not have an agreement,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s group has not alleged that the US couple who adopted the girl knew anything about her being kidnapped.
“We’ve been seeking a firm in the US that would take this to court, and sadly we’re losing hope,” Hernandez said. “Time is running out; the five-year window is nearly up.”
Guatemala’s quick adoptions once made this Central American nation of 14 million people a top source of children for the US. The Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of fraud.