Mexico unravels child trafficking ring
Zapopan - The Irish couples ensnared in an apparent illegal adoption ring in western Mexico thought they were involved in a legal process and are devastated by allegations organisers were trafficking in children, the families said.
"All the families have valid declarations to adopt from Mexico as issued by the Adoption Authority of Ireland," they said in a statement, which was read over the phone to The Associated Press by their lawyer in Mexico, Carlos Montoya.
Prosecutors in Mexico contend the traffickers tricked destitute young Mexican women trying to earn more for their children and childless Irish couples desperate to become parents.
For 15-year-old Karla Zepeda, the story began in August when a woman came to her dusty neighbourhood of cinderblock homes and dirt roads looking for babies to photograph for an anti-abortion ad campaign.
Zepeda said that the woman, Guadalupe Bosquez, asked to use her 9-month-old daughter Camila in a two-week photo shoot for $755 (10 000 pesos), a small fortune for a teen mother who earns $180 a month at a sandwich stand and shares a cramped, one-story house with her disabled mother, stepfather, and three brothers.
No birth certificates
Bosquez later returned with another woman, Silvia Soto, and gave her half the money as they picked the child up. She got the rest two weeks later when they brought Camila home.
"They showed me a poster that showed my girl with other babies and said 'No To Abortion, Yes To Life'," said Zepeda, a petite teenager cleaning her house to loud norteno music.
"I thought it was legal because everything seemed very normal."
Before long, the message spread to her neighbours. Seven other women, most between the ages of 15 and 22, agreed to let their babies be part of the ad campaign. Some already had several children. Some were single mothers. Two of them didn't know how to read or write.
Five of them said that they did not even have birth certificates for their babies when they came across Bosquez and Soto.
One said she needed money to pay for her child's medical care. All deny agreeing to give their children up for adoption.
But instead of just posing for photographs, Jalisco state investigators say Camila and other babies were left for weeks at a time in the care of Irish couples who had come to Mexico thinking they were adopting the children.
Camila and nine other children have been turned over to state officials who suspect they were being groomed for illegal adoptions.
And authorities hint that far more children could be involved: Lead investigator Blanca Barron told reporters the ring may have been operating for 20 years, though she gave no details. Prosecutors also say four of the children show signs of sexual abuse, though they didn't say how or by whom.
Nine people have been detained, including Bosquez and Soto, but no one has yet been charged.