US families illegally adopted 100s of Chilean children during Pinochet dictatorship
A bombshell report by the Chilean judiciary has revealed that hundreds of children illegally adopted by foreigners during the Pinochet dictatorship were sent to the US. A judge overseeing the probe called it “kidnapping.”
Judge Mario Carroza’s report, released Sunday, followed a probe into 579 adoptions between 1950 and 2001, 488 of those during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Of those, 525 were adopted by foreign families, and 432 went to the US. Calling the practice “kidnapping” and a “crime against humanity,” Carroza pointed out that Chile had no legal mechanism for overseas adoption until 1988.
Files on the 579 children of “vulnerable” mothers were discovered at the home of 96-year-old social worker Telma Uribe, who played a key role in the “irregular” adoptions according to Carroza. Mothers in financial hardship were paid to transfer their newborns to the legal guardianship of agencies. They were then “handed over” to families abroad.
The American Adoption Agency is linked to 206 of the cases; the Evangelical Adoption and Family Service to 22; the New York Study Service to 11; International Adoptions, Inc. to four; Catholic Charities of Richmond to three; Today’s Family, Inc. to three; and Homestudies, Inc. to two.
Carroza, a Santiago Appellate Court judge, told the Chilean newspaper La Tercera his team were probing “abduction of minors” in relation to political violence and human rights violations during the Pinochet era. “But the investigation goes further, because there are various traces of irregularities that perhaps it would be best to clear up.”
Even if “we are talking about cases that are not considered crimes against humanity, we would be talking about acts that would be proscribed,” the judge said.
Uribe conspired with two doctors, a lawyer, a translator, two other social workers and organizations including children’s homes and maternity wards, the report said. She even advertised her services on radio to mothers thinking of putting their children up for adoption.
Most of the mothers were going through economic difficulties, the report said, and were paid in one way or another to give up their children.
“In the great majority of cases reviewed there is effectively an economic contribution for diverse reasons,” the report notes.
Pinochet took power in the September, 1973 CIA-backed coup against socialist leader Salvador Allende, who committed suicide as troops stormed the presidential palace.