Brazil Case Shows Judicial Officials ‘Complicit’ in Illegal Adoptions

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A high-level official in Brazil accused judicial officials in his country of complicity in illegal adoptions, highlighting the endemic corruption that facilitates human trafficking in that country and across the region.

The head of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on Human Trafficking, Arnaldo Jordy, said that he was certain judicial officials were involved in a case involving the allegedly illegal adoption of five children in Monte Santo in the Bahia department in Brazil’s northeast, reported Jornal do Brasil.

In June 2011, Judge Vitor Xavier Bizerra authorized the adoption of the five children, all from the same family, by four couples in São Paulo, apparently without the consent of the biological parents. According to the children’s mother, Silvania Maria da Silva, she received a judicial order to give her children up for adoption, and police forcibly took them away, telling the parents if they intervened they would be arrested, O Globo reported.

Following investigations and a local court order, the children were returned to their parents in December 2012.

Jordy said that, although he was not certain of Bizerra’s involvement, irregularities in the judicial process leading up to the adoption point to the courts’ complicity in the case. He said the commission is awaiting a report from the National Justice Council (CNJ) regarding the case, which will help it determine the degree of judicial participation.

Following a visit to Monte Santo with the CPI, Government Minister Francisco Falcão said that he did not believe the case was isolated, and that the “recurrence of accusations” suggested the existence of a market in illegal adoptions.

Jordy also noted that the country’s child protection laws are “obsolete” and expressed the need for a greater federal police presence in the region.

InSight Crime Analysis

Brazil recently announced plans to implement a three-year, $3 million plan to combat human trafficking, part of which calls for a revised penal code that would stiffen penalties for illegal adoptions.

However, fighting the kind of embedded corruption that appears to be linked to this case may be difficult in a country where much of the population believes the judiciary to be slow and dishonest, and there is little confidence in the police.

The Brazilian case is just one of many similar cases of illegal adoption and child trafficking in the region. In 2012, a child trafficking ring was discovered in Guadalajara, Mexico, which allegedly paid mothers to put their children up for adoption. Government officials were accused of involvement in the scheme.

Peru and Guatemala are two other countries with a documented illegal adoption market. Since 2007, Guatemala has significantly reduced the number of adoptions as it continues to reform its institutions and laws on this issue.

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