GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA - Children have become a booming business in Guatemala. They are given up for adoption, sold abroad, forced to engage in prostitution, mistreated or killed. Sometimes bodies of minors are found from which internal organs have previously been removed.
In Guatemala, a baby costs up to 40,000 dollars. Between 1997 and August 2007, 29,411 Guatemalan children were adopted - but only 842 by Guatemalan parents.
In 2006 alone, 4,918 adoptions produced revenue of 200 million dollars. The money goes mostly to corrupt officials, illegal baby traffickers, lawyers, doctors and other medical personnel.
However, demand is still greater than supply. Some small children are stolen, and young girls are made pregnant for new "production."
Hector Dionisio of the children's advocacy organization Casa Alianza in Guatemala City describe one 16-year-old who has already gone through three pregnancies starting when she was 12.
"It was the stepfather, who abused the girl as a child factory," he said.
It was not an isolated incident.
Officially, it is extraordinarily difficult to adopt a child in Guatemala.
"It is difficult to give a child up for adoption without the agreement of the parents," said Jorge Meng, spokesman for the Guatemalan attorney general's office.
And it is going to get even harder, with legislation meant to halt the reported abuses taking effect in January...
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