The scandal of Spain's stolen babies is tearing apart many Spanish families, as grown children discover they were sold to their "parents," while mothers who still grieve for the deaths of their newborns question if their babies were stolen at birth. Human thefts that began in the days of dictator Francisco Franco continued under the auspices of the Catholic Church until the 1990's.
The numbers involved are staggering, with estimates ranging from 30,000 to 300,000. Historian Ricard Vinyes is reported in Time [/i ]as considering the theft of infants fell into two distinct phases, first political and later for profit. In the first phase, babies and children were removed from families considered dissidents as they failed to support Franco. There was active government complicity in placing the children with more suitable families for re-education.
In the second phase, a newborn baby would be taken from its mother and sold for the equivalent of $8,000. According to the BBC
"Nuns and priests compiled waiting lists of would-be adoptive parents."
Babies were stolen from unmarried mothers, defended by Dr Eduardo Vela as something he did
"Always for the good of the children and to protect the mothers."
Doctors and nuns told recently delivered patients that their baby had died. There are reports of dead babies being kept in hospital freezers to convince the women. Coffins have been opened and have been revealed to be empty.
The BBC says the "scale of the baby trafficking was unknown until this year." Two men discovered in 2007 they had been sold to their parents by a nun, and went public with their story. It attracted the attention of others who believed they were victims. On March 15, 2011, the Spanish government finally heard testimony from those who believe they were victims of the decades old trafficking. Angel Nunez from the Spanish justice ministry said that babies were stolen "without a doubt."
Juan Luis Moreno was one of the two men to first bring the scandal to the attention of the press, after his father confessed on his deathbed
"I bought you from a priest in Zaragoza."
According to the Toronto Star
Moreno's investigations led him to discover one nun involved in the transaction has gained a sizable fortune from her role as a baby trafficker. Moreno questions
"How is it possible that a nun with espoused vows of chastity, poverty and obedience should be worth so much money? How has she accrued so much property?"
No action has been taken against the nun involved.
As the scandal continues to rip families apart, six stolen children have so far been reunited with their birth mothers. For others this success offers a prospect that they too may find their stolen babies.