On the day staff at the Xeral Calde hospital in Lugo, in Galicia, brought the papers for Paula to sign away her newborn baby, Juan, for adoption, she was heavily sedated, having been given repeated doses of valium: one at 9am, another at 11am, and the third shortly before lunch. "She was like a zombie. She didn't know what she was doing; she would have signed anything," says a hospital orderly who was present, and who has since given evidence as a witness in the judicial investigation opened one year after the birth of Juan into more than a dozen breaches of adoption procedures at the hospital.
The orderly says that he had been told that Paula was a "dangerous" schizophrenic and that he should keep her door closed at all times and not to let her out of his sight. "It was like a kidnapping," he told the judge. "If anybody talked, the deal was off."
|bron EL PAIS|
The authorities in Lugo are investigating other stories similar to Paula's, dating back a decade. In 2006, a young woman who had handed her child over a month earlier, jumped out of an eighth-floor window. She survived, but is now completely paralyzed. In 2003, another woman signed her child away after she was threatened by a Russian suspected of belonging to an organized crime gang. The man had allegedly told her that if she did not hand over the baby, he would kill her other child. Another says that social workers took away her first baby, and then her second. She was allegedly told that she was "too poor" to look after them.
After three valiums, she would have signed anything; she was a zombie"
The case has barely made the headlines in Galicia: the media have been kept busy over the last two years by continued revelations about political corruption at the highest levels.
Operation Baby, as some have dubbed the case, has echoes of the stories that have surfaced in Spain about a network of doctors and religious orders who provided wealthy families with babies during the Franco period and into the 1980s.
"We've read in the papers about babies being stolen during the Franco years, but it's been going on here until now," says the lawyer of a young Algerian woman whose baby was taken away from her shortly after birth at the hospital in Burela, Lugo province, in February 2011. She has brought legal proceedings to halt the adoption process, currently underway in neighboring Pontevedra. The young woman, who came to Spain to work as a domestic employee, says that she barely spoke Spanish at the time, and that she believed the adoption papers she signed were paperwork authorizing her release from hospital.
Police finally began looking into irregularities in adoption procedures in Galicia after four lawyers filed complaints against the regional government, which runs the health service. The exact number of babies allegedly taken from their mothers on the grounds that they were not able to provide their newborn with a proper home is still not clear: sources at Lugo's provincial court say "almost 20 families" are involved, while other sources say the number of babies alleged to have been stolen is around a dozen. The most recent documented case, seen by EL PAÍS, dates from May 2011.
Lawyers for the families involved accuse social workers from Galicia's Minors Department of taking babies away from their mothers "with a view to having them adopted" on "arbitrary" criteria based on subjective reports they either wrote themselves or had prepared by Franciscan nuns from the Madre Encarnación Home.