GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - A Guatemalan official says the U.S. government has said it won't return a girl adopted after being snatched from her Guatemalan mother in 2006, because the two countries had not signed the Hague Abduction Convention at the time.
Guatemala's Foreign Relations Ministry quotes the U.S. State Department as saying the two countries formally ratified the convention on Jan. 1 2008, more than a year after toddler Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez was snatched in November 2006.
Ministry spokeswoman Celeste Alvarado said Monday the United States sent a diplomatic note saying it wasn't required to return the child if there was no treaty in force at the time.
The girl was adopted by a Missouri couple. In 2011, a Guatemalan judge ordered a U.S. couple to return the girl.
The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala referred all questions about the court ruling to the State Department, has not comment on the case.
The leading advocate in the Guatemala case said the U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within five years.
The girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records.
"Time is running out, the five year window is nearly up," said Claudia Hernandez, sub- director of the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for the child's biological mother Loyda Rodriguez. "Unfortunately, the case was filed with the girl's original abduction date in 2006 when the U.S. and Guatemala did not have an agreement. We've been seeking a firm in the United States that would take this to court and sadly we're losing hope."
The girl, Anyeli Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez was born Oct. 1, 2004, the second child of Rodriguez, a housewife, and her bricklayer husband, Dayner Orlando Hernandez. The girl disappeared Nov. 3, 2006, as Rodriguez was distracted while opening the door to their house in a working class suburb, San Miguel Petapa. She turned to see a woman whisk the girl, then 2, away in a taxi.
Rodriguez spent over a year in an adoption agency before being illegally adopted to a U.S. family.
Guatemala's quick adoptions once made this Central American nation of 14 million people a top source of children for the U.S., leading or ranking second only to China with about 4,000 adoptions a year. But the Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of fraud, including falsified paperwork, fake birth certificates and charges of baby theft - though they still allowed many already in process.
The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, a U.N.-created agency prosecuting organized crime cases in Guatemala, has reviewed more than 3,000 adoptions completed or in process and found nearly 100 grave irregularities.
Guatemalan authorities have prosecuted three people for the abduction and illegal adoption of Hernandez.