The stolen children: Chile parents allege theft of newborns

National Catholic Reporter

Melinda Henneberger | Oct. 31, 2014

OLIVAR, CHILE Officials in Santiago, Chile, are investigating a series of cases in which newborn babies were purportedly stolen from the poor and given to the rich over many years’ time, mostly in the 1970s through the ’90s.

These weren’t political kidnappings, few of which happened in Chile during the bloody, 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, in large measure thanks to the opposition of the Catholic church. Yet at least half a dozen Catholic sisters and one of the country’s most popular priests have been implicated in these long-hidden crimes.

The following article is the first in a three-part series that looks at how this appropriation of children happened, and how it stayed secret for so long.

Maria “Rosa” Rojas and her husband, Hernán Enrique Cavieres Díaz, met as kids in this apple-, cherry- and grape-growing region south of Santiago. “We were neighbors, gracias a Dios,” said Hernán, and Rosa pulled out an old snapshot of them wearing blazers and dazed expressions on their wedding day, Oct. 14, 1983, when she was 16 and he was 19.

They’ve been blessed in the three decades since, 51-year-old Hernán said in an interview in their tin-roofed home near the fields where he’s a farm hand and she’s a seasonal worker, picking fruit as it comes in.

“God gave me a beautiful wife, and God gave me this beautiful house,” he said, ticking off his reasons for gratitude as he placed a plate of cookies and saltines on the table and Rosa made Nescafé.

The only thing more that he and Rosa could possibly ever want, and pray for every day, is to meet the newborn twin sons they believe were stolen from them — with the complicity of a nun, no less — in the Santiago maternity hospital where the boys were born on July 27, 1984.

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