Spain's Stolen Babies This World


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Spain's Stolen Babies

Documentary series. Katya Adler reveals the impact of Spain's stolen baby scandal, meeting those who were separated at birth and who are now desperate to find their relatives.


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Spain is reeling from an avalanche of shocking allegations

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of baby theft and baby trafficking,

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recently revealed to have gone on for decades.

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THEY DEBATE IN SPANISH

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Graves are being exhumed,

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their contents exposing the cynical deceits

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used to trade in human life.

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TRANSLATED: Why was she so cold? She was completely frozen.

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Since the Spanish Civil War, hundreds of thousands of babies

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are believed to have been trafficked by nuns, priests and doctors.

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SPEAKS SPANISH

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I've been meeting the heartbroken mothers,

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now searching for the children they'd been told had died at birth.

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TRANSLATED: I'm convinced they didn't bury my baby.

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I have always doubted the boy died.

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He's alive in my heart.

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And the stolen and trafficked babies, now grown up,

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who are searching for their biological families

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and their true identity.

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TRANSLATED: We want to know the truth.

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I want her to be honest and tell me who our mothers are.

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While there's hope of emotional reunions for some,

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the victims are reeling,

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asking themselves the most fundamental of questions.

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Where do you come from?

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Are you completely Spanish, are you half Spanish,

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are you even Spanish, what...what are you?

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Madrid housewife Manoli Pagador has three daughters.

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And lots of grandchildren.

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But she's never got over the loss of her first born,

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a son, nearly 40 years ago.

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TRANSLATED: When they first told me he died,

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for me that was the worst thing on earth.

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My world collapsed.

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From that moment on, I no longer existed.

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In April 1971, Manoli gave birth to a seemingly healthy baby boy

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in the O'Donnell Hospital in Madrid.

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The birth seemed to go well, with no complications,

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but it's the horror of what happened next that's haunted Manoli ever since.

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I said, "Aren't you going to give him to me?

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"No?" They said, "No, no.

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"We need to take him down to see the doctor".

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At first, I heard a baby crying.

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However, that crying went away.

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It went further and further away.

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And then, nine hours later,

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a nun arrived and she just said,

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"Your baby's died."

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Manoli and her husband never believed their baby died.

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Like many other parents across Spain

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with strikingly similar stories,

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they believe their child was stolen.

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I have always doubted the boy died.

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He's alive in my heart.

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Until recently, some members of Manoli's own family doubted her.

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But her eldest daughter, Mar,

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now believes passionately that her brother was stolen

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and she's turned detective in an effort to find out the truth.

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TRANSLATED: My mother has told me her story many times.

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How she had her baby and how they treated her.

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I feel so much anger, so much.

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Right now, I'm living in a bubble and looking for my brother,

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I think it will be us victims who will do the investigation,

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I can tell you that now.

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Recent events in Spain have given Manoli and Mar,

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and thousands like them, new hope.

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IN SPANISH:

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In January this year,

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hundreds of Spaniards who believe they were the victims

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of mass baby trafficking,

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launched a campaign demanding a national investigation.

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They alleged a trade involving many thousands of Spanish infants,

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including cases of organised baby theft.

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The volume and similarity of their stories

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shocked the country.

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The campaign was spearheaded by Antonio Barroso.

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Antonio Barroso and his childhood friend Juan Luis Moreno

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grew up in a small, seaside town near Barcelona.

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Just recently, they discovered

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they were both victims of child-trafficking

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and they're now re-assessing their lives.

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TRANSLATED: That is the flat where I lived.

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That's my room, the one at the top.

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It was only when visiting his father on his deathbed

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that Juan Luis finally found out the truth.

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He said, "I bought you."

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That's engraved here in my mind and in my heart, you know?

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"I bought you from a priest here in Zaragoza."

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And he said that Antonio had been bought as well.

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And I asked my dad, "How much did you pay for me?"

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150,000 Pesetas.

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I cost the same as that flat.

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Juan Luis then took a DNA test

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to see if his DNA matched that of the woman he'd called "mother" all his life.

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"Probability of maternity -

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"0.000%."

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I've been lied to, I've been conned.

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Juan Luis and Antonio's parents

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weren't friends before they bought their sons,

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but after doing so, they often spent the weekend together,

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sharing a guilty secret.

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TRANSLATED: Well, it's like someone who buys two dogs.

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Two friends that bought dogs

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and decided to go together for a walk with them.

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It was a false love. Everyday I'm more sure of it.

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Most of Spain's trafficked children

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have no idea who their real mother's are.

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Some were stolen from their parents,

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others given up, either willingly or not, by unmarried mothers

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who were stigmatised in Catholic, conservative Spain.

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Juan Luis is haunted by the idea

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he may have been taken from his real mother against her will.

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TRANSLATED: To think that there is a mother out there,

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in Spain or Europe or somewhere in the world,

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whose baby was stolen, and we could be her sons...

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Gosh, it's very hard.

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Juan Luis and Antonio believe they were stolen

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rather than given away by their mothers,

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but it's a difficult thing to prove

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as their birth documents are riddled with false information.

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Since Juan Luis and Antonio launched their campaign,

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thousands more Spaniards who believe they, too, are victims

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have come forward.

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I've come to one of the many road shows

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set up by support groups across Spain.

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They're attempting to match the DNA samples of those desperate

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to find their blood relatives.

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IN SPANISH:

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Lawyers estimate that as many as 300,000 children

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were trafficked in Spain.

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Parents are searching for their children,

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and children searching for their parents.

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TRANSLATED: Two days after giving birth, the birth was fine.

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I showed her to my husband. Nobody said she wasn't healthy.

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Two days later, they came and told me that she'd died.

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Something must have happened. I think they stole her from me.

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Many of the people here say they were refused permission

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to see their baby, even after they were told it had died.

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TRANSLATED: They isolated us completely.

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My wife was told she couldn't see him

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because she could get a haemorrhage.

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"Why can't I see my son? Even if he's dead?"

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I didn't see him.

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It was my dream to have a son

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and now you think some other people

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are enjoying this child instead of me.

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I feel so powerless, all I can do is cry.

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Some of the families who believe their babies were stolen

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have begun private investigations.

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And shocking evidence has emerged.

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Babies' graves are now being exhumed across Spain,

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making for some disturbing discoveries.

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One baby's grave had just a pile of stones in it.

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Another, only the remains of an adult leg,

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while the grave of a baby girl showed the bones of a baby boy,

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no relative at all of the distraught parents.

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Spaniards are appalled, and as public pressure mounts,

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and the evidence of wrongdoing increases,

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there are likely to be many more exhumations in the coming months.

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While most of the exhumations have been done privately,

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a judge in Southern Spain has now ordered the first state exhumations.

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The Spanish government has appointed a national coordinator

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to oversee the issue Spaniards call "ninos robados",

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Spain's stolen children.

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IN SPANISH:

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TRANSLATED: Without a doubt.

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-Many?

-I don't dare try to come up

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with a figure myself,

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but from the volume of official investigations I would dare say,

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yes, there were many.

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This is a really serious matter.

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When it affects something as essential as your own identity,

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your right to know your origins.

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These are fundamental rights.

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Spain's judicial system is now examining cases

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which took place between 1960 and 1990,

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but the origins of this tragedy are older and ideological.

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The longer you live here,

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the more you notice the huge shadows of the past

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that haunt Spanish society today.

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It's a legacy of 40 years of military dictatorship

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which only ended relatively recently.

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There's been a reluctance in Spain to rake over that past

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and so to come to terms with it,

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and that means that deep-seated divisions

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and a sense of injustice still exists in Spain today.

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In 1939, General Franco's Fascists

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seized power at the end of Spain's long and bloody civil war.

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Franco immediately began a military dictatorship

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over a country that was economically devastated

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and bitterly divided along political lines.

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Franco's presence still looms over Spain today.

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His body lies in this haunting mausoleum,

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built for him by his enslaved enemies,

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known as the valley of the fallen.

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TRANSLATED: He said, "We are going to create a totalitarian state."

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That has no turning back.

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Anyone who steps out of line is eliminated,

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either physically or socially.

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Of course, this was all firmly supported by the Catholic Church,

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they were the two pillars.

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Franco ordered the elimination of his enemies,

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the anti-fascists, dubbed "the reds."

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Thousands were executed or imprisoned.

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Their children were placed with right-wing Catholic families

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or put into institutions run by the clergy

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and brainwashed with the Fascist doctrine.

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Uxenu Alvarez was one of those "red" children.

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His mother died whilst under military interrogation

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and his father was later executed.

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Uxenu was sent to a children's home in northern Spain

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where he was brought up by nuns.

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TRANSLATED: The flag of the Franco regime was always hanging there.

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We were all singing with our arms outstretched.

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They killed me in 1936.

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Thousands and thousands of children.

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They destroyed us.

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It's estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 Spanish children

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were orphaned or simply removed from their parents

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and handed over to institutions or families that would give them

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an ideologically preferable upbringing.

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To seal the fate of the children of his enemies,

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Franco personally enacted a new adoption law in 1941.

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It made it legal to name the adoptive parents

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as a child's biological parents on their birth certificate.

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Infants grew up unaware that they were adopted,

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unless anyone told them otherwise.

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This deceit laid the foundation for the mass trafficking of babies

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that was to follow for the next 50 years,

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long after the fascists had lost power.

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While Spanish society continues to be rocked by the scandal,

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reverberations have been felt around the world.

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Randy Ryder lives in Texas, but was born in Spain in the 1970s.

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He had a difficult childhood,

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living between an unstable Austrian mother

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and an often-absent Texan father.

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The first half of my life I spent with my mother.

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She was an alcoholic.

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When she would drink, she would always talk about a woman from Spain.

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She would just say that, "You're not really mine,"

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and that...

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"I...um...got you from this very bad woman in Spain."

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But I always sort of wrote that off as just being gibberish.

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It was only by accident that Randy began to find out the truth.

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He was holidaying with his own son

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at his grandmother's home in Austria,

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when he made a remark

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about his child's lack of family resemblance.

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I said, "You know, Grandma,

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"he doesn't look a lot like us, does he?

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"He doesn't have a lot of our features."

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And at that point, you know, my grandma was already in her 80s,

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and, um, she looks at me, and she just says,

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"Well, you don't..."

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That's when she said, "You don't have my blood."

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I said, "What are you talking about?"

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and she said, "You're not...you're not part of...

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"biologically, you're not part of my blood, my family."

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And at that point, my aunt got up and rushed her into the other...

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into the house, and everybody started cleaning up the dishes,

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and, um, I almost fell out of my chair.

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When Randy confronted his father about what his grandmother had said,

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in the end his father admitted - he'd been bought.

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He finally said,

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"OK, you are.

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"But I want you to know

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"that we picked the best one out of the bunch."

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He even told me that he, you know, provided, like, 5,000 to pay for the birth.

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But births didn't cost 5,000 back then.

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I would say that a large percentage of that cash went to someone.

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That's equivalent to £16,000 in today's money.

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Randy requested his birth certificate from the Spanish consulate.

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He was surprised that the people he knows were not his mother and father

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were listed as his biological parents.

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There's no indication of a person being adopted.

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The combination of Franco's adoption law

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and falsehoods in documents

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has left victims like Randy few clues as to their real identity.

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The families of those who believe their baby was stolen

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have also been following the paper trail.

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But years after the event, it's not easy.

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In Madrid, Manoli's eldest daughter, Mar, has been leading the search

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for the man she believes to be her stolen brother.

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TRANSLATED: I started to ask for documentation and saw that nothing matched up.

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I sought information from a doctor, from forensics,

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and what the documents tell me is not real, it is a lie.

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In one document, it says the baby died

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from an intracranial haemorrhage nine hours after birth.

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While in another, it states

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the baby failed to draw breath and was stillborn.

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This is Almudena Cemetery,

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which, according to documents Manoli now has,

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is where her son was buried.

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She's visiting the spot for the very first time.

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TRANSLATED: I think it was number 56,

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third grave.

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It's a strange feeling,

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but I'm convinced they didn't bury my baby.

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Something tells me they didn't.

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After the birth, Manoli wasn't well enough

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to attend her baby's burial,

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but her husband was determined to.

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My husband wanted to attend his son's burial,

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of course, and they said, "No", that they'd take care of it,

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they would do everything.

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Being refused access to the funeral of their dead baby

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is a recurrent story with Spanish mothers

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who believe their infants were stolen.

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During Franco's rule and the years that followed,

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ordinary Spaniards were powerless in the face of authority.

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Mothers didn't dare argue with hospital staff.

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Strangely, Manoli's son's burial documents

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suggest his funeral was a rather elaborate affair.

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Everything's on record as paid for,

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as if it were our burial.

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The flowers, the priest, everything,

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The small coffin, as if we'd paid for it.

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It didn't exist.

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The car didn't exist. The priest didn't exist.

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Nothing existed.

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I don't think they buried the baby.

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After finding out where her son was supposedly buried,

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Manoli was then told

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that any remains had been moved to a mass grave

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to make space for more burials.

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This means she can no longer carry out an exhumation

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for DNA testing.

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Many of the wrongs associated with the Franco regime

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were laid to rest along with the dictator.

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After Franco's death in 1975, the major political parties

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agreed an amnesty to help smooth the transition to democracy.

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But this amnesty law has never been repealed,

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so attempts to investigate Spain's baby trafficking

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as a national crime against humanity

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have been rejected by the country's judiciary.

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Critics argue this is evidence

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of the undying influence of Francoism in modern day Spain.

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TRANSLATED: In Spain, there are hundreds of thousands of people

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that yearn for the past

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and who think that the past can't be bettered.

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Here, we haven't cured Franquismo,

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and, in certain aspects, we're exactly the same as before.

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Socially, this country carries a lot of lead on its wings.

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It's weighed down, and as long as that's there,

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the doves will not fly.

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With no national case, Spain's Attorney General

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has charged regional prosecutors with investigating individual cases.

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More than 900 to date.

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TRANSLATED: I think 35 years have passed since the death of the dictator.

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We have a professional and independent justice system.

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Evidently, we still have problems from the past, social problems,

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but also personal and even cultural problems,

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and the policy of this government

0:22:440:22:46

has been one of trying to solve them.

0:22:460:22:48

Meanwhile, Mar's own investigation is progressing.

0:22:520:22:56

She's discovered a 39-year-old man

0:22:560:22:58

she believes may be her stolen brother.

0:22:580:23:01

He doesn't speak any Spanish and Mar doesn't speak any English,

0:23:010:23:05

so they're going to chat using an internet translator.

0:23:050:23:09

Sounds simple.

0:23:090:23:11

IN SPANISH:

0:23:110:23:13

Hello.

0:23:190:23:20

There's a lot of deeper intellectual stuff

0:23:360:23:39

I think both of us would like to share with each other.

0:23:390:23:42

But it's impossible in this medium.

0:23:420:23:45

You can't express yourself on these things.

0:23:450:23:49

SPEAKS SPANISH

0:23:540:23:57

Mar was watching one of the numerous TV programmes

0:23:570:24:00

dedicated to helping victims search for their biological relatives.

0:24:000:24:03

'In 1998, what happened is that...'

0:24:030:24:06

She spotted an immediate family resemblance

0:24:060:24:09

in one of the contributors.

0:24:090:24:10

I saw him on television.

0:24:130:24:15

I thought, "Oh! This guy looks a lot like my father."

0:24:150:24:17

I was a nervous wreck.

0:24:170:24:19

After thinking for 40 years that my brother had died,

0:24:190:24:23

I now find out that he could still be alive.

0:24:230:24:25

Mar's clearly captivated by the idea of Randy being her older brother.

0:24:380:24:43

But Randy is rather more cautious.

0:24:430:24:46

I've questioned a lot,

0:24:460:24:49

where she's been much more sort of blindly open

0:24:490:24:52

to the idea that we're related.

0:24:520:24:54

I'll bring up small points of differences,

0:24:540:24:57

such as me being born in Malaga,

0:24:570:24:59

and her brother being born in Madrid.

0:24:590:25:01

And what's the likelihood of the baby having been transported to the South?

0:25:010:25:06

The likelihood may be higher than Randy realises.

0:25:060:25:10

Many victims are now discovering they were moved around the country.

0:25:100:25:14

The trafficking scandal has become something of a national obsession

0:25:280:25:32

with dozens of hours of television devoted to it,

0:25:320:25:36

shining an uncomfortable light on the role of the Church.

0:25:360:25:40

IN SPANISH:

0:25:460:25:49

Under Franco, the church assumed a prominent role

0:26:150:26:18

in Spain's social services

0:26:180:26:21

including hospitals, schools and children's homes.

0:26:210:26:23

Individual nuns and priests were ideally placed

0:26:250:26:28

to organise trafficking of babies,

0:26:280:26:30

sourcing them from mothers regarded as less suitable

0:26:300:26:33

than the parents on their adoption waiting lists.

0:26:330:26:36

Eager to follow any lead

0:26:460:26:48

that may help them find their real mothers,

0:26:480:26:51

Juan Luis and Antonio are going to the town of Zaragoza,

0:26:510:26:54

to find out what they can from a nun involved in their sale.

0:26:540:26:57

TRANSLATED: Discovering these things is very hard,

0:27:010:27:05

and worst of all is the fact that the Church was involved.

0:27:050:27:08

I didn't trust the Church before,

0:27:080:27:10

but now I see it as public enemy number one.

0:27:100:27:13

La Basilica...

0:27:180:27:20

As boys, Juan Luis and Antonio holidayed here

0:27:200:27:24

every summer for a number of years.

0:27:240:27:26

But, for Juan Luis, this trip down memory lane

0:27:260:27:29

has stirred mixed emotions.

0:27:290:27:32

TRANSLATED: On the one hand, I remember it fondly

0:27:340:27:37

because it meant the holidays were starting,

0:27:370:27:39

but on the other hand, it's a sad memory

0:27:390:27:42

because now I understand why we came here.

0:27:420:27:44

To pay the instalments for the baby.

0:27:460:27:49

The baby that had been stolen.

0:27:490:27:52

While Juan Luis and Antonio stayed with their mothers,

0:28:180:28:21

playing amongst the pigeons,

0:28:210:28:23

their fathers went to pay their respects, and to pay off their debt.

0:28:230:28:26

TRANSLATED: My father told me they would give the money to a priest

0:28:310:28:35

who would come out from behind here.

0:28:350:28:37

And, according to what Antonio's mother told him recently,

0:28:370:28:40

it was one of the nuns who collected and distributed the money.

0:28:400:28:44

Is that the nun we're going to see?

0:28:440:28:46

Yes, the nun we're going to see.

0:28:460:28:49

BELLS PEAL

0:28:490:28:52

While Juan Luis and Antonio are hoping the nun will reveal

0:28:530:28:56

who their biological families are,

0:28:560:28:59

Mar and Manoli are putting their trust in science.

0:28:590:29:02

For most victims of the scandal, the only way to prove beyond doubt

0:29:020:29:06

a family connection, is to see if DNA samples match.

0:29:060:29:09

TRANSLATED: Finding my son would be the greatest thing on earth.

0:29:200:29:26

I used to say to my daughter that it was impossible

0:29:260:29:29

and she'd say, "Yes, we'll find him, Mum, we'll find him."

0:29:290:29:32

And now, with this guy, it seems more achievable.

0:29:320:29:37

But, of course, it could be a huge disappointment.

0:29:410:29:45

Across the other side of the world, in Texas,

0:29:480:29:50

Randy is also giving a DNA sample.

0:29:500:29:54

TRANSLATED: I'm losing sleep about the possibility

0:30:070:30:10

that Randy could be my brother.

0:30:100:30:13

I feel bad because it was me who contacted Randy

0:30:220:30:25

and stirred up the family's emotions.

0:30:250:30:27

This will be the first one.

0:30:280:30:30

TRANSLATED: I mean, If it was him,

0:30:430:30:45

I don't believe in God, but I would believe in miracles.

0:30:450:30:49

After giving his DNA sample,

0:30:500:30:52

Randy will fly to Madrid, to finally meet Mar and Manoli.

0:30:520:30:55

They plan to collect their DNA results together.

0:30:550:30:58

It's early days, but a handful of DNA matches have been made

0:31:030:31:07

between stolen babies and mothers who were told their child had died.

0:31:070:31:11

It's concrete proof that, for decades,

0:31:110:31:13

Spanish babies were forcibly taken and then sold on.

0:31:130:31:17

There are numerous support groups, blogs and websites

0:31:250:31:28

where victims level allegations at individual doctors,

0:31:280:31:32

hospitals and private clinics.

0:31:320:31:34

The most notorious of these is the San Ramon Clinic in Madrid

0:31:360:31:41

which was under the clinical direction of Dr Eduardo Vela Vela,

0:31:410:31:45

widely described as being "ultra-Catholic".

0:31:450:31:48

Dr Vela has been accused of running a baby factory,

0:31:550:31:58

providing babies, on demand, to selected families.

0:31:580:32:01

Ines Perez was a childless, devoutly Catholic married woman

0:32:010:32:05

in her late 40s, who received the ultimate gift from Dr Vela -

0:32:050:32:10

a daughter, also called Ines.

0:32:100:32:12

Ines Snr had fostered two boys as a favour for her local priest,

0:32:120:32:16

a childhood friend of Dr Vela's.

0:32:160:32:18

Dr Vela was asked

0:32:180:32:20

if he could provide Ines with her own baby as a special thank-you.

0:32:200:32:24

Dr Vela agreed

0:32:240:32:26

and asked Ines to fake a pregnancy, before being given the child.

0:32:260:32:30

TRANSLATED: This man said to me,

0:32:300:32:34

"Are you willing to pretend that you are pregnant?"

0:32:340:32:39

I said, "Yes."

0:32:410:32:44

Then I had to put on the padding. as if I were really pregnant,

0:32:440:32:49

and he shaped what he had put on me,

0:32:490:32:52

the padding on the front.

0:32:520:32:55

Everything was signed by him.

0:33:010:33:03

The doctor did it at the time of birth.

0:33:070:33:10

That document led to the baby being registered officially

0:33:150:33:18

as Ines Snr's biological child, and the truth would never be known.

0:33:180:33:23

TRANSLATED: It is very painful for me to think

0:33:280:33:31

that I could have a whole family in another place

0:33:310:33:34

that loves me, that have been looking for me, all this time.

0:33:340:33:38

I feel repulsion!

0:33:380:33:40

I would like him to feel at least once

0:33:400:33:43

a modicum of the pain that he has inflicted on countless families.

0:33:430:33:47

Hundreds of babies are now believed to have been trafficked

0:33:490:33:53

from the San Ramon clinic.

0:33:530:33:55

It was well-known to be THE place to go if you wanted a baby, fast,

0:33:550:34:00

and had the means to pay for it.

0:34:000:34:02

Lali Carasco was one such woman.

0:34:020:34:05

IN SPANISH:

0:34:060:34:09

After waiting a year on Madrid's official adoption waiting list,

0:34:170:34:21

Lali Carrasco and her husband were told they could get a baby quickly

0:34:210:34:25

if they visited a nun, Sister Maria,

0:34:250:34:28

who worked closely with Dr Vela.

0:34:280:34:31

In return for the baby, Lali and her husband provided

0:34:310:34:35

both Sister Maria and Dr Vela with payments, in cash.

0:34:350:34:39

TRANSLATION: I think it was around 50,000 pesetas to Sister Maria

0:34:450:34:49

and around 120,000 to Dr Vela.

0:34:490:34:52

But I thought these were normal expenses of the clinic

0:34:570:35:00

and for the mother's stay at the residency.

0:35:000:35:04

This official receipt for birth expenses from San Ramon clinic

0:35:040:35:09

shows the going rate at the time was around 27,000 pesetas.

0:35:090:35:13

Lali and her husband were asked to pay

0:35:130:35:16

more than five times as much to Sister Maria and Dr Vela.

0:35:160:35:20

But where were the babies coming from?

0:35:200:35:22

In 1981, Civil Registry sources indicate

0:35:250:35:29

that 70% of women who gave birth at the San Ramon clinic

0:35:290:35:32

were registered as "Mother Unknown."

0:35:320:35:35

This was totally legal under Spanish law

0:35:350:35:38

and was meant to protect the anonymity of unmarried mothers.

0:35:380:35:43

But it was also widely used to cover up baby trafficking.

0:35:460:35:50

Photojournalist German Gallego was working for Interviu magazine,

0:35:500:35:54

in 1982, when they received a tip-off about unmarried mothers

0:35:540:35:59

being coerced into giving up their babies for trafficking.

0:35:590:36:03

TRANSLATION: There was a Dr Vela, who ran the clinic.

0:36:100:36:13

We tried to speak to him to find out what was going on,

0:36:130:36:16

but he absolutely refused to speak to us.

0:36:160:36:19

However, some of the nurses there wanted to talk to us.

0:36:210:36:25

They told us people would arrive to give birth,

0:36:250:36:28

and another person would arrive and wait in a different room,

0:36:280:36:31

and then that person would end up taking the baby.

0:36:310:36:34

At one point during the interview, they told us

0:36:400:36:42

that when women wanted to keep their baby,

0:36:420:36:45

they were then told that their baby had been born dead.

0:36:450:36:49

So I said, "Don't they want to see it?"

0:36:490:36:52

And they said, "Yes, but we keep several babies in the freezer."

0:36:520:36:56

German then arranged to return to San Ramon Clinic

0:36:570:37:00

in the dead of night, to see for himself.

0:37:000:37:03

This nurse opened the door, and we went through to a back room.

0:37:070:37:11

And they opened the door to a freezer,

0:37:170:37:19

and they showed me a child, a baby girl, that had been stillborn,

0:37:190:37:23

but they kept her as a model to show people.

0:37:230:37:26

It was horrible.

0:37:300:37:33

Interviu Magazine ran with German's shocking pictures

0:37:370:37:40

and allegations of child-trafficking at San Ramon.

0:37:400:37:43

They were expecting a bombshell,

0:37:430:37:46

perhaps the start of a police enquiry, but nothing came of it.

0:37:460:37:50

The only thing that happened was a phone call from the police

0:37:530:37:57

inquiring about it, and they said they would investigate it,

0:37:570:38:00

but they didn't investigate anything.

0:38:000:38:03

We gave them all the information we had on Dr Vela and the people,

0:38:030:38:08

the nun there, and nothing happened to any of them.

0:38:080:38:11

At the time, if you were a doctor in Spain during the '80s,

0:38:110:38:15

it was like you were God.

0:38:150:38:17

I've come to Tenerife to see a woman

0:38:280:38:29

who believes her baby was stolen by Dr Vela in the early 1980s.

0:38:290:38:34

Her story is disturbingly similar to many women

0:38:340:38:38

who say their child was taken from them at San Ramon.

0:38:380:38:42

Dr Vela had sedated Elsa Lopez when she gave birth.

0:38:560:39:00

When she came round, he was at her side with some terrible news.

0:39:080:39:13

TRANSLATION: Dr Vela told me that the birth had been complicated,

0:39:170:39:22

that the baby had had difficulties, and was not very well

0:39:220:39:25

and he wasn't sure that she'd survive.

0:39:250:39:28

I started to cry, and he told me,

0:39:300:39:33

"Don't cry, because I'm going to baptise her

0:39:330:39:36

"so that she'll go to heaven with the angels".

0:39:360:39:39

And then he came back with that...thing,

0:39:400:39:43

wrapped in a towel or a cloth or something, all wrapped up.

0:39:430:39:47

So he brought the baby close to me.

0:39:500:39:52

It was very pale. He said, "Give her a kiss".

0:39:520:39:55

So I kissed her.

0:39:550:39:58

Why was she so cold? She was completely frozen.

0:40:050:40:08

Shortly after, Dr Vela returned, this time without the baby.

0:40:100:40:14

He stroked me and told me, "Don't cry,

0:40:180:40:21

"God has taken her with him.

0:40:210:40:23

"It's better this way, because a child with health problems,

0:40:230:40:26

"with disfigurements, would have been a burden."

0:40:260:40:28

Elsa went on to have more children

0:40:350:40:38

but she never believed her baby really died.

0:40:380:40:41

To add to her doubt, Elsa's documents

0:40:410:40:44

registering her baby's birth and death

0:40:440:40:47

are riddled with inaccuracies and false declarations.

0:40:470:40:51

In January 1977, Elsa had had a miscarriage

0:40:510:40:54

and was treated at the San Ramon clinic.

0:40:540:40:57

Now, in February 1981, the medical certificate

0:40:570:41:01

for her supposedly dead baby, appears to be a crude forgery

0:41:010:41:05

based on the documents from her miscarriage.

0:41:050:41:08

TRANSLATION: To the lawyers, this just seems illogical.

0:41:080:41:12

It's an evident forgery of information.

0:41:120:41:15

Elsa is convinced she knows why she was targeted to have her baby taken.

0:41:160:41:20

I probably didn't fit the right profile for Dr Vela.

0:41:210:41:26

At the time, I was a divorcee,

0:41:260:41:29

with a child outside marriage, and with a much younger man.

0:41:290:41:35

I don't believe in God.

0:41:350:41:37

I am a politically incorrect person because I am a woman of the left.

0:41:370:41:41

Everybody knows this.

0:41:410:41:42

I work with left-wing political movements,

0:41:420:41:45

feminist movements in Madrid, and he knew all this.

0:41:450:41:48

Elsa is not the only mother who believes

0:41:510:41:54

she was shown a frozen baby by Dr Vela

0:41:540:41:56

as part of an elaborate deceit.

0:41:560:41:59

Dr Vela was able to run a baby factory for decades,

0:42:060:42:09

producing babies to order, without being held to account for it, ever.

0:42:090:42:12

We've asked Dr Vela for an interview, but he declined,

0:42:120:42:15

as he's declined any such interview request over the last 30 years.

0:42:150:42:20

Now, by some strange coincidence,

0:42:200:42:22

I gave birth in Dr Vela's latest clinic, Clinica Belen,

0:42:220:42:25

here in Madrid, over a year ago now

0:42:250:42:28

and that's how I've managed to get an appointment to see him today,

0:42:280:42:31

as a newly-expectant mum.

0:42:310:42:34

IN SPANISH:

0:42:390:42:42

Dr Vela immediately assumed

0:43:060:43:08

I was talking about the allegations of stolen babies.

0:43:080:43:12

Dr Vela explained he was providing a service

0:43:240:43:27

for women who didn't want, or couldn't keep, their baby.

0:43:270:43:30

Dr Vela then became suspicious.

0:44:250:44:27

Dr Vela had clearly had enough of my questions, and headed for the door.

0:44:580:45:01

When he returned, he was brandishing a cross

0:45:070:45:10

and began quoting sections from the Bible

0:45:100:45:12

in order to lambast the profession of journalism.

0:45:120:45:16

Dr Vela denies any wrongdoing.

0:45:380:45:42

He still claims that he was storing the baby in the freezer

0:45:420:45:44

to carry out an autopsy.

0:45:440:45:47

Medical experts we've spoken to say this story makes no sense,

0:45:470:45:51

and would have clearly been in contravention

0:45:510:45:54

of Spanish autopsy law at the time.

0:45:540:45:57

The children adopted through the San Ramon Clinic

0:45:570:46:00

have little chance of finding their birth mothers

0:46:000:46:03

as Dr Vela claims he personally burnt all the files.

0:46:030:46:07

Their only hope now is DNA matching.

0:46:090:46:11

Manoli Pagador and her daughter Mar have come to Madrid airport

0:46:130:46:18

to meet Randy, who's arriving from Texas.

0:46:180:46:21

Tomorrow, they go together to get the results of their DNA tests,

0:46:230:46:27

to find out if they are actually related.

0:46:270:46:30

TRANSLATION: I'm nervous and excited.

0:46:320:46:35

I'm happy because I'm going to meet him in person.

0:46:350:46:38

Just talking about it makes my heart race.

0:46:380:46:41

IN SPANISH:

0:46:530:46:56

Hi. How are you?

0:47:020:47:03

They waste no time introducing Randy

0:47:360:47:38

to what might be his new Spanish family.

0:47:380:47:41

TRANSLATION: I think he's lovely, really lovely.

0:47:550:47:58

He'd be the perfect son if he were my own.

0:47:580:48:01

A part of me says he could be,

0:48:090:48:11

but another part of me is staying grounded and says it might not be.

0:48:110:48:14

But I keep on dreaming. I'm hopeful.

0:48:140:48:17

Um... You know, I'm scared.

0:48:190:48:21

I mean, with Mar, it's interesting

0:48:210:48:26

because I feel a connection with her,

0:48:260:48:28

and it felt very comfortable to hug her.

0:48:280:48:31

We've been speaking for so long over the internet

0:48:310:48:34

that I do feel a connection to her,

0:48:340:48:37

you know, I just don't know anyone else

0:48:370:48:39

and I'm frustrated that I can't communicate with anybody directly.

0:48:390:48:44

In Zaragoza, Antonio and Juan Luis

0:49:010:49:03

are preparing to visit Sister Acunsion Vivas,

0:49:030:49:07

a bedridden nun in her 80s.

0:49:070:49:10

She's the only living person who might know who their mothers are.

0:49:100:49:14

TRANSLATED: I want her to realise she committed an offence,

0:49:320:49:36

and we want to hear it from her.

0:49:360:49:37

We want to know the truth.

0:49:370:49:39

I want her to be honest and I want her to tell me who our mothers are.

0:49:420:49:46

Juan Luis begins by asking the nun

0:50:020:50:04

what she can remember about payments.

0:50:040:50:07

The sister admits she was involved in handling payments,

0:50:280:50:32

but Juan Luis is more interested

0:50:320:50:34

in finding out the identity of his real mother.

0:50:340:50:38

The nun insisted Juan Luis and Antonio's mothers were unmarried,

0:51:160:51:19

and so seen as sinners in conservative Spain.

0:51:190:51:23

She said she saved them from being aborted,

0:51:230:51:26

but she gave no hint as to their mother's names.

0:51:260:51:29

TRANSLATED: Another visit, another disappointment.

0:51:320:51:35

Every time I come here, she gives a little bit more information,

0:51:350:51:38

but she gives you just enough to leave you in the lurch.

0:51:380:51:41

Every Spanish person has the right to know their origins,

0:51:450:51:50

and as such, I hold on to this right in the constitution

0:51:500:51:53

and I demand it.

0:51:530:51:54

I want the Spanish government to tell me where I come from.

0:51:540:51:58

Lots of people are implicated, the church, judges, hospitals,

0:52:010:52:07

there's a whole network.

0:52:070:52:09

But what I'm seeing in these last few days is that this is too big,

0:52:090:52:13

I think it's too big for Spain,

0:52:130:52:17

or for the governing people in Spain.

0:52:170:52:20

The Catholic Church refuses to comment on its role

0:52:220:52:26

in Spain's stolen and trafficked baby scandal.

0:52:260:52:29

While cases are investigated one by one,

0:52:310:52:34

there's little doubt that the victims

0:52:340:52:36

will find justice hard to come by.

0:52:360:52:39

And unlike other countries with stolen baby scandals

0:52:430:52:47

linked to a military dictatorship, like Argentina or Chile,

0:52:470:52:51

Spain has never created a truth and reconciliation commission

0:52:510:52:55

to help victims deal with the crimes of the past.

0:52:550:52:59

TRANSLATED: Do you think there will be justice

0:52:590:53:01

for the victims of child theft?

0:53:010:53:03

I doubt it very much.

0:53:030:53:06

Franquismo's a cancer that was in power for 40 years,

0:53:060:53:10

and that cancer can't just be cured with an aspirin, called transition.

0:53:100:53:15

That cancer's still there,

0:53:150:53:17

and as long as it's not removed, it will carry on gestating inside.

0:53:170:53:20

Spanish society knew this was happening and looked the other way.

0:53:200:53:27

Would it not be a good idea

0:53:270:53:30

to have a truth and reconciliation commission?

0:53:300:53:32

TRANSLATED: I am not going to comment on the matter.

0:53:320:53:35

And to abolish the amnesty law? You don't want to answer?

0:53:350:53:39

It's not for me to say.

0:53:390:53:42

In the end, all that Spain's stolen and trafficked babies

0:53:440:53:49

and their mothers have to hang onto is the hope that DNA matching

0:53:490:53:53

will succeed in reuniting their families.

0:53:530:53:56

And the day has finally come

0:54:020:54:05

for Mar, Manoli and Randy to find out the truth.

0:54:050:54:10

I've spent a lot of time in recent months

0:54:100:54:12

just sort of looking in the mirror and wondering "Who are you?

0:54:120:54:15

"Where do you come from?

0:54:150:54:17

"Are you completely Spanish,

0:54:210:54:22

"are you half Spanish, are you even Spanish, what, what are you?"

0:54:220:54:26

Every day that I've spent with them, we're studying each other,

0:54:260:54:30

studying each other's mannerisms, studying the way we look.

0:54:300:54:34

TRANSLATED: Today is a day beyond words, really.

0:54:400:54:43

We love each other, we're comfortable together.

0:54:440:54:49

He's looking for his family,

0:54:490:54:51

we're looking for our boy, and everything is fine.

0:54:510:54:54

That's it.

0:54:540:54:56

But of course...

0:54:560:54:58

No.

0:54:580:55:00

TRANSLATED: I'm looking forward to getting there, and at the same time I'm frightened.

0:55:030:55:08

If the answer's yes, I'll never leave his side.

0:55:080:55:12

I'll hug him and no-one will be able to separate us.

0:55:120:55:15

I won't let go of him. I'll even go to Texas with him!

0:55:150:55:19

IN SPANISH:

0:55:290:55:31

-OK. It's OK.

-It's OK?

0:55:320:55:34

It's OK.

0:56:250:56:27

You'll find him.

0:56:280:56:30

It's such an awful feeling, you know, they talked about it,

0:57:240:57:30

the possibility that maybe, very possibly Randy wasn't the son,

0:57:300:57:34

the brother they were looking for.

0:57:340:57:36

But when that result comes, that final result,

0:57:360:57:39

and you see their faces,

0:57:390:57:41

and you know their lives, that were broken before,

0:57:410:57:44

just feel a little bit more broken now.

0:57:440:57:47

And this is happening all over Spain, the same process,

0:57:470:57:51

that same heartbreak.

0:57:510:57:53

You know, it's upsetting.

0:57:540:57:57

I mean, there's more doubt than I had before.

0:57:570:58:01

It might be better just to lay all this to rest.

0:58:010:58:04

TRANSLATED: You can't just say to yourself,

0:58:070:58:10

"I have to forget it and that's it."

0:58:100:58:12

It's with you for the rest of your life.

0:58:120:58:13

TRANSLATED: I'm going to take some time out.

0:58:130:58:18

I'm more relaxed, thanks to the DNA bank.

0:58:180:58:22

You can't do more than that.

0:58:220:58:25

Of course, the search continues.

0:58:250:58:27

If anything, this process has made me realise

0:58:300:58:32

and these people have made me realise

0:58:320:58:35

that there's nothing stronger than your real family. Nothing.

0:58:350:58:38

And I really believe in that.

0:58:380:58:40

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:540:58:56

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:560:58:58

Spain is reeling from an avalanche of allegations of baby theft and baby trafficking. It is thought that the trade began at the end of the Spanish civil war and continued for 50 years, with hundreds of thousands of babies traded by nuns, priests and doctors up to the 1990s. This World reveals the impact of Spain's stolen baby scandal through the eyes of the children and parents who were separated at birth, and who are now desperate to find their relatives.

Exhumations of the supposed graves of babies and positive DNA tests are proof that baby theft has happened. Across Spain, people are queuing up to take a DNA test and thousands of Spaniards are asking 'Who am I?'

Katya Adler has been meeting the heartbroken mothers who are searching for the children whom they were told died at birth, as well as the stolen and trafficked babies who are now grown up and searching for their biological relatives and their true identities.