The woman who became the first to be recognised as one of the ‘stolen babies’ from Spain’s Franco dictatorship era, said on Thursday, July 11th, that she has found her biological family, and learned that her mother gave her up voluntarily.
Inés Madrigal said that with the help of an American DNA bank, she managed to find four siblings, “who are marvellous people and have opened their arms to me." Madrigal spoke at a press conference in Madrid and continued: "at last I have completed the puzzle of my life. Now I know who I am and where I come from."
Madrigal's case was Spain's first, related to the widespread child trafficking that occurred under General Francisco Franco’s rule as a dictator from 1939-75, to go to trial, according to AP.
Franco's regime took away the children of political opponents, and later from poor families or prisoners, by stripping women of their new-born babies, by lying and saying they had died during labour. The children were then given to pro-Franco families, often involving the collusion of the Catholic Church.
The babies were supposed to be raised in the families of affluent, Franco-supporting conservative, and devout Roman Catholic families.
The stolen baby cases started at the onset of the country's Civil War in 1936 to Franco’s death in 1975. The British newspaper, the Guardian reported that estimates range from hundreds to thousands of victims. But most of the lawsuits were rejected by the courts, for coming after the statute of limitations had expired.
And that problem also affected the Madrigal case. Last year, a court ruled that gynaecologist Eduardo Vela, now 85, who took Madrigal from her biological mother in 1969, faking her birth for her adoptive parents, and forging official documents, but the court then had to clear Vela, since the statute of limitations saved him from conviction over his actions.
The discovery that Madrigal made from her newfound relatives, that her mother gave her up willingly, presents a revelation that is likely to hurt her chances of getting a verdict against Vela, when Spain's Supreme Court hears her appeal to last year's ruling at a future yet undetermined date.
The state prosecutor's office in Madrid issued a statement shortly after Madrigal’s statements on Thursday July 11th to say that given the new twist in her case, it does not consider that she was stolen.
But Madrigal said she remains convinced that Vela broke the law by hiding her true origins. "He should have registered my birth and he did not do so," Madrigal said. "He treated me like a puppy. The State never knew I existed." And suspicions do remain that Vela might be responsible for other thefts of babies.
Spain only started investigating the stolen babies cases a decade ago, when a probe was opened by magistrate Baltasar Garzón into the more than 30,000 children that were under the care of the right-wing regime.