Features — 24 November 2015 — by Sharon Marin-Lewis
Justice for Nina

ORANGE WALK, Mon., Nov. 23, 2015–Analiz Perez Gutierrez, the 22-year-old mother who made the news last week after her child, Nina, a 2-year-old toddler, was removed from her care by a social worker attached to the Human Services Department, has begun a campaign to get her daughter back.

The traumatic incident which resulted in the child being placed in foster care until January 2016 took place on Friday, November 13, when the Human Services Department, based on a custody order issued in Guatemala, swooped in on Gutierrez at her Orange Walk Home.

As we had mentioned, the child was born in Guatemala, to a Guatemalan citizen, and when Gutierrez returned home to Belize, the father of the child was able to apply for full custody of the child in a Guatemalan court.

It was granted in Gutierrez’s absence; she had by this time had returned to Belize and was now focused on the business of settling down in her hometown of Orange Walk. That set the wheels in motion for the child to be removed.

Initially, Gutierrez had told Amandala that she was satisfied that her baby would not be arbitrarily returned to Guatemala and that due process will be followed. But, it is an emotional situation, and while the young mother has put her trust in the Belize Family Court, she has sprung into action, using social media to call attention to her plight.

Gutierrez started a Facebook page called “Justice for Nina,” and just this past weekend held the first of several scheduled fundraisers – a bake sale at Queen Elizabeth Park in Orange Walk Town. She says she is raising funds to pay for legal fees and any other associated costs in trying to get her daughter back, including transportation and communication costs.

Legal fees are upward of $5,000 and the unemployed mother says she is depending on the public for assistance.

Gutierrez has received major outpouring on social media from Belizeans, who, for sentimental reasons, have latched onto her side, decrying the fact that Human Services was able to act as it did, simply on the orders of a Guatemalan Court.

The Human Services Department, thru its CEO Judith Alpuche, has defended her department, saying that they became involved in the case through The Hague Convention, to which Belize is a signatory. That convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted.

Meanwhile, the child has been placed in foster care in Belize – and as was recommended by Gutierrez, she has been placed in a “familiar” home. Visitation, under strict rules, has been approved: Gutierrez is allowed to see the child for 3 hours daily, but she cannot take the child from the home at anytime. She is also not to mention the child’s whereabouts to anyone, including the media.

Gutierrez says she is hopeful that the visiting period will be increased – that is dependent on the supervising social worker’s recommendation.

Gutierrez told Amandala that the first fundraiser was very successful, and she is truly grateful for the support she has received so far. She explained that the baby is very attached to her and her family, and since the ordeal began, they had been trying to cope with separation anxiety.

The 22-year-old mother says she is trying to see if she can get the hearing expedited – the Belize Family Court will determine if the Hague Convention is applicable in this situation.

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