Congressman Chris Smith said that the actions of a judge on Brazil's Supreme Court earlier this week which have blocked the return home of an American boy is an outrageous interference that demands a U.S. response.
Unveiling his legislation entitled "Suspension of Generalized System of Preferences to Brazil'' (click here to read bill) Smith said that regrettably it appears economic pressure may be the only way to persuade the world's fifth largest nation to comply with its treaty obligations regarding international child abductions. The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), authorized under the Trade Act of 1974, gave Brazil duty-free benefits on $2.7 billion worth of trade in 2008 alone. Smith's bill, H.R. 2702, would suspend GSP with Brazil until it complies with the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction which it agreed to years ago.
"The U.S. Congress must immediately adjust trade advantages enjoyed by the Brazilian government," said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. "The Brazilian government must understand that these reckless, unending legal maneuvers which have kept a boy separated from his father have no compassion or justice and bring dishonor on the Brazilian government. How long will President Lula allow this disgraceful charade to continue?"
The case, involving Sean Goldman who was taken from New Jersey to Brazil by his now deceased mother, has been bogged down in Brazilian courts for years, during which time David Goldman, Sean's dad, was not allowed to even visit his son for over a four-year period. Only in February 2009, after Smith intervened and traveled to Brazil, was David Goldman finally able to see Sean. On Monday of this week a Brazilian federal judge ruled that Sean Goldman should be returned home to the United States. One day later, on Tuesday, a Supreme Court judge suspended that order to consider a motion by a small political party which argued that the Hague Convention is in conflict with the Brazilian constitution.
"The government of Brazil freely signed and ratified the Hague Convention years ago," Smith said. "If politicians in Brazil now want to discuss withdrawing from the treaty, let them have that debate, but they should not hold Sean Goldman hostage."
Sean was born in Monmouth County, N.J. in 2000 and was kidnapped in 2004 when his mother, Bruna Bianci Goldman, a Brazilian native, departed the U.S. on a supposed vacation to Brazil. Once in Brazil she declared to her American husband, David Goldman, that she planned not to return to the United States, and would keep Sean in Brazil. U.S. courts ruled that Sean be returned to the United States for custody to be adjudicated. The mother later remarried, but died during childbirth in 2008. Sean has been living with the man she married in Brazil, an influential Rio de Janeiro lawyer, who has no relation to Sean but is lodging a court battle to block him from returning to his father.
The Hague Convention requires that children like Sean who are taken unlawfully to other countries be immediately returned to their place of habitual residence prior to the abduction so that the courts of that jurisdiction may rule on custody cases. The Superior Court of New Jersey awarded custody of Sean Goldman to his father, David, in 2004.