A 12-year-old boy adopted in his native Russia and abandoned in the Dominican Republic by suspected drug traffickers has been in limbo for years, officials said Tuesday.
The boy, Diego, says he wants to return to Russia but he has almost completely forgotten his native language. He has had no formal education since the Russian couple left him with a taxi driver in 2005.
Due to his status as a foreigner, the boy has not been eligible for adoption by anyone else, said Aly Pena, legal director of the Dominican National Youth Council.
"It is a very complicated situation," Pena said.
The case was not widely known until Russia's children's rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, mentioned the boy last week in response to a question at a Moscow news conference on overseas adoptions. Russia froze adoptions by U.S. citizens last week after another adopted boy was sent back to Russia by his American family.
Diego, originally from the Volgograd region, was adopted in 2003 by a Russian couple who left him two years later in the Boca Chica tourist zone of the Dominican Republic with a driver who worked for them during their stay in the Caribbean country, authorities said. After returning to Russia, the couple were arrested for cocaine trafficking.
The boy lived with the taxi driver and his wife until authorities received allegations they were mistreating him. In 2008, he was taken away and sent to a temporary shelter for children who have been victims of domestic violence.
Diego's case is "unique because he has seen many children pass through (the shelter), but his situation remains the same," said Juan Ramon Sanchez, who directs the shelter in Boca Chica.
The Russian Embassy in Venezuela has sent officials to meet with the boy, but they have not offered any alternatives to his current situation. Ivan Savin, the consul general at the embassy, said that Russian authorities are preparing for his repatriation but that Dominican officials may determine the child would be better off staying in this country.
"He has problems with the Russian language," Savin said, adding that by now the boy is used to living in the tropics.
Diego cannot be adopted locally because there is no information available on his biological family, but Savin said such details can only be revealed through a government petition. So far that has not been done.
While he waits, Diego will at least begin receiving an education. Through the intervention of a humanitarian group he secured a place in a private school beginning this week, Sanchez said.