Published Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Prosecutor's Office opens indictment against man
suspected of abandoning nephew in Arizona desert
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
The Deputy Prosecutor's Office against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling filed the accusation against a man surnamed Brenes-Villalobos on suspicion of abandoning his nephew, a 6-year-old boy, in the Arizona desert in 2018.
According to the Prosecutor's Office, it is expected that in the coming weeks the case can be settled.
Currently, the suspect does not comply with any type of pre-trial precautionary measure, because a judge determined in a hearing in 2019 that the man did not present any risk of skipping the trial process.
In December 2019, the Prosecutor's Office ordered precautionary measures against the suspect who was a priest at that time. Then, an order set by the judge stated that the suspect must do in-person checks at the court once a month, surrender his passport and remain in the country. He was prohibited from any communication with the victim. However, these measures were in effect for a period of six months and expired in 2020.
In November 2019, judicial agents detained Brenes in Sardinal District, Guanacaste Province, as a request of the Prosecutor's Office. Brenes is accused of leaving his nephew, a 6-year-old Costa Rican boy, at the Arizona-Mexico border on June 19, 2018.
After the arrest, judicial agents revealed that the man worked as a priest at the Catholic Church of San Jeronimo in the same district. In a brief statement, the Catholic Church announced that Brenes was suspended from his position there.
According to the Catholic Church headquarter in Tilarán, Guanacaste, due to "this investigation process. In order to ensure the clarification of the truth, it was decided to remove Father Brenes from his occupations as a pastor so he can have all the possible availability for cope with the process,” Manuel Eugenio Salazar Mora, the bishop of Tilarán-Liberia, said in a statement addressed to the parishioners of the church in 2019.
The plight of the Costa Rican boy made headlines in the United States, but the uncle was not identified as a Roman Catholic priest at the time.
Judicial agents said the case has been under investigation for nearly a year, showing that the man returned to Costa Rica a day after Border Patrol agents picked up the boy at the border, they said.
According to international media, as the Washington Times reported in 2018, the boy endured 100-degree heat and was told that agents would pick him up.
The child was trying to join his mother, who also is an undocumented immigrant in the United States, the newspaper reported at the time.
That section of the U.S. border with Mexico is notorious for the ease by which undocumented immigrants enter the United States. Just like the boy, many just cross the border and wait for a Border Patrol vehicle because they usually claim refugee status so that they are set free to await a hearing before an immigration judge. The boy crossed south of Lukeville, Arizona.
The boy initially went to a government facility in Tucson, Arizona. Judicial agents said that Costa Rican consular workers in the United State managed to deliver the boy to the mother.
The case of the uncle presents some interesting jurisdictional problems. Although investigators in Costa Rica have received information from the United States, presumably, the man left Costa Rica with the boy legally. It is unclear whether or not Brenes will face a trial in the U.S. because Costa Rica does not extradite its citizens to other countries.
Should Costa Rican authorities authorize the extradition of its citizens to other countries in the case of an indictment process? We
would like to know your thoughts on this story.
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org