Mom Wanted for Abducting Her Son Speaks from Argentina

Michael Alexander Reyes is a pretty normal 8-year-old boy.

The boy, who is called Alex, loves soccer and is on the mend from a broken arm.

"Alex has everything a kid can want and more," said his mom, Maria Belen Francesconi. "He goes to school, he goes to swimming classes, he has his friends, his cousins, his grandparents and he enjoys all the freedom that an 8-year-old can have."

But their normal life ends outside their Buenos Aires, Argentina door.

Alex and his mom are under constant surveillance and have been for years. That’s because Maria Belen Francesconi is wanted by the FBI – accused of the parental abduction of her son. Alex is listed as a missing and exploited child.

"He is not missing and he is not exploited," said Francesconi.

In 2008, just months after Alex was born in Miami, Francesconi says she took him to Argentina to visit relatives. Her son’s dad, Miguel Angel Reyes, did not travel with them.

"Initially, we were going to stay here for two months, and then Miguel decided to extend it for three more months so it was five months in total," Francesconi said. "He said he wanted some financial relief from us. He said that he wanted my family to support us, and he told me to get a job here."

She says she took another email as consent to keep their son.

"He understood that I wasn’t coming back so he sends me an email and tells me to be happy with our son in Argentina," Francesconi said. "He said he was going to be shipping all of our stuff over here, so yes."

Shortly after that, Alex's picture started showing up on her electric bill as a missing and exploited child.

In Miami, Reyes reported his child missing and began fighting to recover his son on several fronts.

Reyes declined an on-camera interview but records show he filed for full custody of Alex and was granted it by a Florida Family Court because Francesconi didn’t show up for the hearings.

"He doesn’t tell the judge that I can’t travel with Alex because the passport is being held by the judge in Argentina, and he doesn’t tell the judge that Alex cannot leave the country because we have a prohibition to exit the country," Francesconi said about the Florida court’s ruling.

Reyes also filed to get his son back under the Hague Convention, a treaty adopted by countries around the world to protect children.

"A case is filed in the place where the child is located seeking the return of the child," said Judge Judith Kreeger, a Hague Network Judge not involved in this case.

Judge Kreeger says the case in Argentina under the Hague Convention and the Florida court are completely separate. The process in Argentina is not to argue over custody but to determine if Alex should be returned to Miami.  

"It’s supposed to be done in six weeks, start to finish," Judge Kreeger said.

In this case, it’s been almost eight years. Francesconi has been appealing court orders to return the child.

In a statement, the U.S. State Department wrote: "We are deeply concerned about Argentina’s pace of progress in resolving open cases of International Parental Child Abduction."

In a recent report they "cited Argentina for failing to fully meet its obligations under the convention."

Click here to see the most recent report in how countries complied with the Hague Convention.

According to the State Department, in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Peru, at least 30 percent of parental abductions are unresolved.  Places like Egypt, India, Jordan and Saudi Arabia don’t work to resolve cases at all because they are non-convention countries which means they didn’t sign the Hague Treaty. 

Meantime, Alex has grown up in Argentina and tells us he doesn’t want to leave.

"What I want is to stay here. I have my cousins, my friends, my grandparents," said Alex in Spanish. He doesn't speak English.

He does not know his biological dad and calls his stepdad 'Papa Omero.' He also has a little sister.

But Francesconi fears he will soon have to go back to Miami without her because in these eight years, she lost her U.S. residency and has been charged with kidnapping.

"If I go back, I go to jail and whatever happens, I end up getting deported," she said.

Francesconi says she takes responsibility for what she did wrong and is willing to uproot her entire family if the U.S. allows her to enter the country to fight for her son. Otherwise she says, she’s going to have to prepare her boy to live without his mother.

"He is used to being tucked in bed by me every night," Francesconi said. 

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