Image for illustrative purposes

“She is almost 90. Her health is failing, all she is asks is for my brother (Gonzalo Gutiérrez),” says Lorena Gutiérrez, the sister of Gonzalo who sits in a U.S. jail, in Petersburg, Virginia.

Gonzalo, in 2007, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for child pornography and misuse of a diplomatic passport.

Lorena told Katherine Chaves of La Nacion, how her mother, daily readies herself for the visit that never arrives. “At the end of the day, she realizes that this long-awaited moment did not come. And so the weeks, months and years pass,” says Lorena.

Gonzalo had been a Costa Rican diplomat assigned to Brazil and The Congo. His family’s attempt to repatriate him have failed, their first attempt was in 2014.

This past July, the family once again petitioned the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz (the ministry that operates the country’s prison system), to convince U.S. authorities to have Gonzalo finish out his sentence in Costa Rica, where he could be close to family.

“We’re waiting to see what happens this time. We are very hopeful. This situation not only hits my brother but also hits the whole family. We all feel locked up in that prison with him. We feel we are serving his sentence, without even being able to see him,” she said.

For his part, Wálter Corea, from the Justicia’s Transfer Unit, confirmed that on September 5, a request was made to the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen the case, with the possibility of extraditing him.

“At the moment, that is all that we can do: ask to be opened again. But the decision is of that country, so we must wait for a new response to our request,” said the official.

Corea emphasizes that the United States is not required to respond to the request within a specified time.

Gonzalo’s request is only one of the 45 requests many by Jusitica to different countries requesting the repatriation of Costa Ricans in various prisons around the world.

According to Corea, in 2014 the U.S. rejected the request and without giving reasons. “They are not required to say why we only know their answer was negative,” said Corea.

He added that, after their response, Costa Rican authorities cannot make a similar request for at least another two years.

Lorena said the (U.S.) answer “was terrible. We were hopeful. We knew that he met the requirements, but we do not know what happened (…),”

Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.