RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Almost five years after Bruna Bianchi took her American-born son Sean Goldman on vacation from New Jersey to her native Brazil and never returned, Sean is back with his father.
At about 10 a.m. today, they left the American consulate on President Wilson Avenue in downtown Rio de Janeiro, and sped away in police-escorted SUVs to the airport, where they boarded a private jet to the United States.
According to the lawyer representing Goldman's Brazilian family, Sergio Tostes, the scene earlier this morning was a spectacle put on purposely by the Brazilian family. They were, Tostes said, protesting David Goldman's unwillingness to agree to their request to have the grandmother and attorney fly with Sean to the United States, and his unwillingness to agree to visitation.
The boy, now 9, wearing a bright yellow jersey adorned with a Brazilian flag, arrived huddled between Tostes and his stepfather, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva. Slightly ahead were his grandmother and maternal uncle. There was no sign of Chiara, his 15-month-old half-sister.
The background to the familial scene is now familiar: In 2004, Bianchi — David Goldman’s ex-wife — took Sean on vacation to her native Brazil, remarried into a wealthy, powerful family of lawyers and eventually died shortly after giving birth to Sean’s half-sister last year.
On Thursday, that family was mobbed by an elbowing crowd of cameramen and photographers as it accompanied Sean to the consulate. "Open up space, please!" shouted Tostes.
"You were the ones that caused this!" shouted one photographer.
Completely true. American embassy spokeswoman Orna Blum had been urging since last night that Sean be transferred in privacy.
Alerted that the family was planning to arrive on foot, she gave a pre-emptive press conference outside the consulate to mostly Brazilian journalists.
"I want to confirm that the family has complete access to the building," she said. "Here in the consulate we are facilitating access, discretion and calm for the family." It was vital, she said, for Sean to have privacy during these moments.
But Tostes said, in an exclusive interview conducted by GlobalPost for CBS News Wednesday night, that this was retribution for Goldman's intransigence on the visitation issues.
It would have been convenient for Silvana (the grandmother) to travel to the United States, he said Wednesday night in his home. It would make the transition as smooth as possible, not just for the boy but for the benefit of David Goldman.
Before the impasse, which occurred in a meeting between lawyers from both sides, Tostes said the families had agreed to have Sean's maternal grandmother meet Goldman, to tell him about Sean's likes and dislikes, habits, and some medical issues. He is, for example, allergic to shellfish. But that did not happen, though it is unclear whether they discussed these issues inside the consulate.
The media circus was a plan, Tostes said, to combat what he said would be a hero's welcome for Sean when he arrived in the United States. He wished to have a farewell in front of everyone seen on the front page in papers in the U.S. and all over the world.
He may have succeeded.