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Why Sean Goldman is on a jet to the US

Analysis: The custody battle over Sean Goldman reflects the ups and downs of US-Brazil relations.

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 finally 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. There the Goldmans boarded a private jet to the United States.

Goldman had said more times than anyone could count that he would not be happy until his son was with him and the wheels of the plane were off the ground on the way back home. He must be very happy.

US consulate spokeswoman Orna Blum talks to the media in Rio de Janeiro.
U.S. consulate spokeswoman Orna Blum had been urging that Sean Goldman be transferred in privacy.
(Seth Kugel/GlobalPost)

How his son is feeling, however, is another matter. According to the lawyer representing Sean Goldman’s Brazilian family, Sergio Tostes, the chaotic scene earlier at the American Consulate Thursday morning was a spectacle put on purposely by the Brazilian family. They wanted a mob of press as Sean arrived for the handover, Tostes said, to protest David Goldman's unwillingness to agree to their request to have Sean's grandmother and attorney fly with him 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, appeared down the block and across the street from the consulate, walking 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 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.

The 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. US Embassy spokeswoman Orna Blum had been urging since Wednesday 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, speaking in Portuguese to the mostly Brazilian reporters. "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, the scene at the handover was retribution for Goldman’s intransigence on the visitation issues.