The Government has signed on with the United States Government to place restrictions on the Illegal importation and exportation of archeological material particularly Mayan antiquities. Through a MOU signed today between Belize and the US, law enforcement agents from that country are authorized to restrict the antiquities from entering the US and have them returned to Belize. News Five’s Jose Sanchez was present for the signing of the MOU.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Belize’s temples have documented ancient culture as well as the rise and fall of the Mayas. Whether etched in art or utensils, much historical treasure have been looted. Today, the US Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally and the Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia, signed a memorandum of understanding to end the illegal trade.
Vinai Thummalapally, US Ambassador to Belize
“The United States is committed to combating the looting and trafficking of cultural property of Belize just as it is all around the world. As they say it si the market that you have to address. If you can address the market and protect and keep people from buying stolen goods that’s how you make progress towards preventing from stealing in the first place.”
Manuel Heredia, Minister of Tourism
“It also represents an equally important manifestation of the close and collaborative relation that our two nations have fostered and maintained since our independence in 1981. Historically, the government of Belize has always taken great measures to prevent the pillaging of our archeological sites. These measures include the enactment of one of the most comprehensive antiquities legislation in the world and the creation of one of the mass fast reaching cultural researches management plans in the Americans. In spite of this commendable effort however, it has never been easy to stem the illegal exportation of archeological and ethnographic material to international markets. Consequently and particularly because of the illicit trade in antiquities, the looting and destruction of many archeological sites continued unabated throughout the country.”
“Because the signing ceremony today recognizes a single accomplishment; the execution of a formal memorandum of understanding between our two governments, it is somewhat of a solemn event. That same memorandum of understanding is a testament to our cooperation and acknowledges our joint commitment to protect Belize’s marvelous archeological patrimony. Today’s signing should also be somewhat of a celebration. First let me tell you what Minister Heredia and I are signing here today. The full and proper name of this agreement is a Memorandum of Agreement between the government of America and the government of Belize concerning the imposition of import restrictions on categories of archeological material representing the cultural heritage of Belize from the pre-ceramic, which is 9000 B.C., pre-classic, classic and post-classic periods of the pre-Colombian era through the early and late colonial periods.”
Jaime Awe, Archaeologist
“The real significance of today’s event is that it brought together the country of Belize and the United States government to agree that henceforth, the United States will join in our efforts to protect our cultural heritage. This agreement is the United States saying that from today onwards they will make it illegal for the importation of our cultural heritage especially the antiquities from Belize to the U.S.; that if anybody is importing any artifacts from our country, they will be confiscated and repatriated to Belize. It strengthens our efforts to fight against the destruction of our archeological sites, our historical sites and also the loss of the cultural material we have. It comes at a really opportune time because we in the country are on the verge of launching this major anti-looting initiative where we are going to be on the radio, on the TV, in the paper saying Belize let’s join together and protect Belize’s unique cultural heritage.”
“Will it have any bearing on those antiquities that may have been taken in the past few years for example?”
“Umm, the agreement is not retroactive. So objects that were taken in the past are not covered by this agreement. Having said that however, I can tell you that we have always had really good ties with the U.S. and there have been many occasions where they have confiscated objects and returned them to us.”
During the colonial era, the antiquities extracted from Belize were done through legal means. And law how prohibits the removal of those objects from the country. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.
The Memorandum also provides for a number of activities that each country will undertake to preserve the cultural heritage of Belize.