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#459121 - 02/28/13 08:08 AM US Will Prosecute Stolen Bze Artifacts
Marty Offline

Closing the gates after the horses are already gone?

US and Belize sign MOU to end illegal antiquities trade.

it's not retroactive.

The full name of the agreement is “A Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Belize Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological Material Representing the Cultural Heritage of Belize from the Pre-Ceramic (9000 B.C.), Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic Periods of the Pre-Columbian Era Through the Early and Late Colonial Periods”.

US Will Prosecute Stolen Bze Artifacts

We're all familiar with the Jade Head, or the Buena Vista Vase...these are well known treasures of antiquity. But what about all the Mayan treasures that have been looted by temple raiders or the state sanctioned plunder that happened in the colonial era? Those are gone forever - there's no inventory of all the treasured antiquities lying undiscovered at sites across Belize and no way of knowing what all was looted.

And to this day, with so many archeological sites still unofficially excavated, looters and traders often make off with large quantities of priceless artifacts and sell them on the black market.

To try to combat this problem, the United States has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Belize which provides US Government Organizations with the authority to bring legal action against anyone caught with artifacts from Belize.

There was a small ceremony today at the House of Culture to note the importance of this MOU, and 7News attended.

Here's what the officials told the media about what it means for Belize:

Dr. Jaime Awe - Director, Institute of Archaeology
"It's a great accomplishment for the country of Belize. Why, great, that's because the US, by signing this agreement, is declaring that they will join with us, collaborate with us to do everything in their effort to stop the importation of Belize's antiquities into the United States."

H. E. Vinai Thumalapally - US Ambassador to Belize
"The MOU demonstrates that 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's the market that you have to address. If you can address the market, protect it , and keep people from buying stolen goods, that's how you make progress towards preventing from stealing in the first place."

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. - Minister of Tourism and Culture
"It has never been easy to stem the illegal exportation of archeological and ethnographic materials to international market. Consequently, and particularly because of the illicit trade in antiquities, the looting and destruction of many archaeological sites continue unabated throughout the country. In an effort to addressing this challenging problem, and realizing that the United States was one of the major destinations of Belizean antiquities, we began almost 3 years ago to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the Department of State of the US Government. It was clear to us that US import restrictions would not only help to reduce the economic incentive for the importation of Belizean artifacts, but would also serve to promote the conservation and protection of sites by complimenting and strengthening the effectiveness of existing Belizean laws."

Anyone caught with artifacts from Belize will be liable to criminal charges, and the items will be repatriated back to Belize.

Channel 7

#459133 - 02/28/13 08:35 AM Re: US Will Prosecute Stolen Bze Artifacts [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

No more antiquities thefts; U.S. and Belize sign MOU

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

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

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.”

Vinai Thummalapally

“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

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.”

Jose Sanchez

“Will it have any bearing on those antiquities that may have been taken in the past few years for example?”

Jaime Awe

“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. 

Channel 5

#459279 - 03/02/13 08:31 AM Re: US Will Prosecute Stolen Bze Artifacts [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


The US, the primary market, agrees to help block illegal trade, and protect archaeological and ethnographic objects from Belize

After years of negotiations, officials from Belize and the United States this morning inked a milestone bilateral agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), for the protection of Belizean archaeological and ethnological objects.

US Ambassador to Belize, HE Vinai K. Thummalapally, said the MOU will permit US authorities to impose import restrictions on Belizean antiquities imported and sold on the US market, from the pre-ceramic period (9000 BC) through to the colonial era. In fact, the import restrictions would apply to indigenous antiques older than 100 years.

Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Jaime Awe, who spearheaded the scientific aspect of the work, told Amandala that anything older than 100 years is deemed an antiquity and the property of the state, unless the Government has granted a permit to an individual in Belize to hold such an item. Apart from that, he said, an antiquity cannot be bequeathed or sold unless permission is granted by the Government of Belize, and it should remain in Belize.

Awe told us that, “Every once in a while you go on eBay and you see stone tools or beautiful pottery vessels on sale… Well any of these objects now, once they are put on sale, that’s against the US law.”

Amandala did a quick search on eBay to see if we could find any such item—and we did. One was marked “sold”; another, a Maya jar, is being sold for US$100, supposedly from a seller in New Mexico, USA.

Awe said that the eBay sale is still illegal if the item was bought from a Belizean claiming private ownership, because ownership is vested in state.

Manuel Heredia, Jr., Minister of Tourism and Culture, said that the trade of antiquities, the looting and destruction of archaeological sites continue unabated throughout the country, and the US is one of the major destinations.

“There are very well organized groups who loot sites looking for artifacts to export to the market… [and] hopefully this agreement will stem the flow,” said Awe, noting that the looters are Belizeans and foreigners.

Awe explained, however, that the MOU is not retroactive, and only becomes effective today, the date of the signing.

H.E. Thummalapally said that today’s signing, though solemn, is also celebratory because the same MOU is a testament to the US’s “cooperation and joint commitment to protect Belize’s archaeological heritage,” which the ambassador described as “marvelous.”

The MOU is in line with the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

The Ambassador said the MOU will empower US law enforcement officials to impose import restrictions on categories of Belizean cultural property destined for the United States, and have them returned to Belize.

Awe said that his dossier lists a range of objects of prehistory, historic, ethnological value, from a war canon to traditional dresses from the national collection, which fall under the agreement.

The agreement, he indicated, took over three years to negotiate and finalize.

“It really gives teeth and strength to our efforts to protect our heritage,” said Dr. Awe.

He indicated that the US would shortly put in place legislation to give effect to its bilateral agreement signed today with Belize.

“Looting is a fact,” said Diane Haylock, chair of the National Institute of Culture and History, under which Awe’s institute falls. She acknowledged the assiduous work of Awe and the Institute to stop the pillaging.

Minister Heredia thanked the US for its support, and he commended Dr. Awe, the US Ambassador and Haylock for their efforts to conclude the MOU, to block the illegal trade of Belizean antiquities in the US.



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