The Government of Belize 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 Memorandum of Understanding signed on Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 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.
“The United States is committed to combating the looting and trafficking of cultural property of Belize just as it is all around the world,” stated Vinai Thummalapally, US Ambassador to Belize. “As they say it is 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.”
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism, stated that the signing of the MOU represents an equally important manifestation of the close and collaborative relation that the two nations have fostered and maintained since the Country’s 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,” stated Hon Manuel Heredia Jr. “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.”
At this very special occasion Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally stated the memorandum of understanding is a testament of the US cooperation and that he acknowledges their commitment to protect Belize’s marvelous archeology patrimony.
Dr. Jaime Awe, Archeologist of the National Institute of Culture and History was also present at the signing and stated that the signing was a great effort to protect Belize’s 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,” stated Dr. Jaime Awe. “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.”
The Memorandum also provides for a number of activities that each country will undertake to preserve the cultural heritage of Belize. (News Source: Channel 5 Belize)