On Friday, February 23, 2018, the Government of the United States and the Government of Belize signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological Material of Belize. The Agreement solidifies the collaboration between the United States and Belize to combat looting and trafficking of cultural objects in Belize. The Government of the United States also repatriated Belizean cultural property recovered by Special agents from the U.S. National Park Service.
Acting Chargé d’Affaires Deborah Lingwood represented the Government of the United States and Acting President of NICH Greg Vernon—the Government of Belize. The goals of this cultural property Agreement are to: reduce the incentive to pillage; help Belize protect its cultural heritage; and increase lawful access to cultural objects and awareness of world heritage by encouraging interchange of materials for scientific, cultural and educational purposes. The United States has been unwavering in its commitment to protect and preserve cultural heritage in Belize and around the world. The Embassy’s policy is clear: the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage and the trafficking of cultural property are unacceptable.
Cultural property trafficking is a problem throughout Central America. Pillaging of archaeological materials deprives nations of cultural heritage and identity. Heritage sites that are hundreds and thousands of years old, a record of civilization over time, are being destroyed for financial gain. This practice has another, even darker side. Transnational organized criminal groups and terrorist organizations traffic cultural property to finance their activities in the same way they traffic arms, drugs, natural resources, and people. The Agreement demonstrates the joint commitment of the two countries to ensure that Belize’s heritage will be protected and accessible for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
The United States Embassy is honored to partner with the Institute of Archaeology and NICH in this important endeavor—to preserve Belize’s rich cultural heritage. Belize and USA’s strong partnership is ongoing. Through Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation program Santa Rita, Lamanai, and Benque Viejo del Carmen Reserve sites have been restored and preserved.
Through Archaeology in the Community program, students, law enforcement and customs personnel, and tour guides have been trained. On Wednesday, February 21 and Thursday, February 22, 2018, Dr. Alan Moore, Dr. Andrew Cohen and Mr. Josue Ramos along with representatives of the US Embassy and Mrs. Jan Brown of the San Marcos Archeological Site here in San Pedro, addressed island students about the importance of preservation of heritage and antiques.
They addressed tertiary leveled students at the Rafael Angel Nunez auditorium and standard six students at the San Pedro Roman Catholic School. Students were attentive of all the information being shared to them and were very interested and interacted and asked many questions. It was a very successful and educational day.
The Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by The Government of Belize and The Government of the United States of America concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Categories of Archaeological Material Representing the Cultural Heritage of Belize from the Pre-Ceramic (approximately 9000 B.C.) Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post-Classic Periods of the Pre-Columbian Era Through the Early and Late Colonial Periods.
The Memorandum of Understanding is pursuant to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting an Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. It continues to steer focus on the Public Awareness and Outreach, Protection and Conservation, Collaboration and Interchange, and Law Enforcement regarding artifacts and other archaeological finds.