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Feb 23, 2018

Belize, U.S. to Work Together on Policing Stolen Artifacts

An agreement was reached today between the governments of Belize and the United States on Cultural Property. The Memorandum of Understanding commits both governments to work together to fight the looting and trafficking of cultural material found primarily at archaeological sites.  As part of the ceremony, the U.S. also returned a number of archaeological pieces confiscated by their by Special agents from the U.S. National Park Service.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Today, at the Institute of Archeology in Belmopan, the governments of Belize and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding, a cultural property agreement on import restrictions on archaeological material from Belize. Both governments commit to fight against the looting and trafficking of cultural objects in Belize. Acting Chargé d’Affaires Deborah Lingwood says that the renewed agreement for another five years would allow for stolen items to be resent to its country of origin.


Deborah Lingwood

Deborah Lingwood, Acting Chargé d’Affaires

“What we like to do is work with the countries to prevent them from being stolen in the first place. So a lot of what we are doing in Belize is education both of law enforcement, but also of communities so that the communities themselves want to protect these artefacts; that they understand the importance of it. That they don’t just see them as something that they can steal, but it is something that they want to protect because it’s their cultural heritage and it is more valuable to stay in place.”


Gregory Vernon

Gregory Vernon, Acting President, NICH

“These continuous support and initiatives are something that we look forward to in moving on in protecting our cultural heritage in making sure that we are well aware and having the public and the people of Belize and United States well aware of what is happening within our borders and crossing our borders. This as we say is a continuing beginning—if you could use that term—a very important signing for us to make sure that we have the relationship with U.S., do the training with customs and border management so that they identify our artefacts going across our borders. And so the countries that we work with will be able to identify our artefacts that are coming into their countries.”


While prevention through education campaigns and trainings is a priority, Lingwood says that the M.O.U. further allows for U.S. to repatriate cultural property to Belize. In fact, today’s event saw eleven pieces, confiscated in during a raid in the U.S., were returned and handing over to Doctor Ian Morrison, Director of the Institute of Archeology. Senior Cultural Property Analyst, Doctor Andrew Cohen says that they were only able to recover a portion of the looted artefacts.


Andrew Cohen

Dr. Andrew Cohen, Senior Cultural Property Analyst, U.S.

“During a cultural property investigation conducted by special agents of the United States national Park Service, the following information was discovered. In the year 2000, a United States citizen from California visited Belize and he went to a number of archeological sites in search of artefacts. The tourist visited both inland archeological sites and a caye in southern Belize. On the caye, the visitor found an archeological site containing human remains, pottery fragments and at least one jade bead along with chipped or flaked stone material—the ancient tools and bits of stone that were left over from making the stone tools. The visitor took many of the artefacts back to California with him without the permission of Belize or declaring them on entry into the United States. So this is illicit in two countries. And the U.S. citizen made two subsequent trips in Belize; the last in 2007 specifically to revisit the caye and collect anything else that he can find. The visitor smuggled all of the cultural property he found on the three trips through the Belize City airport. Special agents were able to recover only part of the entire collection and those recovered items are being returned to Belize today.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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