MOU signed in February now in effect
Back in February, Minister of Tourism and Culture Manuel Heredia, Jr., signed a memorandum of understanding with US Ambassador to Belize, HE Vinai K. Thummalapally, for the protection of Belizean archaeological and ethnological objects, by ensuring that objects that are taken to the US would be confiscated and returned to Belizean authorities.
Archaeological Commissioner Dr. Jaime Awe has indicated to Amandala that items are already being returned to Belize, under the terms of the MOU. One Maya vessel has been returned, and two other artifacts are being returned through the work of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
At the time the MOU was signed, Awe told Amandala that Belizean artifacts were also being sold on e-bay. We did a search and came across one item which was marked “sold”; and another, a Maya jar, being sold for US$100, supposedly from a seller in New Mexico, USA. Awe said that the eBay sale was illegal, because ownership is vested in state.
Dr. Awe told us that his institute is working with authorities in the US to try to reclaim that object from the New Mexico seller.
He said that the FBI has also contacted them recently in an effort to return a figurine believed to have been taken from Lubantuun. The figurine was confiscated from someone traveling to the US.
Awe said that FBI agents are working with Belize to assist with the repatriation of the items.
Ambassador Thummalapally had said, at the signing of the MOU, that the bilateral agreement would 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.
The import restrictions apply to indigenous antiques older than 100 years.