Ambassador Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, announced yesterday that Peru, Mexico and Ecuador have pitched to UNESCO a global campaign to combat illegal antiquities trafficking, Agencia Andina reported.
Rodríguez said the three nations made a formal proposal to the advisory council of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) for the initiative, which he described as an assault against smugglers on multiple fronts.
“I have raised, along with Ecuador and Mexico, that UNESCO build a global alliance to combat illicit trafficking, to bring together not only governments but also museums, customs, Interpol, and civil society as a whole, to achieve concrete results in the next few years,” Rodríguez told Radioprogramas Radio.
He added that he hoped UNESCO would take advantage of an upcoming summit of culture ministers in November to set the plan in motion.
Rodriguez said that illicit trafficking of antiquities is an estimated $40 billion a year enterprise — the third largest form of transnational crime after drugs and arms trafficking.
Latin America, with its abundance of pre-Columbian and colonial artifacts, is a major hub for the illicit trade.
As noted a few days ago on Huffington Post by Deborah Lehr, Chair of The Capitol Archaeological Institute, this “cultural racketeering” strikes a particularly cruel blow against developing countries like Peru, which relies on its archaeological treasures as a draw for tourists to sustain its economy.
“Our purpose is to work with the local communities in countries in crisis — as well as the governments — to build capacity against the organized looting,” she wrote. “In addition to the obvious need for security, simple steps such as creating national inventories of all items excavated.”
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