Tuesday, October 6, 2015

State Department Extends Cultural Property MoU with Nicaragua Despite AAMD Opposition

Earlier this year the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) shifted its stance on bilateral agreements authorized by the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) when the group decisively opposed the renewal of U.S. import restrictions covering endangered archaeological material coming from Nicaragua. The State Department disagreed with the AAMD, and today backed a fresh memorandum of understanding (MoU) that extends these protective trade barriers for another five years.

Writing in opposition to Nicaragua's petition for a rejuvenated MoU, the AAMD argued in January that the Central American nation "simply fails to protect its own cultural property in the manner required by the CPIA."

The CPIA is the federal law that authorizes the enactment of heritage protection measures consistent with the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

"Refusing to extend the MOU could be the very wake-up call Nicaragua needs to undertake real and substantial efforts at a critical time in its history," the AAMD contended in a statement submitted to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), the group that reviews MoU requests.

The State Department's Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs, however, "determined that factors continue to warrant the imposition of import restrictions and no cause for suspension exists," the Federal Register reported. "Accordingly, these import restrictions will remain in effect for an additional 5 years, and the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] regulations are being amended to reflect this extension until October 20, 2020."

The import controls cover pre-Hispanic artifacts including ceramics, vessels, statues, mace heads, jewelry, and more. Similar barriers were first erected fifteen years ago in an effort to deter the looting of archaeological objects.

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