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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2005 > March
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 9, 2005

United States Continues Protection of El Salvador's Pre-Columbian Heritage

The United States and El Salvador have exchanged diplomatic notes extending a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that imposes U.S. import restrictions on Pre-Columbian archaeological objects originating in El Salvador.  This action extends the MOU for an additional five years and amends Article II that sets forth new benchmarks for achieving improvements in the protection and preservation of El Salvador’s cultural heritage.   The amended agreement, signed by U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador  H. Douglas Barclay and Salvadoran Foreign Minister Francisco Lainez, can be found at the website cited below.


First signed in 1995, the MOU is in response to a request from El Salvador seeking assistance from the United States in curbing pillage and illicit trade in objects that represent its Pre-Columbian heritage. El Salvador made the request under the terms of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.   Archaeological sites from throughout El Salvador have been severely damaged by looting. Such activity results in the irretrievable loss of information about the cultures that thrived there from approximately 1700 B.C. to 1550 A.D.


A final determination to extend the MOU was made by Patricia S. Harrison, Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs. The decision was consistent with a recommendation of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee that found that the pillage of archaeological material continues to place the cultural heritage of El Salvador in jeopardy.  El Salvador was the first country to enter into such a MOU with the United States.


The Committee and the Department recognize the progress of El Salvador in carrying out provisions of this MOU over the past ten years. In particular, El Salvador, in fulfilling its MOU obligations, re-established a national museum of anthropology that had been ruined in prior years by earthquake damage.  Since it was re-opened in 2000, the David J. Guzman Museum has become a national focal point for heritage preservation and has developed an archaeological atlas of the country.  El Salvador’s National Council for Culture and the Arts (CONCULTURA), which oversees the national museum, continues to reach the public through regional museums and houses of culture thus promoting the value of protecting the national cultural heritage.  In addition, the MOU continues to serve as a framework for professional exchanges between the United States and El Salvador.


Any object subject to the import restriction may enter the United States if accompanied by an export certificate issued by El Salvador or if accompanied by documentation demonstrating it left El Salvador prior to the imposition of these import restrictions in 1995. Objects originating in the Cara Sucia archaeological region of El Salvador have been restricted since 1987 when emergency protection was instituted. 


The long-term goals of this and similar MOUs the United States has with other countries are to encourage good preservation practices such as the development of appropriate heritage policies; promote museums; professional training; and public education.  Cultural tourism development and international access to cultural property through the interchange of materials for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes are also promoted.  This MOU is undertaken within the international framework of the 1970 UNESCO Convention to reduce pillage and the illicit movement of cultural property.

The texts of these MOUs, including this amended agreement with El Salvador, may be found at http://exchanges.state.gov/culprop, along with the designated list of restricted materials.



Released on March 9, 2005

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