Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Enough Already

The Association of Art Museum Directors has made a powerful case to CPAC that the State Department's standard operating procedure of simply renewing (and sometimes expanding) MOUs and associated import restrictions  over and over again is not working.  Here is part of what the AAMD has told CPAC in its public comments on the proposed renewal of a MOU with El Salvador:

El Salvador is one of the best examples of why the current system of simply renewing MOUs is ineffective and inconsistent with the CPIA.  The absence of a significant legitimate market in the United States for El Salvadorian Prehispanic objects has apparently had little or no effect on looting in El Salvador.  If the past, and presumably current, submissions to this Committee are to be believed, United States import restrictions alone have not been effective in significantly curtailing looting in El Salvador.  The time has come for the Committee to explore new ways, within the confines of the CPIA, to render real assistance to countries like El Salvador. 

The AAMD does not suggest that it has all of the answers to this issue, but one can begin to identify those answers by admitting that simply repeating what has been done in the past is not likely to have any different result than what has occurred over the last 27 years.  In 2010, the AAMD recommended to this Committee that El Salvador be encouraged to begin a legal system of exchange of cultural property. This can be suggested under 19 U.S.C. § 2602(a)(4). Any such exchange should be taxed and the proceeds of that tax should be used to protect cultural sites and to encourage related employment by the local populations and the scientific exploration, storage and conservation of objects from those sites.  There may well be other approaches that reasonable people on all sides of these issues can recommend, but the first step needs to be taken by this Committee in acknowledging that new and different approaches must be taken if the archaeological record of a country like El Salvador is to be preserved and protected.

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