United States and Honduras Extend Memorandum of Understanding to Protect the Cultural Heritage of Honduras

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 13, 2014

The Department of State is pleased to announce the extension and amendment of the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Honduras Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from the Pre-Columbian Cultures and Ecclesiastical Ethnological Material from the Colonial Period of Honduras for a period of five years. The Memorandum of Understanding highlights the United States’ ongoing commitment to preserve, protect, and respect the heritage of other countries. Looting of intact sites is a serious problem of global proportions, found increasingly to be connected to transnational organized crime. It causes irreparable harm to a nation’s heritage and to our knowledge of past cultures.

The colonial cultural heritage of Honduras as well as the pre-Columbian period is now protected under the Memorandum of Understanding. The United States and Honduras began cooperation to protect cultural heritage in 2004 when the United States imposed import restrictions to curtail the pillage and the illicit trafficking of Honduras’ rich archaeological heritage. This extension and amendment is consistent with a recommendation made by the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee in recognition of the threat of looting Honduras’s colonial period religious cultural heritage.

Under the terms of the updated Memorandum of Understanding, objects may enter the United States under certain restrictions, as long as no other applicable U.S. laws are violated. The restrictions only allow importation of an object accompanied by an export permit issued by Honduras, or when accompanied by either: (1) documentation verifying that a pre-Columbian archaeological object left Honduras prior to 2004; or (2) documentation verifying that ecclesiastical ethnological material left Honduras prior to 2014. Information about the agreement can be found at http://eca.state.gov/cultural-heritage-center/international-cultural-property-protection/bilateral-agreements/honduras.

The Government of the Republic of Honduras requested this agreement under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Convention offers a framework of cooperation among State Parties to preserve archaeological sites and ethnological objects by reducing further pillage. Through the international treaty, the United States responds to requests from other countries for import restrictions on cultural property that may be looted and entered into the United States without appropriate documentation.