United States and El Salvador Extend Memorandum of Understanding To Protect the Cultural Heritage of El Salvador

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 10, 2015


Effective March 8, 2015, the Department of State is pleased to announce the extension of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of El Salvador Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Certain Categories of Archaeological Material from the Prehispanic Cultures of the Republic of El Salvador, for a period of five years. The Memorandum of Understanding builds on the United States’ ongoing commitment to cultural preservation and respect for the heritage of other countries.

Cooperation on the protection of cultural heritage between the two countries began in 1987 when the United States imposed emergency import restrictions to curtail the pillage and the illicit trafficking of El Salvador’s rich archaeological heritage. In 1995 the United States and El Salvador entered into the Memorandum of Understanding to protect this heritage. This extension is consistent with a recommendation made by the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee in recognition of the threat of pillage of El Salvador’s pre-Columbian cultural heritage.

The Government of the Republic of El Salvador 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 intact archaeological sites and ethnological objects by reducing further pillage, an activity that destroys information about past cultures and places a nation’s cultural heritage in jeopardy. El Salvador’s pre-Columbian cultural heritage continues to be protected under the Memorandum of Understanding.

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 allow importation of an object accompanied by an export permit issued by El Salvador, or, when accompanied by documentation verifying that a pre-Columbian archaeological object left El Salvador prior to 1995, or, if from the Cara Sucia region of El Salvador, prior to 1987. The Designated List of restricted types of objects, published by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and information about the Agreement can be found at http://eca.state.gov/cultural-heritage-center/international-cultural-property-protection/bilateral-agreements/el-salvador.