U.S. Government organized workshop on preventing illicit trafficking of cultural property

Participants during a simulation of a crime scene at a cultural heritage site

Quito, February 17, 2023. The Government of the United States, in collaboration with the Government of Ecuador and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), organized the “First Workshop on the Prevention of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property,” which took place Monday, February 13 to Friday, February 17 on the USFQ campus.   

The workshop reached 27 public servants from the Technical Committee on Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property. Local experts participated with a representative from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an officer from the Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Executive Director of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Property of the United States Department of State, who are committed to the protection of cultural heritage.   

“The trafficking of cultural property is identity theft.  [It steals] from a people’s history, and we must fight against it. Preserving cultural heritage should be a concern for all, because once cultural property is lost or destroyed, it is not renewable,” said Michael J. Fitzpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, during the opening of the workshop.

During the week, experts and participants addressed topics such as perspectives on crimes against cultural heritage, evidence collection, how to identify physical cultural property, how to handle objects, among others.  Participants traveled to Perucho for a field visit, where an FBI agent led a simulation of a crime scene at a cultural heritage site in order to train participants on what to do in a real situation. 

The workshop was held within the framework of the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding on the Imposition of Importation Restrictions of Archaeological and Ethnological Materials from Ecuador to protect Ecuador’s cultural heritage. 

Illicit trafficking of cultural property is a problem that affects all regions of the world, causing irreparable damage to cultural heritage, depriving local and indigenous communities of their history and a physical testament to their legacy.  

The Government of the United States has a wide variety of cultural and educational programs to strengthen relations between the people of Ecuador and the United States. Both countries are committed to collaborating on the protection of Ecuador’s cultural heritage, and to encourage the exchange  of cultural property for educational, cultural, and/or scientific purposes.