Cultural Antiquities Task Force and Colombian Officials Partner for a Seminar on Cultural Heritage Protection

October 15, 2018

From October 10-12, 2018, members of the Cultural Antiquities Task Force (CATF), the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, and the Colombian Ministry of Culture held a seminar on cultural heritage protection and preservation in Bogota, Colombia. This capacity-building event assembled over 100 participants representing agencies linked to Colombia’s National Program to Prevent and Counteract the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage. Sessions covered the investigation of crimes against cultural heritage, customs procedures, legislation, cultural property law, identification, recovery, and repatriation.

U.S. panelists included representatives from the:

  • FBI Art Crime Team
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Investigations office and Legal Counsel
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Archeology office
  • U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Heritage Center
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The U.S. Embassy also sponsored an exhibit of successfully returned cultural heritage items at Colombia’s National Museum. This workshop and exhibit underscore the joint efforts of the United States and Colombian governments to combat the trafficking of Colombia’s cultural property, as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by both countries in 2006. This MoU has led to the repatriation of numerous artifacts that were illegally trafficked from Colombia.

The workshop included a ceremony commemorating the return of 11 cultural objects from the U.S. to Colombia, thanks to a joint effort between the FBI and Colombian authorities. At the ceremony, U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Aleisha Woodward noted:

“Our two countries share important cultural heritage through our African, Indigenous, and European roots. These connections are weaved into our present-day collaboration on cultural exchange and initiatives that promote racial and ethnic equality. The United States is proud to partner with the Government of Colombia to fight looting and trafficking of cultural property.”

Minister of Culture Carmen Inés Vásquez Camacho said:

“Today we inaugurate the exhibit ‘To the Rescue’ in the National Museum of Colombia which exhibits some successful cases of recovered and repatriated goods from the Unites States as a sample of our coordination and joint efforts to rescue, preserve, and make known our cultural heritage.”

A concurrent ceremony took place at the Embassy of Colombia in Washington, D.C. at which the FBI returned nearly 30 additional artifacts and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Zimdahl Galt gave remarks.

About the Department of State’s Cultural Antiquities Task Force

Established by the U.S. Congress in 2004, the CATF is led by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center. It comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to combat trafficking in antiquities in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 75 international and domestic cultural property training programs.