People, Travel

Argentina Calls on West to Return Stolen Relics

Argentina Calls on West to Return Stolen RelicsArgentina Calls on West to Return Stolen Relics

World powers that have “snatched” the cultural heritage of other people need to return it, Argentina’s president says.

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez announced Saturday that thousands of stolen antiquities will be returned to Ecuador and Peru, and called on other countries to either follow her lead or pay up, TeleSUR reported.

After 15 years of investigation, Argentine police recovered a total of 3,982 ancient artifacts belonging to Peru and another 518 to Ecuador, which were found in private homes, shops and fairs.

“We are doing something unusual, unprecedented, restoring cultural heritage to other countries, in this case Ecuador and Peru, to whom we are restoring more than 4,000 pieces of art that were stolen and were recovered,” Fernandez said.

She criticized western countries for historically robbing other nations of their cultural heritage and displaying them in their museums.

“We live in a world that has been characterized by great powers snatching the cultural heritage of peoples. In the world’s most important museums one can see pieces from Greece, Syria, Egypt, Asia and even from our Latin America, and that are not returned,” she said.

To address this problem, the president called for the creation of a “cultural patent” so that “countries that still have not returned cultural treasures should at least pay the countries to which they belong a sort of ‘royalty,’ because they were made by cultures that are not theirs.”

Kirchner made the announcement at the official opening of 18 exhibition rooms of the National Museum of Fine Arts, which was attended by both Ecuadorean and Peruvian officials.

Argentina is not the first country to call for the return of ancient artifacts originally belonging to other nations, but now mostly located in Europe and the United States.

Egypt, for instance, has long pleaded for the repatriation of the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin’s Egyptian Museum and Rosetta Stone in the British Museum in London. Both museums have denied the request even though they were taken out of Egypt when it was under colonial rule.

Libya has also pushed the British Museum to get the Apollo at Cyrene back, while Peru successfully retrieved its Machu Picchu collection from Yale University after a successful lawsuit in 2008.

Iran, however, has had limited success in retrieving hundreds of artifacts in recent months. In December 2014, 349 smuggled artifacts were returned to Iran after an appeals court in Belgium ruled in favor of Iran. About 108 relics, excavated from Chogha Mish in Khuzestan Province in 1937, were repatriated in April from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute after The Hague, the Netherlands, ruled in Iran’s favor.

Earlier this month, Italy returned some 30 stolen pre- and post-Islamic era artifacts smuggled out of Iran over the years.