Updated 06:32 PM EDT, Mon, May 17, 2021

Argentina Returning Thousands of Stolen Cultural Artifacts to Ecuador & Peru

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Argentina has returned thousands of stolen cultural heritage items to Ecuador and Peru.

According to the Peruvian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Argentina has handed over a total of 4,150 cultural artifacts to Peru. The move marks the biggest amount of cultural items recovered thus far, Andina news agency reported (via Peru this Week).

"We are doing something unusual, really special," former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said during a ceremony at the National Museum of Fine Art in Buenos Aires last year, as reported by BBC. "It is an honor and a pleasure to restore the cultural wealth of countries such as Ecuador and Peru in a world where such wealth has so often been taken away."

The artifacts were returned to Peru on Jan. 28 of this year, Peru this Week reported. The handover was made after the signing of the Agreement for the Protection, Conservation, Recovery, and Return of Stolen or Illegally Exported or Transferred Cultural, Archaeological, Artistic, and Historical Property.

Speaking more about the artifacts' recovery, Fernández de Kirchner said last year that "the world we live in is one in which great powers fight to control the cultural riches of other people. One can see in the great museums of the world pieces from Greece, Syria, Egypt, Asia and even Latin America, and which have not been returned," Times of India reported.

She continued that "just as they should with medicinal patents (using indigenous plants), countries that hold onto cultural riches and refuse to give them back, at least should pay some kind of royalty to the countries they are from, since they were made by cultures other than their own," the news outlet added.

The cultural items' recovery has a positive effect on Peru's bilateral relations with Argentina, Peru this Week noted. The exchange also symbolizes the Chancellary and Cultural Ministry's commitment to regain illegally exported items.

The archaeological artifacts, which are deemed to possess significant historical value, include items such as pre-Colombian goods, textiles, wood, metals, pottery, organic fiber, and bone remains. 3,898 of the recovered items were seized from art collectors and traffickers in Buenos Aires in 2000, Peru this Week added.

In September 2015, Argentine authorities apprehended two separate contraband traders attempting to transport historic artifacts and stolen artworks across the Argentina-Uruguay border.

The suspects were captured by the Argentine customs agency, or AFIP, in different vehicles at a customary border crossing, InSight Crime reported (as translated from Clarin). They were carrying ancient books, paintings, weapons, and musical instruments, among other items.

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