US Helps Fight Trafficking of Natural, Cultural Resources in Mayan Jungle

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The US Embassy in Guatemala City is hosting a workshop to help authorities from Guatemala, Mexico and Belize improve cooperation against the trafficking of natural resources and cultural artifacts from the Mayan jungle.

Officials from the US Departments of State and the Interior, as well as the Agency for International Development, are working with their counterparts from the three countries on fighting the illegal trade in natural resources and cultural artifacts from the region, as Prensa Libre reports.

Cynthia Perera of the Department of the Interior noted that the meeting was “the first time that there has been a dialogue with reprensentatives of the agencies of environment, culture, prosecution, and police of these nations,” according to another report from the newspaper.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to a 2010 presentation (download .ppt) by the US Ministry of the Interior, the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala is threatened by a range of criminal activities, including illegal ranching, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and looting of archaeological sites. The report notes that the government of Guatemala has stepped up its efforts to combat these threats since 2009.

The networks of artifact smugglers are sometimes connected to those of drug traffickers. In 2009, four Mexican and three Costa Rican citizens were implicated in a plot to smuggle cocaine hidden within panels of Egyptian marble. The panels were labeled as cardboard box tops when they entered Costa Rica. What’s more, there is evidence that Mexican drug trafficking organizations have expanded their operations into the illicit trade in religious artifacts.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) estimates that the global illicit trade in cultural items is worth $8 billion a year.

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