Monday, March 19, 2012

Public Letter and Denunciation of a Menace to the Cultural Patrimony of Honduras

That's the title of a document posted today on Vos el Soberano, and circulated via email by the authors.

They are the Ex-Minister of Culture, Arts and Sports of Honduras during the Zelaya administration, Dr. Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, and the last legally appointed Director of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, Dr. Dario Euraque.

Both noted historians, they explain clearly what is at stake in the actions taken to pacify politicians of the town of Copan Ruinas who have insisted they should get a cut of the sales of tickets to visit the World Heritage Site, Copan.

So far, no response from the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa or, mysteriously, his Minister of Culture or the current occupant of the office of Director of the Institute of Anthropology and History, who (they note) are not listed as signing the agreement through which not only will income from Copan be illegally diverted to local politicians: the budget of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History will be deprived of funding, and protection and interpretation of the entire national patrimony, including traditional cultures, archives, historic places, and archaeological sites across the country, will be destroyed.

Public Letter and Denunciation of a Menace to the Cultural Patrimony of Honduras

The 26th of February of the present year there was signed a public agreement on the part of the present Minister of the Interior of Honduras, Áfrico Madrid, the Mayor of the Municipality of Copan Ruinas, Helmy Giacoman, and the Congress member of the Department of Copan, Julio Cesar Gámez. Through the so-called "Agreement of Copan 2012", its signatories, supposedly in order to strengthen the impact of the government of San José de Copan in the protection of the national patrimony in the Copan Archaeological Park (PAC), rather prepared the destruction of the institution legally constituted to administrate and protect the Cultural Patrimony of Honduras: the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH).

The Prosecutor for Heritage ought to investigate this unusual Agreement of Copan 2012 that commits the sin of an evident abuse of authority. First, because it ignores and disqualifies the functions of the maximum administrative authority legally responsible to keep watch over the Cultural Patrimony of the Nation: the Secretaria de Cultura, Artes y Deportes (SCAD), whose leader is at the same time President of the IHAH, who was not present and did not sign the act. The Agreement also doesn't carry the signature of the Director of the IHAH since the coup d'etat of 2009, who by law is obligated to defend his institution, although it can be supposed that he supports the accords of the Agreement that threatens it. Second, because via these and other transgressions, the Agreement of Copan 2012 violates the spirit and international compacts assumed by the State of Honduras in relation to the most important international instruments that guard the cultural patrimony of humanity.

The Agreement of Copan 2012 consists of nine understandings. Four of those (3, 4, 6, and 7) pretend to promote a greater participation by the government of Copan in the administration of the cultural patrimony of the region behind the back of the SCAD and of the technicians and specialists of IHAH and its international collaborators, who in their great majority are opposed to the Agreement in question. In fact these articles mask the principal objective: which is to permit the mayor of Copan to divert the income of the PAC with purposes outside the mission of the law that governs the Cultural Patrimony: Decree 220-97, the Law for the Protection of the Cultural Patrimony of the Nation.

This disastrous proposition is evident in the first article that, without authorization and the required proceedings, dismisses from his position the regional administrator of the IHAH in Copan and the Park. The agreement under its article number nine promotes investigations on the part of the Prosecutor of the officials and employees of the IHAH without cause or denunciation with the aim to intimidate and silence the technicians and specialists and sub-directors of this institution who refused to favor the evident concubinage between the Directorate of the IHAH and the signatories of the Agreement of Copan 2012. Article number five asks that President Porfirio Lobo sanction a pre-proposal for a law introduced to the National Congress by the congress member for Copan Gamez which would grant a percentage of the income of the Park to the government of San José de Copan.

The Agreement of Copan 2012 seeks to reform the Decree 220-97, without consulting the SCAD and to the discredit of the autonomy and the authority that Decree 220-97 grants the IHAH to gather resources of its own and to administer and protect not just the Copan Archaeological Park but all the Cultural Patrimony of the Nation, including from many archaeological sites and the Historic Centers of the historic cities, the documentary patrimony of our archives and the living cultures. The Honduran people should know that the IHAH will administer and protect this treasure that is the greatest treasure of the nation and the core of our National Identity with the resources from the income of the Copan Archaeological Park. And that therefore the agreement and the project to strip the institution of that income will contribute to destroy the IHAH and still more to deprive the Cultural Patrimony of Honduras of protection.

We urge the Honduran people and the international community, the Presidency of the Republic, the Minister of Culture, Arts, and Sports, and the Special Attorney for the Cultural Patrimony of Honduras so that, by common agreement, they can denounce the Agreement of Copan 2012 and they can investigate the circumstances in which the signatories ignored the institutions concerned, usurped their representation and functions, abused the attributes that the law grants them and played at demagoguery, with the Copan Archaeological Park as token on the board.

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