Policing heritage crime in Latin America

Naomi Oosterman, Donna Yates


Artefacts from Latin America are popular on international art markets, however their supply is closely linked to heritage crimes such as looting, illegal excavations, and theft. This results in a wide and ongoing circulation of artefacts with illicit origins, despite Latin American states claiming ownership. Regulation and policy responses are continuously developed to address the opaque market structures and criminal networks facilitating this illicit trade in Latin America, with policing as the first line of defence against heritage crimes. Despite increasing research into the illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts in the region, specific strategies and interregional cooperation within heritage crime policing in Latin America has rarely been discussed. Therefore, we examine the policing, prevention, and legislation tactics in twelve Latin American countries as a state-by-state survey, and provide an overview of the current regional and international collaborations concerning the policing of heritage crime. We conclude that there is significant collaboration between Latin American countries, but that improvements could be made regarding the number of dedicated specialists within police and government agencies. This lack of economic resources and specialists within relevant agencies has been recorded in locations beyond Latin America, and we assert that this is the primary weakness in regional and global efforts to police heritage crimes.


policing; heritage crime; Latin America; legislation; cultural objects.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5102/rdi.v17i3.7030

ISSN 2236-997X (impresso) - ISSN 2237-1036 (on-line)

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