U.S. Senate promotes a law to exploit the Mayan zone


The Maya Reserve, which covers the territory of Guatemala and Campeche, is once again the epicenter of controversy.

The US Senate is discussing whether to grant a budget to archaeologist Richard Hansen to finance a tourist park in the Mayan jungle that runs through Mexico and Guatemala.

While bill S.3131 is being discussed in the United States Senate, which aims to provide a budget for the American archaeologist Richard Hansen to carry out the project “Maya Security and Conservation Partnership Program”, in Mexico and Guatemala the initiative is rejected for
intervene in the natural system of the jungle and the organization of native communities.

Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava, National Archeology Coordinator of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), pointed out in an interview that there is no official request to carry out research or conservation work in the Calakmul area, Campeche, and any archaeological intervention project foreigner must comply with the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Zones.

“They can issue the opinions they deem appropriate, but for now Mexico is not aware of any project in Calakmul-El Mirador, and if one is presented, it will have to go through national law. Finally, the archaeological heritage is a good of the nation and is protected by federal law, “said the INAH official.

The issue came to light because the Society for American Archeology sent a letter to the United States Senator, James M. Inhofe, who is leading the bill in that country, to request that he stop the discussion and prevent Hansen’s intervention in the zone, under the argument that the underlying intention is to build a tourist area in the Maya El Mirador-Calakmul Basin, which encompasses the territories of Guatemala and Mexico.

Bill S.3131 was presented to the United States Congress by Senators Jim Inhofe, Tom Udall, and Jim Risch in December 2019, and states that a plan for the conservation, investigation, and rescue of the Mayan jungle is “urgent”. , mainly in the territory of Guatemala, which, without further details, includes Calakmul, in Mexico.

If the law is passed, the United States government would provide $ 60 million over the next five years to “strengthen governance and enforcement of laws in Guatemala that combat the looting of archaeological sites, as well as the illegal logging of forests, predation, and poaching of endangered wild animals, “according to the document.

Meanwhile, the Central American Development Bank (CABEI) pledged to equal the amount of 60 million dollars, to provide the necessary infrastructure during the investigation that would eventually be in charge of archaeologist Richard Hansen.

Against privatization

Although the project seems to benefit the Mayan area, the American Archaeological Society points out that it is actually a plan to establish a private tourism scheme.

Since 2002, the archaeologist Hansen has led different attempts to take over the area, without success so far due to protests from the communities.

In the letter to Senator Inhofe, the Society warns that “the cooperation proposal represents an attempt by the United States to impose, on a region outside its national limits, a different form of organization that will conflict with the jurisdiction of two agencies established and with appropriate functions of the governments of Guatemala and Mexico.

“The primary purpose of this organization is to develop the tourism industry. Regardless of the way this program is described in the bill, it has been conceived and proposed unilaterally by the United States.”

Archaeologist Joe E. Watkins, who signs the letter, insists that the bill contains a simplistic description of the cultural remains at Calakmul in Mexico and El Mirador in Guatemala, and the bill exaggeratedly uses superlatives to raise alarm for their protection. . However, it states that the law would have a negative impact because the area is governed by systems of community coexistence, government laws of both countries and UN protection.

Federal law in Mexico

Although in Mexico a part of the archaeological research is financed by international academics, Sánchez Nava specified that every project, national or international, must be subject to a review by an INAH council to determine that it complies with the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological Zones. , Artistic and Historical, and in general terms, it takes a year to approve an intervention plan.

The list of requirements is extensive, but care is taken in the trajectory of the archaeologist who will direct the research if they have the support of an academic institution, the methods, and processes for exploration, and the benefits for the conservation of the national heritage.

If all the motions are approved, the international works are periodically reviewed by the INAH, says the expert.

“They must deliver a periodic report, INAH researchers come to see if their methods are correct and if they have adequate materials and are regularly subjected to reviews. Not everyone can come and explore the national heritage,” said the researcher and highlights that at the moment, the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico does not have any formal request regarding the bill that is being discussed in the US Congress for eventual approval.


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