QUITO, ECUADOR —
Ecuador celebrated the return of 567 pieces of art and archaeological objects, from Spain and Argentina on Wednesday.
Argentina returned 438 primarily ceramic works while Spain returned 71 colonial pieces and an assortment of 58 other works.
Culture Minister Guillaume Long lauded the return of the objects and said the pieces were recovered thanks to the work of the Committee Against Illicit Property Trafficking, created two years ago.
"In these two years, we've recovered almost 15,000 pieces. I think we're one of the countries at a global level that most recovers robbed heritage assets. The work that has been done is very important. Last year, we had very significant repatriations, especially from Europe. Europe in which-- we must say-- a great part of the auction platforms for these heritage goods," he said.
According to local media reports, it took as long as 16 years from the time some of the objects were found, to return them to Ecuador.
The Cultural Attache of the Embassy of Spain said he was proud of the international cooperation that had led to the return of the objects, which have a value he called 'incalculable.'
'Value of heritage objects'
"That Ecuador has recovered this important patrimony from Spain is something we are very proud of. People tend to assign an economic value to heritage objects but that is a mistake because the value of heritage objects is incalculable to the degree that they contain an inheritance and a continuity of our historic past," he said.
Argentina's ambassador to Ecuador, Alberto Alvarez, vowed to continue cooperating to combat trafficking.
"I want to underscore that my country will not quit in the fight against all kinds of illegal traffic, particularly heritage objects," he said.
Authorities believe, that for the last four decades, Ecuador has been targeted by smugglers of cultural property, especially in the field of archaeology.
The pieces recovered, belong to ancient Ecuadorian cultures such as Valdivia, Chorrera, Machalilla, Jama Coaque, Guangala, Bahia, La Tolita, Milagro, Quevedo, Cuasmal, Mantena, Capuli and Inca.
Some of the pieces, including paintings by distinguished artists, will be displayed at national museums and others will be kept in storage, local media reported.