Peru says it will intensify the legal charges against Yale later this week, and may even file criminal charges against University President Richard Levin, top Peruvian officials announced this week.
The country said it plans either to add to the civil charges it has already brought against Yale in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, or to open a new suit in Peru, singling out Yale officials with criminal charges, Peruvian Prime Minister Jose Chang said in a Tuesday press conference. Eduardo Ferrero, head of Peru’s legal team and ambassador to the United States, said he is confident the court will not grant Yale’s January 2010 motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the Peruvian news agency Andina reported Tuesday afternoon. But Yale’s legal counsel in New Haven said the new charges suggest the country is more worried than it will let on.
University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said in an e-mail that Yale learned of the possibility of new charges via Peruvian news reports Monday but that the development does not change the status of the current civil case.
“[The possibility of new charges] suggests that the government of Peru is concerned about the pending motion in the civil litigation which they brought,” she said in the e-mail.
Yale believes the criminal charges Peru threatens would make it more difficult for the two parties to reach a mutually agreeable settlement, according to a Tuesday statement released by Yale’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications.
Peru is fighting to regain artifacts from the Incan city of Machu Picchu that have been at Yale since 1912, when they were brought to New Haven by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham 1898. The legal battle dates back to December 2008, when Peru first sued Yale for possession of the artifacts. In a motion filed in January 2010, Yale’s lawyers argued that the three-year statute of limitations period during which Peru could request the artifacts’ return to Peru had long expired.
Levin declined to comment because he is abroad and has not had a chance to review the new details of the case.
Robinson also declined to comment on Yale’s strategy for the pending trial, deferring to the OPAC statement.
“Today the government position is very clear, we will start legal sanctions to recover 100 percent of our cultural patrimony that is in the hands of a private North American university in an irregular manner,” Chang said during the Tuesday press conference, as reported in a Dow Jones newswire Tuesday night.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia gave Yale an ultimatum on Sept. 27: If the artifacts are not returned to Peru by July 7, 2011, the centennial celebration of Machu Picchu’s modern discovery, then there will be long-lasting negative impacts on Peruvian-Yale relations. Tuesday also saw Ecuador’s public announcement of its support for Peru.
“It has all our support, and not only that, but I will take this to UNASUR [the Union of South American Nations], because it is at the level of UNASUR that these national assets should be recovered, these items that were taken illegitimately from their rightful owners,” Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said.
Peruvian Minister of Culture Juan Ossio had planned to visit Yale to negotiate for the artifacts’ return, the news agency Andina reported last Thursday. The report said Ossio hoped to visit Yale within the next two weeks and meet with officials including Levin, but Robinson said Yale has not yet been informed of the details of the minister’s plans.
Ossio’s proposed visit to Yale has yet to be finalized, an official in Peru said Tuesday.
“That was the original plan,” said Carolina Arvaiza, who works in the press office of the Ministry of Culture. “Right now, we are not certain.”
If its legal efforts prove unsuccessful, Peru will launch a media campaign to recover the artifacts and sponsor a national mobilization movement to rally Peruvians behind the reclamation effort, Andina reported. The mobilization march, announced by Peruvian President Alan Garcia on Sunday, is slated to take place next Friday, Nov. 5.
Arvaiza said the march will take place in Lima. She added that she expects participation in the march will be very high because the centennial celebration of Machu Picchu’s modern discovery will take place next summer, and the public is aware of the issue.
“We are waiting for something that belongs to our people,” she said. “It is a way to show that our people are united in that cause.”
Andina reported that Peru’s lawyers expect the court in Connecticut to issue its decision on Yale’s motion in either December 2010 or January 2011.