14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz,Camagüey, 13 March 2018 — A security employee remains in prison for a robbery committed at the Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz Birthplace in Camagüey. A Mexican tourist was intercepted at the provincial airport trying to get some of these pieces out of the country, but others remain missing.
An employee of the Ignacio Agramonte Birthplace, who preferred anonymity, told 14ymedio that “the thefts took place during several nights in the art warehouse” to avoid their being noticed. A security employee of the institution has been arrested and is being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the crime, according to the worker.
On February 2, coinciding with the anniversary of the founding of the town of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, as this city in the center of the island was initially called, local media announced the theft of valuable national heritage objects from the museum dedicated to the most distinguished independence hero of the region.
The media classified the articles as “unique, priceless and irreplaceable” and the museum specialists also considered them “jewels” valuable for their antiquity and for being a part of the national heritage.
Four days later, the General Customs Office of the Republic (AGR) found two of the objects stolen in the robbery in the luggage of a Mexican traveler: a mirror and a hairbrush. The tourist was about to leave from the Camagüey International Airport to the United States when the pieces belonging to the museum’s collection were found.
Both objects were returned to the museum after an intense investigation in which all museum workers were questioned and a thorough review of the inventories conducted revealed the absence of other objects that have not yet been found.
“The police figured out that the night guard tampered with the security seal to enter the warehouse,” explained the employee of the institution. A common practice in state institutions that store goods of some value is to place a string on a piece of plasticine at the door to later determine if there was unauthorized access.
“The warehouse did not have bars or a padlock although now they have installed one,” explains the worker. “Nor do the employees know the list of stolen objects because it is kept secret,” he explains, although they have also detected the absence of “a set of silver spoons and alpaca objects.”
The guard arrested is in preventive detention without bail and awaiting trial. Police investigators are in the midst of the process of collecting evidence to determine if an accusation is appropriate, this newspaper was able to confirm.
“Now they are trying to determine if he acted alone or had a network of accomplices to be able to get the objects into the hands of interested foreign buyers,” a police officer involved in the case told 14ymedio. “The priority is to find what is missing,” he says.
“The place was not violated and there was no sign that the thief or thieves had arrived from outside the institution, so everything indicates that the robbery was carried out in collaboration with someone inside,” adds the official of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).
The director of the museum has asked the workers not to comment on the investigation and has clarified that none of the stolen property belonged to Agramonte or his family, but were objects from his time, to provide context.
The theft joins a long list of valuable national heritage items stolen in Camagüey in recent years. Among them are several early printed books, volumes from Julio Antonio Mella provincial library, the bronze eyeglasses from the monument to the Spanish aviators Mariano Barberán and Joaquín Collar, as well as numerous funerary sculptures from Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje General Cemetery.
Also stolen were pieces of the monument dedicated to the mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey, which was located in the Casino Campestre sand park, and the silver bells of the catafalque of Santo Sepulcher from La Merced Church.
The customs authorities have warned that with the increase of foreign tourism that has been occurring on the island in recent years there has also been an increase in the illicit trade in objects that are considered heritage assets.
In 2014, UNESCO strongly condemned several acts of this type that occurred on the island and added that they jeopardized the integrity of the patrimonial pieces and left them at the mercy of the illicit traffic of cultural goods.
According to an official statement issued in February of that year by the National Council of Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC), a significant number of pieces of art were stolen from one of the warehouses of the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Havana, without access to the premises being violated.
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