EU-Brazil Sector Dialogues on interoperability of systems for combating illicit trafficking of cultural objects


Brazil has endured chronic crisis, including widespread crime and violence in society and money-laundering and other corrupt criminality throughout its political elite, which has contributed to popular authoritarianism. And it is entering acute crisis.

Under far-right authoritarian populist president Jair Bolsonaro, indigenous peoples will be at risk of genocide through the government’s pursuit of intensified resource extraction, which will also further harm its natural environment and cultural heritage; LGBT+ people will be at increased risk of persecution by the government, plus homophobes and transphobes who have been incited by the government; women will be at risk of further restrictions on their rights; racial-ethnic minorities and immigrants will be at increased risk of discrimination; indeed, all citizens and democracy itself will be under threat, under pro-state violence (including pro-torture), pro-dictatorship government.

The government has already empowered the Government Secretariat to regulate non-governmental organisations (NGOs); increased the power of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply (Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento (MAPA)) over public forests, indigenous reserves and rural communities of descendants of escaped slaves (quilombos), when the ministry is ‘controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby‘; and disempowered the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights (Ministério da Mulher, da Família e dos Direitos Humanos) from protecting LGBT+ rights.


At the same time, Brazil is developing a national policy on the illicit trafficking of cultural objects and establishing a permanent commission on combating it. And, as observed by the Coordinator-General of Authorization and Inspection for the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan)), Fábio Guimarães Rolim, any strategy to protect (and recover stolen) cultural goods depends on ‘synergy’ between three sets of institutions:

First of all,… Brazil’s Federal and State Revenue Services [the Department of Federal Revenue (Secretaria da Receita Federal do Brasil or Receita Federal do Brasil (RFB))]… who perform customs control and the flow of people and goods. Second, the police forces [the Federal Police (Polícia Federal (PF))]. And last but not least, institutions whose job is looking after cultural heritage and memory, such as Iphan, [the Brazilian Institute of Museums (Instituto Brasileiro de Museus)] Ibram, [the] National Library [Foundation (Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (FBN))], [the] National Archives [Arquivo Nacional (AN)], including the National Agency of Mining [Agência Nacional de Mineração (ANM)], which is responsible for fossils.

The commission will involve all of those institutions, as well as the Ministry of Culture (Ministério da Cultura (MinC)) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministério das Relações Exteriores (MRE)). The overall effort will also involve the Council for Financial Activities Control (Conselho de Controle de Atividades Financeiras (COAF)), the Brazilian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the non-profit Institute Itaú Cultural; and it will be made in cooperation with outside institutions such as the European Commission (EC) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

As explained by the EU-Brazil Sector Dialogues Support Facility, MinC, Iphan and Ibram have started a dialogue on illicit trafficking of cultural goods: interoperability of systems (Diálogos sobre tráfico ilícito de bens culturais: interoperabilidade de sistemas), in order to develop and integrate technological tools and to disseminate data and other information. The launch encompassed a public seminar and a technical meeting. I had the privilege of participating in both.

Unfortunately, I missed the opening of the public seminar (fn1), so I may have missed last-minute changes to the programme, but it involved:

  • the Minister of Culture of Brazil, Sérgio Sá Leitão and/or the Coordinator-General of Cooperation and International Relations at the Ministry of Culture, Eduardo Pareja Coelho, who commented on the critical importance of technological support;
  • the Charge d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Union in Brazil, Cláudia Gintersdorfer, who commented on the harms of cultural property crime;
  • the Director of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Inspection for Iphan, Andrey Rosenthal Schlee, who presented the Database of Wanted Cultural Goods (Banco de Dados de Bens Culturais Procurados (BCP)), which records losses of protected cultural property, and the National Register of Dealers of Antiques and Works of Art (Cadastro Nacional de Negociantes de Antiguidades e Obras de Arte (Cnart)), which (now, primarily) combats money-laundering by sharing data from the market with COAF and information about thefts with the market;
  • the Acting President of Ibram, Eneida Braga Rocha, who presented the Brazilian Register of Missing (literally, Disappeared) Musealised Goods (Cadastro Brasileiro de Bens Musealizados Desaparecidos (CBMD)), which records losses of objects from museums (whether the objects were protected as exceptional goods or not), and whose institute is also using Tainacan to digitise, systematise and provide public access to cultural collections, such as the ethnographic collection of indigenous peoples in the Museum of the Indian, under the National Indian Foundation (Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI));
  • a computer scientist at the Institute of Information Science and Technologies of the Italian National Research Council, Alessia Bardi, who discussed the interoperability of systems;
  • me, demonstrating the use of open-source research for gathering criminal intelligence;
  • a mathematician at the University of Valladolid, Javier Finat, who discussed the interoperability of systems; and
  • officers at Interpol’s National Central Bureau for Brazil, Bruno Samezina and Paulo Teixeira, who demonstrated the use of image analysis and other information technology in securing forensic evidence.

The technical meeting was private, but I can say that the participants in the dialogues were inspiring. They had a wide range of professional experience, but shared expertise in the problems, enthusiasm for the work and a determination to realise practical change.

Reunião técnica entre especialistas brasileiros e europeus, no @museusbr , deu início nesta quarta-feira aos trabalhos do projeto dos #DiálogosSetoriais #UE #Brasil sobre Tráfico Ilícito de Bens Culturais. @UEnoBrasil @IphanGovBr @CulturaGovBr (Diálogos Setoriais, Twitter, 20th December 2018)

Reunião técnica entre especialistas brasileiros e europeus, no @museusbr , deu início nesta quarta-feira aos trabalhos do projeto dos #DiálogosSetoriais #UE #Brasil sobre Tráfico Ilícito de Bens Culturais. @UEnoBrasil @IphanGovBr @CulturaGovBr (Diálogos Setoriais, Twitter, 20th December 2018)

fn1: Special thanks go to Cia do Terno at Pátio Brasil shopping mall, who managed to kit me out, not just with any clean clothes at all, but with a fitting suit, shirt and tie (and managed to do last-minute tailoring on top), when my airline left my luggage at my first transfer; and to the staff of Athos Bulcão Hplus Executive Hotel (practically all of whom I met, over the course of my travails), who were delightful and helpful when I turned up a wreck and throughout my stay.


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