LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales announced on Monday the recovery of a pre-Colombian figurine taken from the country illegally in 1858, and announced a diplomatic crusade for the return of items of national heritage looted over the years.
Morales presented the rare object at a press conference, during which he thanked the Swiss government for the return of the cultural treasure.
The stone statuette representing Ekeko, the Andean god of abundance and prosperity, dates back to the 2nd century B.C.
The statue, according to Morales, was stolen from Bolivia in 1858, when a Swiss diplomat visited Tiahuanaco and “unfortunately” took it with him after getting the Indians there to drink “a liquor called cognac.”
In 1929 the diplomat’s grandchildren sold the Ekeko to a museum in Bern, which has now returned it to Bolivia after a year of negotiations between Bolivian and Swiss authorities.
The figure will be officially presented to the Bolivian people in a ceremony next Jan. 24.
“During the colonial period, our natural resources were constantly being sacked,” Morales said, adding that “thousands” of the nation’s cultural treasures are now “in the hands of European countries, the United States and England.”
“It’s time they returned our goods...through bilateral diplomatic relations and not under pressure,” the president said, urging those countries to return objects of Bolivia’s heritage “in the spirit of friendship and brotherhood.”