Congressman Aldo Bardalez, a member of the right-wing party loyal to jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, is calling on parliament to debate and pass a law that would punish individuals with up to a maximum of 15 years in prison for damaging cultural heritage sites.
Bardalez said the measure is necessary due to an increase in the number of cases. According to the legislator, there were 5,226 crimes committed against cultural heritage between 2000 and 2014, RPP Noticias reported. He said the approval of the bill is necessary in order to send a “drastic and firm” message.
Damage to cultural heritage includes everything from spray painting on Inca walls and colonial buildings to the robbery of rural colonial-era churches for priceless artwork and religious antiques.
Current legislation includes maximum punishments of up to eight years in prison, but in fact individuals found guilty of committing these crimes rarely receive the maximum sentence, according to RPP. Recently, a Norwegian and a Peruvian were caught spray-painting graffiti on a colonial house in Cusco, but were eventually released because the building they defaced was not an Inca construction.
Peru is a treasure trove of cultural sites of historical importance. The country was the seat of the Inca empire that stretched from Colombia to Argentina, and to a number of important ealier civilizaitons, before the arrival of Pizarro and his Conquistadors, when it became the center of Spanish rule in South America for almost 300 years, until the revolutions that led to the independence of Latin America from the Spanish in the 19th century.