No. 676.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Fish.

No. 56.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit a copy of the decree of the President, (who resumed the functions of that office March 16,) closing the ports of Maricaibo and La Vela de Coro for foreign commerce, the copy of decree being numbered 1, and with it I send a translation, numbered 2. The same gazette contains a decree establishing a land custom-house at Porto Cabello, in pursuance of the policy of the decree inclosed. The object, as declared by the President, is to prevent unlawful trade with Curaçoa, which now deals largely with the ports closed by this decree, and also to punish Curçoa for past offenses.

Curaçoa, lying near the coast, and having an excellent harbor, has been a port for transshipment of cargoes to and from the shoal harbors of the places referred to. It is now intended to transfer this trade to Porto Cabello.

Porto Cabello lying nearly 300 miles from Maracaibo, and the current and wind setting strongly to the westward, this will greatly embarrass the exporters of the State of Zubia, and of the four other Venezuelan States that export via Maracaibo.

It is intended to relieve this difficulty by establishing a steam-line between Maracaibo and Puerto Cabello. General Pile, late United States minister, is engaged in this enterprise, under the auspices of Government.

The inconveniences caused to commerce are shared by that portion of Colombia which exports and imports via Maracaibo. It will be seen, also, that the free navigation of Maracaibo Lake by vessels of Colombia is forbidden, in violation, as is alleged, of an existing treaty between the two republics.

It is not improbable that war with Colombia may result from this and from the boundary question. An insurrection in “the Western States,” is also probable, with a possible attempt to secede from Venezuela to Colombia.

The exports from Maracaibo to the United States, for the year ending September, 1874, amounted to $4,198,168.59, including more than twenty million pounds of coffee, and being an increase of about seventy-five per cent, over the past year.

I am, &c.

[Inclosure in No. 56.—Translation.]

President Blanco’s decree.

I, Antonio Guzman Blanco, Constitutional President of the United States of Venezuela, &c., by virtue of the powers which the legislative decree of May 17, 1873, confers on me, decree:

  • Article 1. There is established on the island of Castillo Libertador, situated in the harbor of Puerto Cabello, a maritime custom-house of deposit to serve for the foreign [Page 1367] commerce of import and export, of the custom-houses of La Vela in the State of Falcon, and of that of San Carlos, in the State of Zubia, as well as for the commerce of transit for Colombia by the last-named way all in accordance with the revenue code and with the orders of this decree. [N. B.—San Carlos is the custom-house of Mara-caibo.]
  • Article 2. The manifests of importation shall be registered in special books called “Account of Deposit,” opened in the form prescribed by article 3 of law 21 of said code, and with the due separation according to the destiny of the merchandise.
  • Also there shall be kept with the proper separation the manifests of transit for Colombia and of exportation for foreign places.
  • Article 3. The duties of importation shall be collected by the custom-house of deposit, according and in proportion as these may be drawn out for their destination, the goods on which they accrue.
  • Article 4. No warehouse dues shall be collected for the time while the whole or part of the contents of each cargo remains in the custom-house.
  • Article 5. The goods which the custom-house of deposit sends to any point on the shores of Lake Maracaibo may be carried freely to their destination before the examination that the custom-house of San Carlos shall make of them.
  • Article 6. In the port of San Carlos the transshipment of cargoes is permitted, which being dispatched by the custom-house of deposit are directed to any point of the Lake of Maracaibo, before the comparison of the packages composing them, with their manifests, in which (comparison) must concur one of the chiefs of the San Carlos custom-house, and the inspector or other officer of the custom-house of deposit, who must conduct the vessel to the point of transshipment or unloading in San Carlos.
    § 1.
    The transshipment permitted by the above article may be made when, in the judgment of the chief officers of the custom-house, there are inconveniences in doing it at San Carlos, at whatever point may be convenient from said port to Puerto de Palma of Tablaso.
    § 2.
    Like permission may be granted to the fruits and productions of the country which are dispatched from the custom-house of San Carlos for the custom-house of deposit destined for exportation abroad, one of the chiefs of the first-named customhouse being present at the transshipment.
  • Article 7. The custom-house of San Carlos shall take a record both of the goods so dispatched and of those which are unladen and placed in its warehouses, such record to be formal and compared with the manifest, the request to transship or to discharge, with the permission at the foot, the list of ships’ stores and ships’ equipage, (meaning materials, tools, spare spars and rigging, and the like,) of the cargo-list or the proper copy and the certificate of examination; and he shall send it monthly to the examination bureau of the auditor-general.
  • Article 8. The foreign goods which the custom-house of deposit for the State of Falcon dispatches, can only be introduced through the custom-house of Vela, so that with the certified manifest issued thereby the contents of the packages constituting each cargo may he carefully examined.
  • Article 9. From the date of publication of this decree at Maracaibo and La Tela, the ports of San Carlos in Zubia, and La Vela in Falcon, are only qualified for the coasting-trade, with the restrictions contained in the following paragraphs:
    § 1.
    The custom-house of San Carlos can only carry on the coastwise traffic for ports beyond its jurisdiction in national (i. e. home) fruits, productions, and manufactures.
    § 2.
    Likewise the custom-house of San Carlos can deal with the fruits, productions, and manufactures of Colombia, whether subject or not subject to payment of import duties.
    § 3.
    The interior navigation of Lake Maracaibo remains absolutely free, both for fruits, productions, and manufactures of the country, and those of Colombia not dutiable, and of the foreign goods dispatched by the custom-house of San Carlos.
    § 4.
    The interior navigation of Lake Maracaibo and of its affluents can only be carried on by vessels of the country.
    § 5.
    The custom-house of La Vela can, in like manner, deal with the coastwise traffic in the articles named in the preceding paragraphs, but in regard to foreign goods it cannot do so, except for the shore-ports which are within its jurisdiction, in conformity with the provisions of law for its preventive service established by law 33 of the revenue code.
  • Article 10. The number and pay of the officers of the custom-house of deposit, as also of the custom-houses of La Vela and San Carlos, and that of the preventive service of each, maritime and land, for the detection of smuggling, shall be fixed by separate orders.
  • Article 11. The jurisdiction of the custom-house of deposit as to the preventive service is confined to the charge of vessels engaged in the business of that custom-house and to the island on which are situated said office and its wharves.
  • Article 12. The custom-house of deposit may permit vessels, home, or foreign, to go to the ports of La Vela or of San Carlos, whether in ballast or without other cargo than dispatched for that end, security being given for payment of the transit-dues, which shall [Page 1368] be made according to the sailing-papers issued by the custom-houses of La Vela or San Carlos, on the return of the vessel for her final departure on her foreign voyage.
    § 1.
    The government reserves the right to grant, when it thinks fit, looking to the request in each case, that the vessels to which this article applies, which go to load at the custom-house of San Carlos with the fruits and products of the country, may go abroad directly from that port.
  • Article 13. Under the inspection of one of the chief officers of the custom-house of deposit, it may permit the transshipment of the fruits and products of the country going from La Vela or San Carlos for exportation.
  • Article 14. The custom-house for deposit and those of the ports of La Vela and San Carlos must give each other as soon as possible the proper notice of having received the goods sent by be former to the two latter, and of the fruits and products of the country which have been sent from these for that, noting the conformity or otherwise of each cargo, with its clearance papers.
  • Article 15. The minister of public works shall make the needed orders for the works and repairs required in the building of the Castillo Libertador, to fit it for the offices and stores of the custom-house for which it is destined as may be necessary.
    § 1.
    The custom-house of deposit shall have separate stores for the goods destined for Maracaibo and La Vela for those of transit, and for the fruits and products of the country.
    § 2.
    Until the works and repairs of the Castillo Libertador are completed the customhouse of deposit shall transact its business in the building provisionally furnished for the purpose.
  • Article 16. All the powers which law 21 of the revenue code, as to frontier commerce between Venezuela and Colombia, gives to the custom-house of San Carlos to permit the transit of foreign goods destined to Ciente, shall be exercised by the custom-house of deposit, the former confining itself to making the examination and comparison with the permit of each cargo, in order to place at the foot of it the memorandum of examined and correct, if it so turns out, or to act according to law in the contrary case.
    § 1.
    The time for presenting the return shall begin to run from the day on which the custom-house of San Carlos sends the cargoes for transit, often attending to the examination and other operations of the custom-house.
    § 2.
    No warehouse-dues shall be paid for the goods of transit for Colombia, neither in the custom-house of deposit nor in that of San Carlos.
    § 3.
    The goods which, being declared for transit for Colombia, are in the custom-house of San Carlos at the publication of this decree, shall be dispatched thereby, according to the law, this matter sending to the minister of revenue an account of the persons to whom they belong, and of the packages which constitute them.
  • Article 17. The importation is permitted through the San Carlos custom-house in Maracaibo, with the forms fixed by law 21 of the revenue code of the native products of Colombia and the articles made of them in that republic, which by article 34 of said law are free of duty.
  • Article 18. There may be imported through the custom-house of San Carlos goods made in Colombia with materials or manufactures which are not wholly products of said republic, paying thereon the duties to whi6h they are subject by article 33 of that law, according to their classes.
  • Article 19. Individuals who wish to establish on their own account deposits of mineral coal at Puerto Cabello shall receive from the government the free importation of the materials necessary for the coal-houses and without .any expense, for the term of eight years, the portion of land to be used for that object which belongs to the nation, and is in a convenient place and not devoted to any public use.
  • Article 20. The vessels already dispatched or which may be dispatched from the United States or from Europe j bound to San Carlos, within 30 days from the publication of this decree, as well as those in like circumstances now in said port, may dispatch through said custom-house the cargo which they bring and the products of the country which they take away .on their departure, all under the revenue code and the other regulations which govern this matter there.
    § 1.
    When the time fixed by this article has passed, the San Carlos custom-house shall send to the ministry of revenue an account of the vessels to which it applies.
  • Article 21. The provisions of this decree shall begin to apply in the custom-house of deposit from its publication in Porto Cabello, in that of La Vela after the state of blockade is suspended to which the coasts of the State of Falcon are subject, and to that of San Carlos, after it is published in that port, the custom-houses of deposit and of San Carlos allowing the time which article 20 grants to vessels carrying foreign commerce.
  • Article 22. The ministry of revenue shall communicate this decree to the proper parties and direct the further orders needed for its execution.

Treasury Santiago Fortacoa.