Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Gresham.
Caracas, May 9, 1894. (Received May 18.)
Sir: Referring to my No. 142, of April 30, as to the detention at Ciudad Bolivar of the American steamer Bolivar, of the General Steamship Company, she having navigated the Macareo channel of the Orinoco River contrary to the navigation laws of Venezuela, I have the honor to inform you that on the day following the departure of the last mail for the States I received a second telegram from Mr. Henderson, dated April 30, stating that the collector of customs had refused to accept bonds under protest; that the bond was exorbitant, being for 60,000 bolivars; that the vessel was still detained; that the agent claimed she had not violated the law and demanded her immediate release.
Upon receipt of this I called upon the minister of foreign affairs and said I hoped we could come to some satisfactory arrangement, and suggested that the steamer be permitted to depart for Trinidad, provided she did not repeat the act; that the bond called for was exorbitant, and I requested that it be reduced to 10,000 bolivars, which I thought a nominal and sufficient amount. This met his approval and he said he would see the President, and later in the evening give me his (the President’s) reply.
At 6 p.m. I called at his house and was informed by his excellency that instructions had been sent to Ciudad Bolivar to reduce the bond to the figure named by me, and to clear the Bolivar for Trinidad via the Boca Grande. This fact I wired to Mr. Henderson.
The next day, the 4th instant, I was requested by the minister to call at his office, when he informed me that Venezuela was doing all in her power to please the United States and show her friendship for that Republic, citing the payment of debts and the questions before the Congress and asking me to say to you that he hoped the United States would reserve its decision in this matter until the arrival of the correspondence. I said I would do so.
About 5 p.m. on this same evening I received another telegram, dated the 2d instant, saying that the agent refused to give bonds, and that the only available routes practicable for such river boats were the channels opening into the Gulf of Paria.
Again I called upon his excellency, suggesting that the vessel be permitted to depart by the Macareo, owing to her small size. He then informed me that navigation on these channels was allowed only to coasters, such trade being under the Venezuelan colors. I then asked that she be given a special permit for this trip, provided she did not touch at any of the intermediate ports, in case there be any, thus making a foreign voyage. He said he would again see the President, and informed me in confidence that when the case came up for trial the probability was [Page 787]nothing would be done, as the law had failed to provide any penalty for the act. I then wired Mr. Henderson that I saw no reason why the agent should refuse to give bond, pending the court’s decision, as he (the agent) claimed there had been no violation of the law.
On the 5th and 6th instant I received two telegrams from the agent of the vessel, dated the 2d, in which he says he fails to see why he should be advised or compelled to give bonds; that Mr. Pierce, the U. S. consul at Trinidad, is fully posted on the subject, and had informed the company of its right to navigate the Macareo until closed by an act of Congress, and requested the immediate release of the steamer.
I then wired Mr. Carpenter that the act closing those channels had been approved on the 23d of April; that it was also in accordance with the Codigo de Hacienda (Ley vi, Art. 2°, 1a), that he move with caution, otherwise it might injure my expectation for the vessel’s return.
On yesterday, the 8th instant, I received a third telegram, dated the 7th instant, in which Mr. Carpenter, states that the charges against the steamer are not for violating the laws of the Republic, but that she has disobeyed the orders of the National Government.
It is apparent to me, in the absence of any information from Ciudad Bolivar by mail, that the agent of the General Steamship Company is not convinced that the law closing these channels was passed; that the statements contained in his messages are conflicting, and that in the last one there is apparently an error. I am, moreover, of the opinion that the agent has been acting indiscreetly, perhaps having been ill advised by other parties.
I had practically arranged for the vessel’s return to Trinidad by way of the Macareo, but this result is being delayed by indiscreet remarks which have come to the notice of the Government here, and which have been made in Ciudad Bolivar, notwithstanding my warning to be cautious. I hope, however, to settle the matter within a few days.
With reference to Mr. Grell’s contract, mentioned in my No. 142, I have the honor to state that same has not as yet been approved by the Yenezuelan Congress.
Trusting that my actions in this matter may meet with your approval,
I have, etc.,