Mr. Haselton to Mr. Gresham.

No. 28.]

Sir: Pursuant to your instruction No. 20, of October 25 last, I had an interview with the minister of foreign affairs regarding the opening to vessels of the United States of the various mouths or bayous of the Orinoco River which are now closed to them.

Subsequently we exchanged notes upon the subject, copies of which are inclosed, together with a translation of the communication of the [Page 801] minister. Nothing was said in our conversation above referred to which is not in substance embodied in the notes.

It will be seen that the Government of Venezuela urges the prevention of contraband trade as the reason for its restrictive measures, and suggests the establishment of a port upon the Gulf of Paria as a means of facilitating commerce without prejudice to its revenues.

I shall make inquiries as to the practicability of establishing a satisfactory port upon the above-named gulf, about, which I have some doubts, with a view to determining and reporting how far the announced purpose of Venezuela is in its results likely to meet the views of our Government and the commercial requirements of the future.

I have, etc.,

Seneca Haselton.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 28.]

Mr. Haselton to Señor Rojas.

Mr. Minister: Under instructions from the Department of State at Washington, I desire respectfully to express to the Government of your excellency the earnest desire of the Government which I represent, that ships of the United States may be allowed free navigation of the several mouths or bayous of the Orinoco River which are now closed to them.

The Government of the United States would regard such a re opening to navigation as an act of friendliness, and as a step taken in the interest of the commerce of the two countries.

I take, etc.,

Seneca Haselton.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 28.—Translation.]

Señor Rojas to Mr. Haselton.

Most Excellent Sir: I had the honor to receive the polite communication of your excellency of the 27th of November last, sent to manifest the earnest desire of the Government of the United States that vessels of that nation might be permitted to navigate’ freely the several mouths or bayous of the Orinoco, and to express moreover that the reopening of the said passages would be esteemed as an act of friendship and a step leading to the increase of the commerce of both countries.

The motive which guided the executive power when it made use of the perogatives conferred upon it by the constitution and the national code of finance and closed to foreign commerce by decree of July 1, 1893, ratified the 6th of June of this year, all entrances to the Orinoco other than the “Boca Grande,” was to prevent contraband trade, the cause of the financial instability, and to assure the life of the mercantile and industrial enterprises, which derive their security from a strict compliance with the law. The results reached have fully justified the steps taken; but nevertheless the Government, although unable at present to annul the law, yet desiring as it does at the proper time to promote those interests which can in any manner be furthered by fluvial navigation, proposes to establish a port of transshipment at a place near to the Gulf of Paria, destined for foreign freight that is to be consumed at [Page 802] places situated on the banks of the Orinoco and that may arrive in vessels that find difficulty in entering by the “Boca de Navios,” which alone is to-day open to foreign commerce.

This purpose when carried into effect will be equivalent to what seems to be the desire of the United States, which, moreover, will be particularly satisfactory to the Government of Venezuela, as it has always a special interest in removing obstacles that can oppose the greater development of the commercial relations of Venezuela with the Great Republic of the North.

I renew, etc.,

P. Ezequiel Rojas.