Minister Bowen to the Secretary of State.
Caracas, Venezuela, March 5, 1904.
Sir: In answer to your instructions No: 179 [not printed], of February 16th last, I have the honor to inform you that on-or about the 26th of February I had an informal talk with the minister for foreign affairs. I told him that complaint had been made that Venezuela has not been paying the 30 per cent of the total revenues of the ports of La Guaira and Puerto Cabello, and that his government ought to make some statement about the matter to the nations interested. I handed him a draft statement (a copy of which is inclosed herewith) and advised him to send it to the various legations here, in order that we ministers might send it to our respective governments as an explanation of the course of Venezuela. He thought the idea good, but the next day he told me that the President is very angry at the complaints, and does not see any reason to make any explanation whatsoever about a matter that is beyond criticism. I answered that in my opinion much difficulty would be avoided if Venezuela should meet the complaints now before they are stated officially. He told me that President Castro would not listen to him.
My opinion is that we should either insist that at least 5,400,000 bolivars be set aside annually and paid in monthly installments to the creditor nations, or that, if the terms of the protocols are not respected, Belgian customs officials be put in charge of the said two custom-houses, and be protected while performing their duties there by warships.
I am, etc.,