The Minister in Venezuela (McGoodwin) to the Secretary of State

No. 714

Sir: Referring to the Department’s No. 183 of April 18, (file No. 231.35)2 asking if the laws of Venezuela prohibit capital punishment, and if so whether the Government of Venezuela would be disposed to insist upon the inclusion in any extradition treaty to which she might agree of a provision taking into consideration this feature of Venezuelan law and requiring the other Government concerned to take cognizance thereof in a given case, I have the honor [Page 988] to state that Article 22 of the present (1914) constitution of Venezuela reads as follows:

“The Nation guarantees to Venezuelans:

“First, the inviolability of life, capital punishment remaining abolished, whatever law may seek to establish it and whatever authority should order it.”

In response to my inquiry to General Ignacio Andrade, Minister for Foreign Affairs, he replied that the Government of Venezuela “would have no objection” to signing an extradition treaty with the United States “which would exclude the penalty of death in its provisions;” that this [his?] Government “would have much pleasure in doing so.” In view of several recent unfortunate circumstances, involving the misconduct of American citizens in Venezuela, I can, appreciate that Venezuela would indeed welcome an opportunity to establish a degree of protection.

General Andrade said that in view of the constitutional provision above quoted Venezuela would be compelled to ask that such a treaty provide that “extradition for crimes punishable by death be granted upon previous assurance, given through diplomatic channels, that in case of condemnation this penalty would not be executed.” This is almost the exact phraseology of a protocol clarifying Venezuela’s extradition treaty with Belgium, signed thirty years ago, and the clause in all subsequent treaties dealing with the subject of extradition is similar, including treaties just concluded with Argentina and Brazil.

There are numerous criminal refugees from Venezuela in New York and elsewhere in the United States, and several Americans who were in control of mines and other important enterprises in this country have returned to the United States surreptitiously, and in some cases openly, without having effected settlements with their employers and creditors. I regret to say that this practice has increased of late and is a decided detriment to the interests of American business and capital.

Because of many inequalities existing in the tariff schedules and the great difficulty encountered by our merchants in attempting to comply with the tariff and consular regulations of Venezuela, I am hopeful that the Department may favor the conclusion of a commercial and general treaty with the Government of Venezuela, which might include also the subject of extradition. There is reason to believe that the present Government would not seriously oppose the granting of preferential treatment to the United States. If there could be any assurance of obtaining adequate steamship facilities to the United States, and the Government of the United States would admit tick-infested cattle, as has been done in the case of [Page 989] Mexican cattle since March 1911, I am confident that a proposal for a commercial treaty embodying these features would be considered favorably.

But if in the judgment of the Department the subject in hand could better be treated separately, it is proper to add that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela not only is willing but anxious to conclude an extradition treaty with the United States, with the provision that cognizance be taken of her law against capital punishment.

I have [etc.]

Preston McGoodwin
  1. Now filed under 211.31.