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

No. 209

Sir: The Department has received your No. 714, of the 8th ultimo, regarding the matter of the conclusion of an extradition treaty and of a commercial treaty between the United States and Venezuela.

The Department is of the opinion that the subject of a possible extradition treaty with the Government of Venezuela should be treated separately and apart from the question of the possible conclusion of a commercial treaty, and the latter subject will be taken up with you in another communication.

Referring to your reported conversation with the Foreign Office concerning the inclusion in a possible treaty of extradition of provisions which, in recognition of the constitutional abolition of capital punishment in Venezuela, should reserve to the contracting parties the right to decline to grant extradition for crimes punishable by death, except upon previous diplomatic assurances that this penalty would not be executed, you are instructed to point out to the Foreign Office, as bearing upon the matter, the situation resulting from the system of government prevailing in the United States, with respect to the sovereignty of the several States in the matter of police administration and the punishment of crimes. In this connection you will state that in all probability by far the majority of persons whose extradition might be sought by the United States from Venezuela, should a treaty be concluded, would be fugitives from the justice of the several States of the Union and that as to such offenders the national government would be unable to give assurances upon the question of the penalty to be inflicted upon them if returned to the United States.

Therefore, you will add that the federal government does not consider itself empowered to enter into treaty stipulations in the language [Page 990] suggested to you by the Foreign Minister, but would be willing to stipulate somewhat as follows:

“In view of the abolition of capital punishment by constitutional provision in Venezuela, the contracting parties reserve the right to decline to grant extradition for crimes punishable by death. Nevertheless, the executive authority of each of the contracting parties shall have the power to grant extradition for such crimes, upon the receipt of satisfactory assurances that in case of conviction the death penalty will not be inflicted.”

In this connection you will state to the Foreign Office that in suggesting such phraseology, the Department had in mind that in cases of offenders against the laws of the several States, the appropriate prosecuting and judicial authorities of the State and possibly also the executive head thereof, might furnish the Department, for transmission to the Government of Venezuela, in connection with an application for extradition of a person charged with a capital offense, assurances on the question of the penalty to be inflicted or invoked in case of conviction, which assurances the Government of Venezuela might deem to be satisfactory.

I am [etc.]

Robert Lansing