PHOTO CAPTION (standalone): SHACKLED IN PRISON – J. E. Welch demonstrates in Washington shackles he was forced to wear in Venezuela jail. He has been trying to get aid for a small daughter still held in Venezuela.
FULL TEXT: Washington, Sept. 21.—By far the most persistent and active lobbyist to appear here this generation is the redheaded, blue-eyed James E. Welch,
Welch lobbied for 22 months for the custody of his child who was held in
, S. A., and has just been notified that the child will be turned over to him by Venezuelan state officials. Venezuela
The child was in
, and among Welch’s plans was one for the overthrow of the Venezuelan government. And if he did not succeed in that, he said he would campaign against the administration at Venezuela in the hope of electing an American President who would give him what he insisted was mere justice. Washington
Soft-spoken and unobstrusive in manner, not highly cultured, Welch has camped the State Department steps. He has interviewed dozens of members of Congress and caused introduction of legislation for investigation of his case and of our relations with
. He knew every newspaperman in town. He helped Venezuelan exile get hundreds of columns of publicity adverse to the Gomez dictatorship and they have helped him get evidence. Venezuela
Governor Huey Long of
enlisted and promised to raise cain about the Welch case, used as important ammunition in his campaign last year. Welch charges that Joseph E. Ransdell, Louisiana senator from U. S. , hadn’t been active on his behalf. Welch bombarded the country’s most prominent citizens with letters requesting aid. Lately he issued at his own expense large, illustrated four-page monthly bulletins containing all the latest news and opinions about the Welch case. Recently he picketed the White House steps, wearing 100-pound leg irons such as are attached to Venezuelan political prisoners. Louisiana
Welch attracted so much publicity and sympathy everywhere that the Venezuelan minister advertised in the New York Spanish press that Venezuelans who helped Welch were subject to long imprisonment at home. The State Department issued a detailed publication denying that it had refused Welch justice and protection because
had been so nice to our big oil companies. It asserted that Welch had due process of law. Venezuela
Whatever the technical points of Venezuelan and international law may be, here is, briefly, the story of Welch, the champion lobbyist:
Welch was in the oil business in
and Mexico and went to Colombia as Standard Oil superintendent in 1922. Then he began to drill oil and water wells and made $50,000 a year. In 1926 he met Anita Salazar, daughter of a judge at Venezuela , where he had been called by President Gomez to drill water wells. Their religions differed and they entered a common law marriage. In October, 1929, arrived Irma Francisca Welch, the child for whom Welch has been fighting all this time. Maracay
Welch went on business to
, a military official purloined the beautiful Anita and baby Irma was left with her Venezuelan grandmother. Welch returned, seized the child and went away from there. He was arrested en route, charged with kidnapping on the grandmother’s instance, returned to the sate of Bolivar and imprisoned there. Welch says the governor of Bolivar was his enemy and the grandmother sought to keep Irma as a meal ticket. The chief of police and 14 soldiers removed Irma from Welch by force. Caracas
Welch languished 43 days in one of those Venezuelan prisons which by common repute are so horrible, watching men starve and go insane. Friends brought him food and saved him from starvation. He says the American vice-consul advised him to buy his freedom by paying off his accusers. The head of a British oil combine finally obtained his release. The charge d’affaires at the American legation in
advised him to appeal to the British oil interests if he wanted the child, as they “had more influence.” Court proceedings followed which are too complicated to describe here, but Welch went to the State Department. In one way or another most department officials have since told him to go to the devil. Welch retaliated by charging Alerican oil influence and publicizing the horrors of the Gomez regime. He has long since spent nearly all of his money and seeks compensation from Caracas for business losses and false imprisonment. Venezuela
Welch claims recently to have discovered a forged document in the file of his case which had enabled a Venezuelan attorney to double-cross him by withdrawing his case at a critical point. His lawyers and the State Department argued whether the document is unquestionably a forgery, until Welch was informed he would get the baby.
[Rodney Dutcher, Washington Letter (column, syndicated (NEA Service), The Frederick Post (Md.), Sep. 22, 1931, p. 5]
PHOTO CAPTION: Five-year-old Irma Francesca Welch in arms of her American father, James E. Welch, Shrevesport, La., who plans to file $1,000-a-day claim against Venezuelan government for their four-year separation.
FULL TEXT: Center of more attention than she has ever known, 5-year-old Irma Francesca Salazar Welch is ready to settle down to normal existence in the home town of her father, James E. Welch, in Shrevesport, La.
Yesterday Welch and his daughter, a Venezuelan beauty, called at the State Department to thank officials for intercession in a case that attracted attention.
Born in Venezuela, with no knowledge of English, the little girl has not the slightest idea of what all the excitement is about.
~ Dr. Arcaya Explains. ~
Yet, Dr. Pedro M. Aracaya, Venezuelan Minister, saw fit to issue a formal statement on the case. He said:
“There is not and never has been any diplomatic controversy between the government of Venezuela and that of the United States regarding Irma, the daughter of James E. Welch.
“There has been in the courts of the State of Bolivar, Venezuela, several criminal and civil suits between Welch and the grandmother of his daughter on the question of the custody of his child.”
All this, the minister said, is Welch’s private affair.
Private or not, the Welch case become public property in the more than four years’ struggle by Welch. In that time he has played the role of kidnaper of his own child for which, under Venezuelan laws, he was subjected to 43 days in the police barracks at Bolivar.
~ State Department Aids. ~
Unable to enter the country where his romance began, Welch succeeded in having State Department officials arrange for landing of his daughter on British territory – Trinidad. There the reunion was effected. Welch and the girl flew to Miami. They came to Washington primarily to thank William Phillips and Harry F. Payer, of the State Department.
The girl’s mother disappeared shortly after the child was born, but there is an American grandmother waiting for Irma in Shreveport.
Today Welch plans to visit the Senate and House Office Buildings to thank senators and representatives who interested themselves in his case.
It is understood Welch intends to file suit against the Venezuelan government, asking $1,000 a day for the four years the child was kept from him. This totals $1,460,000.
[“Seeks $1,000 a Day for 4-Year Separation – Girl Freed by U. S. Aid Here With Father to Thank Officials. – Diplomatic Controversy Over Case Denied by Venezuela Convoy,” The Washington Post (D.C.), Oct. 10, 1933, p. 22]
PHOTO CAPTION (standalone): Diplomatic aid brought about the reunion of little five-year-old Irma Francesca Welch and her father, James E. Welch (center), after a separation of more than four years while Irma was in custody of a guardian in Venezuela and her father was jailed for kidnaping in an attempt to recover his child. They are shown thanking Assistant Secretary of State Payer in Washington. Welch and his daughter will live in Shreveport, La. (Associated Press Photo)
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