Jan 20, 1979 • 1731 • State-Caracas • 16431

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1707 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1979STATE016431_e.html.]

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STATE 016431
ORIGIN L-03 INFO
OCT-01 ARA-11 ISO-00 JUSE-00 FBIE-00 CA-01 SS-15 /031 R
DRAFTED BY L/T:LBAUMANN:KG
APPROVED BY L:LMMARKS
ARA – JBUSHNELL
JUSTICE – JHIRGIN
ARA/CAR – RMCCOY
——————016978 210219Z /62

R 201731Z JAN 79
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY CARACAS
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E.O. 12065:
TAGS: N/A CASC, VE, GY, (PEOPLES TEMPLE)
SUBJECT: PROTECTION OF UNITED STATES INTERESTS VIS-A-VIS PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS IN VENEZUELA

1. DEPARTMENT, AFTER CONSULTATION WITH DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, HAS DETERMINED THAT EMBASSY SHOULD IMMEDIATELY LODGE WITH GOV [Government of Venezuela] A FORMAL STATEMENT OF USG INTEREST IN ANY PEOPLES TEMPLE (PT) ASSETS IN VENEZUELA.

2. DEPARTMENT IS OF THE VIEW THAT BECAUSE OF SUBSTANTIAL USG EXPENDITURES IN CONNECTION WITH JONESTOWN INCIDENT INCLUDING REPATRIATION AND DISPOSITION OF REMAINS OF PT MEMBERS, USG HAS A STRONG INTEREST IN CONSERVATION AND EVENTUAL DISPOSITION OF PT ASSETS IN VENEZUELA. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IS EXPLORING POSSIBLE LEGAL MEANS THROUGH WHICH USG MIGHT RECOVER EXPENSES INCURRED. IN CONNECTION

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WITH THIS EFFORT, USG MAY WISH TO FILE A CLAIM AGAINST PT ASSETS IN VENEZUELA. WHILE NO FINAL DETERMINATION HAS BEEN MADE REGARDING WHETHER USG WILL ULTIMATELY ASSERT SUCH A CLAIM UNDER VENEZUELAN LAW, DEPARTMENT BELIEVES THAT U.S. SHOULD MOVE PROMPTLY TO PRESERVE ANY RIGHTS IT MAY HAVE UNDER VENEZUELAN LAW.UNLESS STRONG OBJECTIONS ARE PERCEIVED, EMBASSY IS ACCORDINGLY INSTRUCTED TO CONVEY TO GOV THE FOLLOWING NOTE:

3. BEGIN TEXT. EXCELLENCY:

AS YOUR EXCELLENCY IS AWARE, SEVERAL ;UNDRED UNITED STATES CITIZENS, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE, LOST THEIR LIVES UNDER TRAGIC CIRCUMSTANCES ON NOVEMBER 18, 1978 IN JONESTOWN, GUYANA. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES EXPENDED A CONSIDERABLE SUM IN CONNECTION WITH THE INCIDENTS AT JONESTOWN AND INTENDS TO SEEK REIMBURSEMENT OF SUCH EXPENSES FROM ASSETS OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE.

IT HAS COME TO THE ATTENTION OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT THAT THERE MAY BE FUNDS IN YOUR COUNTRY DERIVED FROM THE PEOPLES TEMPLE. MY GOVERNMENT HAS INFORMATION THAT CERTAIN PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS MAY HAVE BEEN FRAUDULENTLY OBTAINED OR IMPROPERLY DISTRIBUTED. SOME UNITED STATES CITIZENS MAY HAVE AN INTEREST IN THE DISPOSITION OF PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS. HOWEVER, MY GOVERNMENT ALSO HAS INFORMATION THAT CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS MAY NOW ATTEMPT TO IMPROPERLY OBTAIN THESE ASSETS. UNLESS THESE FUNDS ARE IMMOBILIZED UNTIL THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNERSHIP CAN BE DETERMINED, THE PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS IN YOUR COUNTRY MAY BE IMPROPERLY DISTRIBUTED.

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MY GOVERNMENT MAY HAVE SUBSTANTIAL CLAIMS AGAINST THE PEOPLES TEMPLE FOR COSTS INCURRED IN CONNECTION WITH THE JONESTOWN TRAGEDY INCLUDING REPATRIATING THE REMAINS AT THE REQUEST OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GUYANA. TO THAT END, I WISH TO INFORM YOUR EXCELLENCY THAT THE UNITED STATES RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SUBMIT SUCH A CLAIM IN VENEZUELA IN ACCORDANCE WITH APPLICABLE LAWS AND PROCEDURES. A CIVIL LAWSUIT ON THIS MATTER IS UNDER ACTIVE CONSIDERATION IN THE UNITED STATES. THE PEOPLES TEMPLE ITSELF HAS FILED DISSOLUTION PROCEEDINGS IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA. A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION IS ALSO PENDING IN THE UNITED STATES. IN LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT WOULD LIKE TO REQUEST WHATEVER ASSISTANCE THE GOVERNMENT OF VENEZUELA CAN PROVIDE UNDER ITS LAW IN IDENTIFYING AND IMMOBILIZING ANY PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS IN VENEZUELA. MY GOVERNMENT IS WILLING TO PROVIDE WHATEVER ASSISTANCE MAY BE APPROPRIATE IN PROTECTING AND PRESERVING THE ASSETS. AT THE PRESENT TIME, THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAS THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION CONCERNING POSSIBLE PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS WITHIN VENEZUELA. THERE IS AN ACCOUNT (BELIEVED TO BE A CHECKING ACCOUNT) AT THE BANCO UNION, CARACAS, SAID TO BE IN THE NAME OF ASOCIATION RELIGIOSA PRO SAN PEDRO; SIGNATORIES SAID TO BE TERRI BUFORD AND CAROLYN LAYTON. THE ACCOUNT NUMBER IS OI-58115-5 AND CONTAINS APPROXIMATELY 85,745 (GUYANESE) WHICH IS APPROXIMATELY 33,757 US DOLLARS. THERE ARE ALSO ALLEGATIONS THAT THERE ARE AN ADDITIONAL 2,000,000

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US DOLLARS OF PEOPLES TEMPLE ASSETS IN VENEZUELAN BANKS.

(COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE) END TEXT.

4. PLEASE ADVISE DEPT OF GOV RESPONSE ASAP.

5. PLEASE SLUG REPLY PASS JUSTICE, JIM HIRGIN [Hergen].

VANCE [Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State]

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NNN

Originally posted on October 21st, 2020.

Last modified on July 17th, 2022.
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