Already under attack from Venezuela’s socialist government, the country’s elite golf club has a new enemy at the gates: the Swiss ambassador.
A large sign posted on the fence of the Swiss diplomatic residence is warning golfers at the adjacent Caracas Country Club that any harm caused by their errant drives would constitute a violation of the Vienna Convention. “Dear Golfer,” reads the placard, posted near the third of the course’s 18 holes, “Launching balls into this residence is a danger to whomever is within Swiss territory and a violation of the Vienna Convention if a golf ball injures or kills anyone on Swiss soil.” The words “danger” and “Vienna Convention” are printed in bold red letters, apparently for added effect.
Ambassador Sabine Ulmann said she had nothing to say on the matter. Her residence is located in a wealthy area of Caracas, alongside the official residences of many other European nations.
It is not clear whose deviant slice may have prompted the Swiss to break with their reputation as a nation of subtle diplomats, and usually no enemy of the leisure class.
Describing the notice as “a strange overreaction”, the club said it was astonished. “When the Swiss government decided to put its ambassador’s residence at that location, it did so with the knowledge that it was right next to a golf course,” its statement read.
Article 30 of the 1961 treaty, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, states: “The private residence of a diplomatic agent shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the mission.”
The club survived a threat from Hugo Chávez, who questioned why it should occupy so much land in a city with an acute housing shortage, and it remains popular with the business class and foreign oil executives.