Venezuela: Chavez expels New Tribes Mission

The final pair of missionaries from New Tribes Mission pulled out of their Venezuelan outposts Feb. 9, days ahead of their deadline, after being accused of espionage by President Hugo Chavez. The nearly 40 missionaries, some having worked for 59 years among the remote tribes of Venezuela, returned to their base in Puerto Ordaz. Chavez told reporters that the missionaries left their settlements peacefully, “without any kind of violence or outrage and the National Armed Force occupied that huge territory of imperialist penetration.”

In November, the Venezuelan government ordered the New Tribes to leave their jungle camps in the eastern states of Apure, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro and Bolívar within a 90-day period. The group’s request to annul the government’s order is pending before Venezuela’s Supreme Court, but the Court determined not to meanwhile suspend the order.

On Oct. 12, Chavez accused the group of spying for foreign mining and pharmaceutical interests and collaborating with the CIA. Although NTM was not expelled from the country altogether, it is not yet clear whether the government may insist that the mission group do so.

Thousands of tribal people in Venezuela had rallied early November in support of the NTS, saying the government’s decision was made on false pretenses.

Based in Sanford, FL, NTS has been working in Venezuela since 1946. It currently works among 3,000 indigenous groups in the world’s most remote areas. (Christian Post, Feb. 10; Prensa Latina, Feb. 11)

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