In what appears to be the latest consequence of broadcaster Pat Robertson's August call for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's assassination, Chavez announced plans to expel from the country New Tribes Mission, a church-planting and Bible-translating mission agency.
Describing New Tribes Mission (NTM) as a "true imperialist infiltration that makes me ashamed," Chavez declared he was fed up with "colonialism" and accused the mission group of links to the CIA, spying on Venezuela, and exploiting indigenous people. "We don't want New Tribes here," he said.
Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel repeated the accusations on Thursday. "We have intelligence reports that some of them are CIA," he told reporters. "The president's decision was based on reports that their actions create situations that compromise the country's sovereignty."
Rangel also said that Chavez's action is supported by the local Roman Catholic church. "Even Cardinal [Rosalio] Castillo Lara supported President Chavez's measure to remove New Tribes from the country," he said. "We have the cardinal's blessing in this decision." Castillo, who has called the president "a paranoid dictator" in need of an exorcism and whom Chavez has called an "outlaw, bandit, immoral Pharisee, and a pantomime," has not issued a statement of his own on the New Tribes expulsion.
Chavez said his decision was "irreversible." He did not set an expulsion date but will allow the missionaries time to "gather their stuff."
Chavez made the statements at a nationally televised gathering in Venezuela's southern Apure state, where he granted indigenous groups land titles and farm equipment. The comments came on Indigenous Resistance DayChavez's rechristening of Columbus Day.
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