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US Missionaries Leave Venezuela Posts

Dozens of U.S. Christian missionaries have left their posts in Venezuela's jungle ahead of a government order to leave the area.

The New Tribes Mission said it had withdrawn all of its missionaries from Venezuelan tribal areas, where the evangelical group had been active for decades.

A spokeswoman for the group, Nita Zelenak, told VOA news Sunday that 35 adults and 19 children have left the tribal areas. Some returned to the United States and others have moved to other locations in Venezuela.

In November, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave the group a February 12 deadline to leave. He accused the missionaries of having links to the CIA and abusing indigenous groups. The New Tribes Mission denies the accusations.

The group has filed a legal challenge to the expulsion order.