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LDS missionaries evacuate Venezuela

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 26 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

The last of 220 non-native LDS missionaries serving in Venezuela were transferred from the country Monday night, and all have been reassigned to other Spanish-speaking missions.

LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills said Tuesday that missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who had previously been assigned to Venezuela from the United States were reassigned and transferred over a period of several days "because of the complexity and simple logistics of reassigning them to 30 other Spanish-speaking missions in the U.S., Canada and Latin America."

Other media reports said some 400 LDS missionaries had been removed from the country in one day.

Bills said missionaries who are natives of Venezuela remain in their country and will continue working there.

The move by the LDS Church comes amid increasing tensions between the Venezuelan government and the United States.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he would expel a Florida-based missionary group known as the New Tribes Mission, accusing it of setting up luxurious camps in poverty-stricken areas and making unauthorized flights by private plane into the country.

Bills said the LDS Church has had trouble both securing visas for new U.S. missionaries who were originally assigned to Venezuela, and renewing visas for those already in the country.

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