US sending hospital ship to aid Venezuelan refugees

The U.S. will send a hospital ship to help with a refugee situation resulting from political turmoil in Venezuela. 

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort will provide medical services to South America, Central America and the Caribbean, focusing on areas that have housed refugees who have fled Venezuela during the presidency of Nicolás Maduro, the Pentagon said Tuesday in a statement. 

Vice President Pence first announced the ship’s deployment next month to the area of operations of the U.S. Southern Command (Southcom), the statement said. 

“The USNS Comfort represents our enduring promise to our partners in the Western Hemisphere — our shared neighborhood,” Southcom Commander Craig S. Faller said in the statement. 

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“U.S. Southern Command is committed to the region in support of our Caribbean and Latin American partners, as well as displaced Venezuelans who continue to flee the brutal oppression of the former Maduro regime,” he added.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pompeo visits Iraq amid Iran tensions | Central Command offers more details on carrier, bomber deployments | Shanahan calls for Maduro to step down | Dems unveil 2020 spending plan Trump juggles crises in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela Acting Pentagon chief calls for Maduro to step down in Venezuela MORE said in the statement that the Venezuelan crisis is a matter of security for the entire region.

“Our hemisphere’s security is at stake, and rest assured the United States will continue to keep all options on the table to ensure regional security,” he said.

The political tensions in Venezuela were heightened last week when U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has named himself the country’s interim president, unsuccessfully attempted to recruit Venezuela’s military to oust Maduro.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump taps ex-State spokeswoman Heather Nauert to help oversee White House fellowships Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pompeo visits Iraq amid Iran tensions | Central Command offers more details on carrier, bomber deployments | Shanahan calls for Maduro to step down | Dems unveil 2020 spending plan Acting Pentagon chief calls for Maduro to step down in Venezuela MORE said Sunday that a “full range of options” were on the table for dealing with the situation in Venezuela, including both diplomatic and military options. 

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