MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Vice President Mike Pence was in Miami Tuesday where he helped send off the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort on a medical assistance mission.
The ship is on a five-month humanitarian mission to the Caribbean, and Central and South America. There are scheduled stops in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
The ship’s medical teams will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems strained partly by an increase in displaced Venezuelans.
It is the ship’s second deployment of this kind in the last year.
Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, and Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, joined Pence at PortMiami.
Earlier this month, the United Nations announced that the number of Venezuelan refugees had grown to four million, making Venezuelans “one of the single largest population groups displaced from their country,” the U.N. said. Colombia had the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants with about 1.3 million, followed by over 750,000 in Peru.
In a bitter feud with the U.S., Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has long-refused all American aid.
Much of the international community, including the U.S., now recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president and has called for Maduro to step down in order for democratic elections to take place.
This new mission will be the hospital ship’s seventh deployment to the region since 2007.
There will be about 1,000 people on board the Comfort, including about 200 credentialed medical professionals.
The Comfort’s surgical and medical services include X-rays, CAT scans, dental services, an optometry and lens laboratory, a physical therapy center and a pharmacy.
The ship also maintains up to 5,000 units of blood for medical services.