USNS Comfort to Provide Medical Relief for Venezuelan Crisis
The U.S. Navy has released the itinerary for the hospital ship USNS Comfort, which embark on another five-month deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean in mid-June. Her voyage is intended to help address the humanitarian crisis created by ongoing political and economic instability in Venezuela.
Comfort's medical teams will provide aid at ports in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis. The vessel will also make working port calls in Trinidad and Tobago.
As of February, the estimated number of refugees who have fled Venezuela to other Latin American and Caribbean countries stood at 2.7 million people, according to a United Nations assessment. When including all destination countries worldwide, the total now exceeds three million. This includes an estimated 1.1 million people who fled to Colombia, along with 500,000 in Peru, 290,000 in Chile, 220,000 in Ecuador and another 130,000 in Argentina. The UN estimates that an additional 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day.
"These figures underscore the strain on host communities and the continued need for support from the international community, at a time when the world’s attention is on political developments inside Venezuela,” said UNHCR Special Representative for Venezuela Eduardo Stein in February.
The United States accuses the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of mismanagement and corruption, and asserts that its actions have led to the collapse of Venezuela's economic system. The Trump administration seeks Maduro's removal and supports the political opposition movement led by Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela.
“This deployment responds directly to the man-made crisis Maduro’s regime has created,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Craig Faller, the commander of U.S. Southern Command. “The Venezuelan people are desperately fleeing their homeland for hope of a better way of life. We are committed to finding ways to support the Venezuelan people and our regional partners who share the goal of seeing a legitimate, democratic government reinstated in Venezuela.”
From October to December, Comfort completed an 11-week deployment for medical support to Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, helping nearly 27,000 patients in need and providing almost 600 onboard surgeries. The voyage this June will be the seventh U.S. hospital ship deployment to the region since 2007.