Vice President Mike Pence has toured a U.S. Navy hospital ship launching a five-month medical assistance mission to Latin American countries struggling to absorb hundreds of thousands of migrants from crisis-wracked Venezuela.
The ship departing Miami on Tuesday will aim to help Venezuelans in countries including Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. It will also make stops in Haiti, Jamaica and several other Caribbean nations.
"The departure of the USNS Comfort bringing the compassion of the American people to those suffering here in our hemisphere and around the world," Pence said.
The ship is a massive floating medical aid center with hundreds of beds, doctors and nurses. The numbers of men, women and children feeling into Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru continues to rise along with the political and economic turmoil in Venezuela. Many are walking hundreds of miles looking for food.
Lucia Baez came to Miami seven months ago from a town in Venezuela near the Colombian border.
“People are going every single day in lines no matter what to get away because they cannot find food or anything," Baez said.
The volume of refugees is overwhelming services in Peru, and the government 48 hours ago installed rules that require Venezuelans to have a passport and humanitarian vise to enter — something almost impossible to obtain.
Pence said they are working on all fronts to prevent administrative matters from preventing aid to people who need it.
"I want to assure you ... we are continuing to position medical supplies along the border and continuing to work with our allies to facilitate the ability of Venezuelans to access that aid,” Pence said.
Pence emphasized the real solution to the problem is getting Nicolas Maduro out of power and Juan Guaido in office. He says the administration is committed to making that happen.
“But let me clear, the United States is going to continue stand with the people of Venezuela — until their freedom and democracy are restored. I promise you,” Pence told the group consisting of South Florida residents with loved ones in Venezuela.
The ship Comfort sets out on the high Wednesday and it will be gone for five months.
The United Nations says the exodus of Venezuelans in recent years is the largest in Latin American history. Their number is expected to reach 5.3 million by the end of 2019.