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US sending hospital ship to aid Venezuelan refugees

US sending hospital ship to aid Venezuelan refugees
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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. 

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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. 

"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 ShanahanSenators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Biden Pentagon pick could make up to .7M from leaving Raytheon 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 PompeoMike PompeoWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? 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.