Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, toured the USNS Comfort at the Port of Miami as the ship prepares to embark on a five-month deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean to address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and to strengthen partnerships in the region.
During today's visit, the vice president called the deployment a lifesaving mission.
"When the USNS Comfort pushes off tomorrow, she will embark on no ordinary mission," he said. "Her departure from this place will be [its] second deployment to Latin America in the last six months."
Pence expressed his "great appreciation" to the men and women who are serving aboard the hospital ship to continue America's effort to bring desperately needed medical care to those in need, especially the men, women and children who are suffering under the unprecedented crisis in Venezuela under dictator Nicolas Maduro.
After six years of oppression under Maduro and his regime, what was one of the wealthiest countries in the Western Hemisphere is now a country where nine out of 10 people live in poverty, Pence said.
The vice president described a country where thousands of children are starving and many are dying from lack of basic medical care. Crime, violence and lawlessness have spread like a virus, the vice president said, adding that vicious gangs have turned streets into war zones, and Venezuela now has the world's highest murder rate.
The Maduro regime is a threat to peace and security across the hemisphere, Pence said.
"While the United States has taken humanitarian action to include delivering food, Venezuelan people need more than food. They need medical care, and that's why the USNS Comfort will deploy once again," Pence said.
The vice president offered encouragement to the USNS Comfort crew. "You're embarking on a vital mission," he said. "You are fulfilling this nation's enduring promise, the very mission of [U.S. Southern Command], … at a time of great duress."