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US to Send Military Hospital Ship to Venezuelan Region

FILE - Kamila, daughter of Yenymar Vilches, a Venezuelan migrant, is attended by personnel of the USNS Comfort at Divina Pastora High School in Riohacha, Colombia, Nov. 26, 2018.

VOA’s Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — The United States military says it will dispatch a military hospital ship to the Venezuelan region, the latest sign of greater U.S. involvement in the crisis gripping the South American country.

A Pentagon official told VOA the USNS Comfort hospital ship “will deploy to South American waters in the coming weeks.” The official said the Comfort will be on a “standard deployment that will include care for Venezuelan refugees.”

U.S. officials have said recently they are considering military options in Venezuela, as the U.S. intensifies diplomatic and economic pressure on the oil-rich country.

The U.S. has recognized National Assembly and opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president and has called on President Nicolas Maduro to resign.

Defense pact

The Guaido-led legislature said it planned to debate a proposal Tuesday for Venezuela to re-enter a Cold-War era regional defense agreement that it withdrew from years ago. A vote to re-enter the U.S.-led treaty could bolster U.S. efforts to oust Maduro.

Venezuela is mired in an economic crisis, with inflation exceeding 1 milion percent and citizens being forced to do without essential goods and services.

Last week, Guaido tried to provoke a military revolt to force Maduro from office, but the attempt failed because most of the armed forces remain loyal to Maduro.