Medical personnel aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort have thus far treated more than 20,000 civilians, and performed more than 600 surgeries in several Central and South American nations, Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today.
The Comfort is currently treating patients in Honduras.
A number of people who were treated are refugees from Venezuela who fled to neighboring nations, Manning said.
“Contrast this with Russia, whose approach to the man-made disaster in Venezuela is to send strategic bomber aircraft instead of humanitarian assistance,” he said. “The Venezuelan government should be focusing on providing humanitarian assistance and aid to lessen the suffering of its people, and not on Russian warplanes.”
Making a Difference
Medical personnel from the Comfort are making a tremendous difference on the ground, Manning continued.
“This is medical aid that civilians would not otherwise have access to,” he added. “Their presence speaks to how we see being a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere and how we see the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to those that otherwise would not have it.”
The Venezuelan health care system is all but collapsed and can’t provide aid to its citizens, Manning said. “We stand with the Venezuelan citizen during their time of need,” he told reporters. “That’s what the symbol of the Comfort means.”
The crisis in Venezuela can be resolved only by the restoration of a democratic government’s rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, Manning said.
Pentagon officials said two Russian heavy strategic bombers — Tupolev TU-160 Blackjacks, which can fly at supersonic speeds — are in Venezuela, along with all of the required maintenance and refueling capabilities.
(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @VergunDoD)