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Ipiales, Colombia

Venezuelan citizens wait in line to cross to Ecuador at the Rumichaca international bridge in Ipiales, Colombia, on Aug. 11, 2018. (Photo: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelans flee economic crisis at home

The Pentagon is preparing to dispatch a hospital ship to Colombia and possibly other parts of South America to help relieve strain on health care systems overloaded by an influx of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled that crisis-racked nation, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.

“It is absolutely a humanitarian mission,” he told reporters returning with him to Washington after a six-day tour of South America.

Mattis would not say when the USNS Comfort would arrive off the coast of Colombia, but it apparently will not be in the next few weeks. Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, said it would be “in the fall,” but she would not be more specific.

As a result of a dire economic and health care situation, rising numbers of Venezuelans are joining an exodus that has set off alarms across Latin America.

The United Nations said earlier this week that an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the crisis-torn country as of June, mainly to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. (AP)

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