Former president Nicolás Maduro wants Venezuelan women to have many children as a way to boost the country’s population, which has seen nearly 5 million people flee in recent years to escape its economic crisis.
Maduro made the exhortation during a televised event on March 3 for a government program promoting various birth methods.
“God bless you for giving the country six little boys and girls,” the illegitimate ruler told a woman at the event, the Associated Press reported. “To give birth, then, to give birth, all women to have six children, all. Let the homeland grow!”
The country’s political and economic crisis continues to worsen, culminating in a near collapse of its health system with 78% of hospitals lacking basic access to water during 2019, according to Médicos por la Salud.
The U.N. World Food Program recently said that 9.3 million people — nearly one-third of Venezuela’s population — are unable to meet their basic dietary needs.
“You have to be very cynical to ask that we have six children,” Magdalena de Machado, a housewife picking through scraggly vegetables at a street market in the center of Caracas to make soup for her sons, ages 2 and 4, told the AP.
“Only two days a week we can serve some meat and chicken. For years we were late having children. We had them when we thought we were better off, but in the last year we’ve been buying less and less food,” she said.
De Machado and others also questioned how women could be expected to increase births amid the deterioration in the country’s health care, both for adults and children, and the rising infant and maternal mortality rates.
This story draws on reports by the Associated Press.