Venezuela’s embattled leader made a bizarre request to the country’s women amid a rising economic crisis and severe food and medicine shortages: Have more babies.
Nicolas Maduro, appearing in a televised event promoting a women’s health care plan, instructed them to “give birth, give birth” and have six children – all for the “good of the country.”
“May God bless you for having given life to six little girls and boys,” Maduro is heard saying, according to a video shared by TVV on Twitter. “Every woman should have six children for the good of the country.”
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While opposition leader Juan Guaido is considered the legitimate leader of Venezuela by more than 50 countries, including the United States, Maduro remains in power, thanks to the support of the Venezuelan military.
The bitter power struggle between the two men has exacerbated the economic crisis, which triggered a massive struggle for Venezuelans to put food on the table.
According to a survey recently published by the U.N. World Food Program, one of every three Venezuelans copes with food insecurity, unable to meet their basic dietary needs.
People surveyed said food is now available in a country once riddled by shortages, but it’s more difficult to afford because of lost jobs.
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The South American nation was once among Latin America’s richest nations, sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves. But it has been on a steady downward spiral into social and economic crisis in recent years.
More than 9 million people — roughly one-third of the population — are moderately or severely food insecure, said the World Food Program’s study, which was conducted at the Venezuelan government’s invitation.
Maduro’s government hasn’t commented on the study.
In response to Maduro’s remarks at the women’s health care event, supporters of Guaido responded angrily on Twitter.
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Manuela Bolivar, a member of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, slammed Maduro, saying: “Hospitals are not functioning, vaccines are scarce, women cannot breastfeed because they are malnourished or buy baby formula because it is unaffordable, and the country faces forced migration due to the humanitarian emergency.”
She added: “Maduro and all of his regime who say this have psychological dissociation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.