CARACAS — The Venezuelan socialist regime sells its “Humanized Birth” program, launched in 2017, to the world as one of the triumphs of the Bolivarian Revolution.
Hailed as a loving “embrace of the ‘Revolution’” and a change from the “antivalues sown by 100 years of capitalism” by socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, the program claims to support pregnant women and protect them against maternal mortality and obstetric violence. Beneath the fanfare and international media propaganda lies the inhumane truth of pregnancy in Venezuela amidst the collapse of socialism, where women have had to give birth on the street.
In the socialist regime’s own words, the Humanized Birth program seeks to fight against “birth mercantilism,” reduce the practice of cesarean sections, and other platitudes wrapped around a message of upholding women’s rights. This program is also accompanied by a breastfeeding program, which has an extremely anti-baby formula stance that villainizes the product as an evil of the “Capitalist system.”
— MIPPCI (@Mippcivzla) September 1, 2020
The socialist regime also hands out monthly stipends through its Chinese-inspired Fatherland System that barely amount to nothing. As of July of 2021, the amounts given are 7,000.000.00 bolivars to pregnant women and women who’ve recently given birth — or roughly $1.68 at the regime’s official exchange rate. 10,000,000.00 are given to ‘promoters’ of the regime’s humanized birth program — $2.41, an amount similar to Venezuela’s current monthly minimum wage.
These stipends are symbolic at best, as 7,000,000.00 Bolivars will barely get you a kilogram of rice these days, let alone any of the supplies that a baby requires, such as baby formula, which can be found for anywhere between 28-60 million Bolivars ($6.75-14.00).
The Humanized Birth program is fiercely against the practice of Caesarean section, launching several media campaigns through the years that range from simple brochures to bizzare television ads.
C-sections are a medical necessity over vaginal delivery when complications during pregnancy and delivery occur such as stalled labor, changes in the baby’s heartbeat, or problems with the woman’s placenta, among other possible complications. According to a 2014 study by researchers at Stanford and Harvard, maternal and child deaths declined when the c-section rate was up to 19 percent across 194 countries in 2012 – contrary to the fewer-c-sections-at-all-costs directive from the Maduro program.
The socialist plan has received effusive praise from global leftists and supposedly respectable institutions like the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional arm of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.). PAHO praised the program at the time of its launch, evidence of which still exists in a press release that can be accessed through PAHO’s website. PAHO has a long history of supporting socialist and communist regimes in the region, most prominently standing accused of having aided and profited from Cuba’s slave doctor program.
The reality is a stark contrast to the smiling women and faces in socialist propaganda, as Venezuela’s public health system lies in shambles.
Getting admitted into a hospital in the first place can be an uphill battle, as hospitals often deny admission to women about to give birth due to the lack of resources. This problem, colloquially referred to as ruleteo, is one commonly faced by all patients – basically, it means the practice of having to go to every single hospital in your respective city with the hopes of getting admitted while suffering from a condition severe enough to require hospital care.
Hospitals not only lack water, medicine, and basic supplies like disinfectants, but struggle with a severe shortage of medical staff. Public healthcare personnel often earn around $2.32-3.96, which, coupled with the utter collapse of the country, has made them migrate out of the country en masse.
The rampant hyperinflation and the obliteration of the Venezuelan bolivar often prevents women from seeking private health care. A c-section without complications can cost upwards of $3,000.00 (12,381,072,690.00 bolivars), an amount close to impossible to pay for most of the country — forcing women to give birth in one of Venezuela’s crumbling public health centers.
This dire situation has given forth to unfortunate tragedies, such was the case of Kenny Chirinos, who gave birth in one of the regime’s health centers and contracted an infection that took her life. Or the case of Aydimar Alvarado, who had to go through 12 different health centers to be admitted. Her baby died ten days after being born. According to a medical source consulted by the linked article, the death of that baby could have been prevented had his birth not been delayed by ruleteo.
Over the past years, cases of women having to give birth in the street – the actual middle of the street – or right outside a Venezuelan health center have become an unfortunately common occurrence. In 2018, a woman had to give birth outside a hospital in the state of Zulia because the health center had no power. Zulia, my birthplace, is one of the states worst hit by the socialist regime’s constant power rationing. Daily blackouts are part and parcel of living outside of Venezuela’s Capital District.
En el hospital de El Marite en #Maracaibo #Zulia #Venezuela, el video completo me causa demasiada tristeza, por eso lo corte. Ésto lamentablemente pasa mas veces de lo que muchos imaginan.#23agosto pic.twitter.com/uffCbNfb7B
— Lenin Danieri D (@LDanieri) August 23, 2021
Taking into consideration the lack of official data from the socialist regime, one study attempting to understand the situation estimated that, out of every 100,000 pregnant women in Venezuela, 400 die due to the appalling hospital conditions, unattended complications, and postpartum infections — significantly higher than in its neighboring countries: Brazil (60 per 100,000 as of 2017), Colombia (83 per 100,000 as of 2017), and Guyana (169 per 100,000 as of 2017).
I myself was a complicated and premature birth, and had it not been for a c-section I wouldn’t have made it out of my mothers’ womb alive in January 1988. My brother, who is younger than me, was also a premature birth that required a post-midnight c-section.
Giving birth in Venezuela can often be a daunting and dangerous endeavor, that much has the socialist regime been able to accomplish — and even if all goes well then all that awaits is an uphill battle against inflation, lack of proper healthcare, and ultimately, even lack of proper education for the child once it grows up.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.