A pro-abortion Mexican politician is defending herself against claims of racism after she suggested Mexico’s welfare system would not care for families with more than three children.
Rosario Robles, the government’s Social Development secretary made the comments April 30 to a group of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol and Cora Indian women, off the beaten path in a Nayarit town of 350 residents. The program she discussed, Oportunidades, provides health care, nutritional, and scholarship assistance to poor families.
“Oportunidades is not going to benefit those who have a lot of children anymore,” Robles said. “It is going to support those who have few children, because small families have a better life." She encouraged the women to attend family planning workshops so they could make sure to “have three children and not one more.”
The speech began to gain attention on social media in early May, fueling anger that hasn't died down and is spreading across the border. Robles’ critics are calling her a racist for making the comments to indigenous people, who are not strangers to discrimination. Others say she believes some families are having children just for the extra government income.
Robles has since sought to defend herself, claiming that she was simply voicing her opinion that “small families live better.” But according to the Associated Press, Robles’ department said the three-child rule has actually been in place since July 2012. The AP also found a reference to a similar guideline in government documents dating back to 2011.
Some organizations are now calling for Robles’ ouster. Robles and her department want “to eliminate the poor rather than poverty,” said Juan Dabdoub, president of the Mexican Council for the Family (ConFamilia).
Robles claims 13 percent of Mexican welfare recipients are families with more than three children. She promised no indigenous woman has been denied benefits. But Dabdoub said Robles failed to mention that such families represent 38 percent of the needy population. If small families really live better, the drop in Mexico’s birth rate from 6.72 in 1970 to 2.25 in 2012 wouldn’t have left 53 million people in poverty, he said.
ConFamilia has filed a complaint with Mexico’s Human Rights National Committee. Dabdoub thinks Robles’ comments may even have violated the Mexican constitution, which explicitly gives families the right to choose the number of children they have. The document also states that to “eliminate any discriminatory practice” of indigenous peoples, the government should “support families of migrants with children and youth with special programs of education and nutrition” and “watch for the respect of their human rights.”