Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele, who took office a month ago, took responsibility for the June deaths of a father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande in a bid to reach the United States.
A photograph from the Mexican side of the river showing the body of Oscar Martinez and his daughter, Valeria, lying face down with Valeria’s arms still wrapped around her father’s neck shocked the world late last month amid an already heated debate about illegal immigration in the US.
President Nayib Bukele told the BBC in an interview published Monday that his country is to blame for the deaths. He said his government is responsible for fixing the problems that have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee in the first place.
“People don’t flee their homes because they want to, people flee their homes because they feel they have to,” Bukele told the BBC. “Why? Because they don’t have a job, because they are being threatened by gangs, because they don’t have basic things like water, education, health.”
He continued: “We can blame any other country but what about our blame? What country did they flee? Did they flee the United States? They fled El Salvador, they fled our country. It is our fault.”
The father and daughter were swept away by the current in the Rio Grande between Matamoros, Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas.
In his interview with the BBC, Bukele went on to stay that while he did condemn the treatment of migrants in the United States and Mexico, it was his belief El Salvador had to “focus on making our country better, making our country a place where nobody has to migrate.”
“I think migration is a right, but it should be an option, not an obligation,” he said. “And right now it’s an obligation for a lot of people.”
Bukele told Sky News his government will work to “make our country more prosperous and create jobs.”
“So if people have an opportunity for decent jobs, a decent education, a decent health care system and security, I know that forced migration will be reduced to zero,” he said.
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