Responsibility for the migrant father and daughter who died trying to cross the Rio Grande last month ultimately rests with the country that could not provide them with a safe home before they risked their lives to enter the U.S., according to El Salvador’s President, Nayib Bukele.
Oscar Martinez and his daughter, Valeria, were found face down in the Rio Grande in a photo that added emotional volumes to America’s fever-pitch debate over illegal immigration. Both had come from El Salvador to try their luck in America. Their bodies had been returned to El Salvador where a private funeral was planned for Monday.
Bukele said his nation is to be blamed, according to the BBC.
“People don’t flee their homes because they want to, people flee their homes because they feel they have to,” he said. “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.”
Bukele said although he said he disagrees with the U.S. on its policy toward migrants, the real blame for migrants fleeing El Salvador lies closer to home.
“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,” he said.
Bukele said instead of criticizing the U.S. he will “focus on making our country better, making our country a place where nobody has to migrate.”
He elaborated on that in an interview with Britain’s Sky News.
“Most of the people who are fleeing are fleeing for two main reasons. One is because of the security because they don’t feel safe … so we want to make our country safer and we will work really hard,” he said.
Bukele offered similar thoughts in a news conference on Sunday in San Salvador, the nation’s capital, The New York Times reported, as he talked about the migrants streaming north from El Salvador.
“They feel safer crossing a desert, three frontiers, and all of the things that may happen in the road to the United States because they feel that’s more secure than living here. So we want to make our country safer,” he said.
Bukele promised that El Salvador could become a country where people want to stay, not flee.
“We will make a country that is more prosperous and that can provide decent paying jobs for all of our people,” he said.
“If people have an opportunity for a decent job, a decent education, a decent health care system and security, I know that forceful migration will be reduced to zero,” he said.
In his comments, Bukele said he differs from the U.S. on migration.
“I think migration is a right, but it should be an option, not an obligation. And right now it’s an obligation for a lot of people,” he said.
He added that American efforts to block migrants are not likely to succeed.
“They are approaching this in the wrong way. History has shown that this will not stop migration,” he said.
However, he said, he will work with the U.S. to create the changes the end migration.
“What I would say to the U.S. government is we are ready to work on security and providing jobs for our people,” he said.
The Mazatlan Post