July 1 (UPI) — El Salvador President Nayib Bukele on Monday took responsibility for the drowning deaths of a man and his young daughter, whose deaths were captured in a photo at the U.S.-Mexico border last week that drew widespread outcry.
The photo of Oscar Martinez and his toddler daughter Valeria on the bank of the Rio Grande renewed debate about U.S. immigration policies.
“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,” Bukele told BBC News.
“People don’t flee their homes because they want to. People flee their homes because they feel they have to.”
Martinez’s wife, Tania Vannesa Alvos, said the pair were planning to cross the river into Brownsville, Texas, when the current swept them away. She said they’d received a humanitarian visa and planned to request political asylum in the United States.
Bukele, elected in February, said he doesn’t approve of the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants, but emphasized his nation would be better served to improve domestic problems so citizens want to stay in El Salvador.
“I think migration is a right, but it should be an option, not an obligation,” he said, adding that many leave to escape violence and poverty. “Right now it’s an obligation for a lot of people.”
Bukele told Sky News U.S. efforts to block Latin American migrants won’t work.
“They are approaching this in the wrong way,” Bukele said. “History has shown that this will not stop migration. What I would say to the U.S. government is we are ready to work on security and providing jobs for our people.”