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President of El Salvador says his country is to blame for the deaths of fleeing citizens

'They fled our country. It is our fault."

Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The president of El Salvador says his country needs to take responsibility for the deaths of citizens who flee to seek a better life elsewhere, after being asked about the tragic drownings of a Salvadoran man and his toddler daughter in the Rio Grande river last week.

What are the details?

The BBC sat down with newly elected President Nayib Bukele and asked him about the deaths of migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his daughter, Valeria, who were swept away by the current and killed while attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande river.

Ramirez reportedly decided to take his family across the border illegally after being unable to request asylum at a port of entry.

A heartbreaking photo of Ramirez and Valeria's lifeless bodies has been widely circulated, garnering international attention. Critics on the left used the opportunity to blame President Donald Trump and his immigration policies for leading to the deaths of the migrants.

But President Burkele says the blame rests at his country's feet, telling the BBC, "People don't flee their homes because they want to, people flee their homes because they feel they have to. 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."

The president added, "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."

Burkele went on to say that while he condemns the treatment of migrants in the U.S. and Mexico, El Salvador must "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. And right now it's an obligation for a lot of people."

Anything else?

President Burkele was elected in February with the promise of fighting the widespread corruption that has plagued the nation for decades.

The 37-year-old president told Skye News that his country is willing to work with the U.S., but disagrees with America's attempts at blocking people from entering its borders.

"They are approaching this in the wrong way. History has shown that this will not stop migration," he said. "What I would say to the U.S. government is we are ready to work on security and providing jobs for our people."

One last thing…
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