The president of El Salvador has told Sky News his country is to blame for migrants making the dangerous journey to the US in search of a better life.
Nayib Bukele – in his first broadcast interview since being elected – was speaking after a Salvadorian migrant and his young daughter made headlines around the world when they were pictured drowned as they tried to reach America.
He said: “It’s our fault – they felt that fleeing the country, crossing three borders, a desert, a river [where] they finally drowned – they felt that was safer than staying here… Why would people take those risks?”
The photo showed Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria side-by-side in shallow water along the bank of the Rio Grande on the Mexican side of the US border.
Around a third of the people in the small central American country live in poverty and there is a big problem with violent gangs drawing in young people who cannot find jobs.
Thousands of people from El Salvador are among those making the perilous trip north to try to enter the US.
But President Bukele, 37, rejected Donald Trump’s suggestion that his plan for a wall would have saved Oscar Ramirez and his daughter.
He told Sky News that constructing a barrier on the Mexico-US border would be futile.
“If they build a wall migrants will build a tunnel, they will go through the sea, or they will go to the sides of the wall, a wall would never stop anything,” he said.
“Probably, a wall would cause more deaths.”
Pictures of detention centres packed with migrants held after trying to illegally enter America have also caused concern, with claims that the overcrowding means some cannot even use the toilet.
A US watchdog described “dangerous overcrowding” at the Rio Grande facilities, with one manager calling it a “ticking time bomb”.
“We have to come up with solutions fast because this can become a humanitarian crisis – it is a humanitarian crisis – but it can become something worse,” said Mr Bukele
El Salvador was one of the countries reportedly described as a “s***hole” by President Trump during a meeting in January 2018 – and President Bukele admitted his country has a huge task in improving infrastructure and living standards for its 6.4 million people.
“Should it be better if we build a country that’s not a s***hole?” he said. “And if someone wants to say it is, well he’s wrong.
“I will never call my home like that – but our hospitals are crumbling, our infrastructure is crumbling, our young people are joining the gangs because they don’t have a job, because they don’t have opportunities, because their families are being torn apart by immigration.
“Our countryside was very prosperous 50, 60 years ago – right now there are no jobs.”
The president – who earlier this week said the US was dealing with the migrant situation the “wrong way” – told Sky News it was vital for El Salvador to maintain good relations with America, saying his country is “totally” economically dependent on the country.
He also rejected the claim that Mr Trump is racist when it comes to his view on migrants.
“I don’t think he’s a racist,” said President Bukele. “He’s a businessman – I mean you have to do business – and for us the United States is not a thing you can ignore.”
Source: SKY NEWS