El Salvador President Says Drowning of Migrants in Rio Grande ‘Our Fault’

The president of El Salvador said that the drowning deaths of a Salvadorean man and his 23-month-old daughter were “our fault.”

A picture showing the father and daughter facedown in the river went viral, fueling fresh cries for laxer enforcement on the border of the United States of Mexico.

They were identified as Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and Valeria.

Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, said that there are major issues in his country that need fixed so people like Ramirez and his daughter remain there.

“People don’t flee their homes because they want to, people flee their homes because they feel they have to,” he 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. 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.”

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Candles are placed next to the border fence that separates Mexico from the United States, in memory of migrants who have died during their journey toward the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, on June 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel)

Bukele said that migrants to the United States should be treated better but that Salvadoreans have 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. And right now it’s an obligation for a lot of people,” he added.

Bukele, 37, was elected in February.

Relatives of Ramirez, the Salvadoran man who died, said that he went to the United States because he was poor, which is not a condition for asylum at present in the country.

According to the Daily Mail, Ramirez dropped his daughter on the other side of the river but when he went back to fetch his wife, the girl fell into the water. He tried to get her and they were taken away by the current.

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Tania Vanessa Avalos stands nearby as a government official speaks at a press conference at the airport, after her arrival in San Salvador, El Salvador on June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

Relatives told the outlet that the Ramirez family worked at a Papa Johns location in El Salvador, where Ramirez earned $350 a month. His wife, Tania Avalos, had quit her job to look after Valeria, their first child.

The family lived with Avalos’s mother in Altavista.

The mother of Ramirez confirmed that the trio wasn’t fleeing persecution but were seeking a better economic future. Their plan was to work in the United States for several years before returning to El Salvador to build a house there.

“I begged them not to go, but he wanted to scrape together money to build a home. They hoped to be there a few years and save up for the house,” Rosa Ramirez told the Associated Press.

“When the girl jumped in is when he tried to reach her, but when he tried to grab the girl, he went in further … and he couldn’t get out,” she added. “He put her in his shirt, and I imagine he told himself, ‘I’ve come this far’ and decided to go with her.”

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Rosa Ramirez cries when shown a photograph printed from social media of her son Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramírez, 25, granddaughter Valeria, nearly 2, and her daughter-in-law Tania Vanessa Avalos, 21, in her house in San Martin, El Salvador on June 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Valladares)

President Donald Trump said that Democrats were to blame for the deaths.

“I hate it, and it could stop immediately if the Democrats change the laws. And that father who was probably a wonderful guy with his daughter, things like that wouldn’t happen,” Trump said in Washington on June 26.

“That journey across that river is a dangerous journey. Going across the Rio Grande is very, very dangerous, depending on the time of year and the conditions and the rapidity of the water,” he added.

“And we know that, we have many, many guards there, people go through the guards. If we had the right laws, that the Democrats are not letting us have, those people wouldn’t be coming up, they wouldn’t be trying. The asylum policy of the Democrats is responsible.”