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El Salvador leader takes blame for death of man, girl at U.S. border

By Clyde Hughes
El Salvador leader takes blame for death of man, girl at U.S. border
U.S. Border patrol boat heads east on the Rio Grande between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas on January 25. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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.

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"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."

RELATED Salvadoran migrant father, daughter drown trying to cross Rio Grande [Graphic image]

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.

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"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."

RELATED Federal judge blocks $2.5B in border wall spending

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."

Migrants in Mexico: Journey to the U.S. border

Migrants ride an inflatable raft on the Suchiate River from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, while a smuggler waits for their arrival in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico on Thursday. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

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