When a father and his two-year-old daughter from El Salvador drowned in the Rio Grande trying to illegally enter the United States last week, Democrats running for president immediately blamed President Trump.
But the new president of El Salvador, who took office just a month ago, declared “it is our fault.”
“People don’t flee their homes because they want to,” Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said during a weekend press conference in San Salvador. “They flee their homes because they feel they have to.”<
“We can send all the blame to any government we like,” he said. “We can say President Trump’s policies are wrong. We can say Mexico’s policies are wrong. 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,” said Bukele, who took office on June 1 after campaigning on fixing the country’s many problems.
On Monday, some 200 relatives and friends gathered for a funeral ceremony for the father and daughter, Óscar Martínez and 23-month-old Angie Valeria Martínez. They carried flowers and green palms, with some carrying signs bearing the logo of the Alianza soccer team favored by Martínez.
The father and daughter were found face down on the Mexico side of the river across from Brownsville, Texas. Bukele said the Salvadoran government failed to protect the 25-year-old Salvadoran and his daughter.
“We haven’t been able to provide anything, not a decent job, not a decent school,” he said. “What if there’s a little girl who had a decent school here, a decent health care system for her and her family, a decent house with water supply, a job for his parents, for his mother and his dad, a decent job, living in a zone where a gang member would not come to rape her and kill her family?”
While the father clearly bears the responsibility for trying to cross a dangerous river while carrying his daughter, some Democratic presidential candidates pointed the finger elsewhere. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke said there’s only one person to blame: “Trump is responsible for these death.”
Trump is responsible for these deaths. https://t.co/UZirFjh3fm
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) June 26, 2019
On the eve of the first debates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, O’Rourke sought to politicize the tragic deaths, adding: “As his administration refuses to follow our laws — preventing refugees from presenting themselves for asylum at our ports of entry — they cause families to cross between ports, ensuring greater suffering & death. At the expense of our humanity, not to the benefit of our safety.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 hopeful also cashed in on the politics.
“We are better people than this,” she said. “A government that can’t tell the difference between a threat posed by a terrorist, a criminal, and a little girl, is not a government that is keeping us safe,” Warren told a town hall meeting in Miami Tuesday night.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), also running for the nomination, blamed Trump, too.
“We should not look away,” Booker tweeted Tuesday night. “These are the consequences of Donald Trump’s inhumane and immoral immigration policy. This is being done in our name.”
We should not look away. These are the consequences of Donald Trump’s inhumane and immoral immigration policy. This is being done in our name. https://t.co/mZQnREOjV0
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) June 25, 2019
Booker also said that laws must change to accommodate foreigners sneaking into America.
“There’s nothing criminal about seeking a better life for your family. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now—we have to do the right thing and decriminalize border crossing,” he wrote on Twitter.