As part of his visit to Latin America, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele met last Sunday at the Presidential House in San Salvador to discuss economic cooperation and measures needed to reduce illegal migration.

According to a statement from the U.S. State Department, during the joint press conference, Bukele highlighted the “new chapter in the relationship with the United States,” pointing out that it is their most important ally. “The majority of our exports go to the United States, the majority of our imports come from the United States; our economy is dollarized.”

We are so close to the United States. Really, our relationship with the United States is the most important one we have in the world, and before it was eroded by the previous administration, but right now I think it’s quite clear that the new administration of El Salvador is willing to work 100 percent with the United States government and with the United States people,” the Salvadoran president added.

At the press conference Bukele spoke about immigration issues: “We talked about fighting the gangs together, we talked about interdicting narcotics together, we talked about reducing immigration together. So I think this was a very, very important meeting. I think that it’s a game changer.”

He also referred to “common problems” to be solved between the United States and El Salvador, such as the fight against MS-13 gangs, and added: “Immigration is a problem that we have, but it’s a problem that ends at the southern border of the United States, so we have to solve the immigration problem together. And the United States sees El Salvador as a partner and as an ally even though we’re a very small country.”

In closing his tour of Latin American countries, Pompeo highlighted the commitment shown by Bukele and indicated the importance for the United States of establishing “closer partnerships in the Western Hemisphere.

As the State Department communiqué points out, the secretary of state recalled the arduous efforts and challenges involved in strengthening border security on the southern border of the United States and throughout Central America, but noted that the Trump administration was determined to do so.

We are a champion of sovereign rights for every nation, but we’ve got to address the challenges that cause this migration. We want people to want to stay in their own countries. Gang violence and poverty are two amongst them, and we want to be a good partner to assist you in reducing these causes for this migration,” Pompeo added.

The meeting between the secretary of state and the Salvadoran president comes during the U.S. official’s tour of countries in the region such as Argentina, Ecuador, and Mexico that began last Friday as part of the Trump administration’s current efforts to strengthen multilateral relations with Latin America’s neighbors.

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