El Salvador's president says country isn't ready for asylum seekers he promised to take from U.S.

El Salvador not ready for asylum seekers

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele made a controversial deal with the Trump administration that he says he can't honor right now. The young leader of the U.S. ally in Central America agreed with officials to take in people from any country who are seeking asylum in the U.S. But if the U.S. sends any, Bukele says El Salvador currently doesn't have the facilities to house them. Nor is their safety a guarantee in a country with a high murder rate and rampant gang violence.  Sharyn Alfonsi interviews Bukele for a 60 Minutes report about the troubled country to be broadcast Sunday, December, 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
 
Bukele, 38, is one of the youngest world leaders. Elected on a promise to clean up the corruption and end the violence in El Salvador, he tells Alfonsi his work is cut out for him. He has managed to lower the murder rate with heavy policing, but his government says there were still 131 murders last month alone in a country with just 6.5 million people. According to the U.N., El Salvador has the highest murder rate among countries not at war. That violence causes people to flee to other countries, especially the U.S., where about 20% of Salvadorans have come to live over the past 40 years. Last year, 90,000 Salvadorans were apprehended at the U.S. border.  
 
Lack of jobs also drives people away. "We have an economy that creates 20,000 jobs in a country where 100,000 kids get into working age each year," says Bukele. "Our whole economy is in shatters, nothing works." 
 
Asked if his country is prepared to accept the asylum seekers the U.S. could send per the agreement he made, he replies, "Well, not right now. We don't have asylum capacities, but we can build them." He ruled out tent cities. "That's not asylum capacity." 
 
Critics call the arrangement an outsourcing of America's asylum program. But it apparently keeps El Salvador in the good graces of the U.S. The White House recently released $51 million in aid it was holding back from El Salvador. The U.S. State Department also lowered the threat level to Americans traveling to the country to the same grade it gives France and Denmark. Alfonsi witnessed firsthand how dangerous it is to travel about in the capital of San Salvador.  Gang territories could be traversed only by getting permission from gang leaders, who dictated instructions to assure safe passage. Bukele acknowledged certain streets were off limits to tourists. "That's true," he says. "I'm not comparing El Salvador to Denmark."
 
El Salvador needs a safer environment if it is to attract the investment money, most of it from the U.S., it needs to improve its economy. "It is our responsibility to create the conditions where people don't want to flee our country," says Bukele. His efforts and stricter U.S. immigration policy are credited with lowering the number of Salvadorans trying to enter the U.S. in October to just 2,500 from over 12,000 in June.

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