Remarks by President Trump and President Bukele of El Salvador Before Bilateral Meeting
New York, NY
Issued on: September 25, 2019
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s a great honor to be with the President of El Salvador. We’ve had a tremendous success because, two weeks ago, we signed a cooperation agreement, which is a big thing — great for El Salvador, great for the United States. And we worked very, very well with our people. And I have great respect for you, and I really appreciate what you’re doing.
The President has done an incredible job with MS-13. He realizes what a threat they are. And they have been very, very tough, and we all appreciate that. And thank you very much for the agreement.
PRESIDENT BUKELE: Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Please.
PRESIDENT BUKELE: Thank you, Mr. President. Well, we’re very happy to be here. It’s an honor to be with the President of the United States and with his team. It’s — we’re very impressed and — the whole team being here.
And actually, for us, the United States is not only a partner and an ally, but also a friend. And we’re going to show that friendship — that’s one of the reasons we signed the agreement is because we want to show that friendship to our most important ally, which is the United States. And for us, this is very, very important.
And looking forward, I mean, we have been a little more than 100 days in office, but we look forward to be working with President Trump for the next five years. So I think that will be very good for us.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I thought you were going to say longer than that. (Laughter.) Tell them a little bit longer, they’ll love that. That’ll be breaking news.
PRESIDENT BUKELE: I’m only going to be — I’m only going to be for five years.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I know. (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUKELE: You would need to talk with — to talk with the next President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
PRESIDENT BUKELE: So for — we’re very happy to be here and we’re hoping that this meeting will only strengthen our relationship even more. And I think it will, because, you know, we’re — President Trump is very nice and cool, and I’m nice and cool, too. (Laughter.) So — we both use Twitter a lot, so, you know, we’ll get along. And we’re very honored. We’re very honored, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, it’s our honor. Thank you very much. And we’re working together very well. And the relationship has been excellent.
Mr. Secretary, would you like to say something?
SECRETARY MCALEENAN: Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, President Bukele. It’s been a tremendous partnership in the first 100 days you’ve had in office, with all of your team: Minister Hill, Minister Rivas, your security minister. And I really see the advances that you’re making on ending forced migration. It’s very productive for the region, and we’ll be there alongside supporting you. Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I think, importantly, we met with Honduras, as you know, and we also had meetings previous to this, but with Guatemala, and had tremendously successful meetings. We also signed agreements with them — cooperation agreements. Some people use different terms, but we use the word “cooperation agreement,” and at the highest strength, and yours also. And that’s good for all of us. It’s really good for all of us.
Mexico has been fantastic on the border. Today we have 27,000 soldiers. The numbers are way down. What are the numbers you were just telling me?
SECRETARY MCALEENAN: Yeah. We’re going drop again this month, Mr. President. It will be an over 60 percent reduction from the peak in May. And from Central America, it will be closer to 75 or 80 percent reduction.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah. About an 80 percent — I heard that before. Eighty-one percent. The catch and release is gone, as of almost now.
SECRETARY MCALEENAN: That’s right.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And there won’t be catch and release. We’re not releasing anybody into the country. And especially, we focus on the bad ones, but the bad ones get taken out. We’re removing them from our country. We’re moving them fast. And they are the ones that go first. You might want to discuss that a little bit.
SECRETARY MCALEENAN: Absolutely. So we announced the end of the court-mandated catch and release of families from Central America. And we’ve been able to do that because of our partnerships with the region, like with El Salvador, on streamlining repatriation for those who don’t claim asylum, and working with Mexico through the migrant protection protocol for families if they do claim asylums so that they can get an expedited court hearing. And that’s been a very productive approach.
We reduced the overall flow, and we’re taking profits away from criminal smugglers, and we’re making great progress with our international partners under your leadership.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And Mexico, frankly, is doing a great job, with respect to the cartels, by having 27,000 soldiers on our border. They’re decimating a lot of the cartels that were just really coming in. There’s so many people now. There’s so many bodies and really strong, tough, hardened soldiers there that it’s very hard for the cartels to break through. And a lot of bad were — if you have a cartel, it has not been a good situation for you. So Mexico really is doing themselves a big favor, too.
But the President of Mexico has been outstanding in working with all of us, really.
PRESIDENT BUKELE: Yeah. (Inaudible.)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And we’re very happy.