El Salvador President Nayib Bukele has authorized the use of lethal force by the police and army against gang members he says are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, after a weekend of violence left at least 50 people dead across the country.
24-hour lockdown: The President has also taken strong measures against gang members already in prison, ordering a 24-hour lockdown in seven of the country’s high-security prisons, putting metal sheets over jail cells and housing prisoners from different gangs together.
Bukele said in his declaration that the “gangs increased the murders throughout the country after receiving orders from inside the jail cells, according to intelligence reports.”
Cells searched: Bukele shared images on his personal Twitter account of the jail cells being sealed off. He also retweeted images of several shirtless inmates lined up almost on top of each other in a courtyard at the Izalco prison as their cells were searched, some 40 miles outside of San Salvador. The images were originally posted by deputy justice minister and director of prisons Osiris Luna Meza.
Lethal force: In addition to the measures taken inside the penitentiaries, Bukele authorized the use of lethal force by the national police and the army “against the terrorists who are carrying out imminent threats against the physical integrity of the population.”
Coronavirus lockdown: The President has imposed some of the strictest lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic, including the threat of detention and quarantine if health directives are violated and confiscating vehicles.
Bukele, who took office last June, campaigned on the promise of taking a tough stance on gang violence, which has plagued El Salvador for decades.