(CNN) – El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele authorized the use of deadly force by the police and the army against gang members who, he says, are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic after a weekend of violence that left at least 50 people murdered across the country.
He also cracked down on gang members already in prison, ordering 24-hour confinement in seven of the country’s high-security prisons, placing metal sheets over jail cells, and housing prisoners from different gangs together. .
The president said that “gangs increased killings across the country after receiving orders from inside the jail cells, according to intelligence reports.”
Bukele shared images on his personal Twitter account of the cells being sealed. He also retweeted images of several shirtless inmates lined up almost on top of each other in a courtyard in the Izalco prison as their cells were searched.
The images were originally published by the Deputy Minister of Justice and General Director of Penal Centers, Osiris Luna Meza.
In addition to the measures taken within the penitentiary centers, Bukele authorized the use of lethal force by the national police and the army “against terrorists who carry out imminent threats against the physical integrity of the population.”
The President has imposed some of the strictest containment measures during the coronavirus pandemic, including the threat of arrest and quarantine if health directives and vehicle confiscation are violated.
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.