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The president of El Salvador has authorised “lethal force” in the fight against criminal gangs.
The country has also enforced the opposite of social distancing in its jails, packing opposing gang members into the same cell.
President Nayib Bukele ordered a 24-hour prison lockdown after the central American country reported 24 homicides on Friday.
It is the worst one-day total since Mr Bukele took office in June last year. By late afternoon on Sunday, police had registered another 29 murders.
Forcing rival gangs to share the same space is intended to break communication between members of the same group.
Mr Bukele said police and the armed forces can use “lethal force” to defend themselves or the “lives of Salvadorans”.
He said criminals were taking advantage of the fact that security forces had been busy helping to contain the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
Prisoners “will not receive sunlight”, said Osiris Luna, deputy security minister.
“They will be in total confinement 24 hours a day in the seven maximum security prisons that there are in this country.”
Mr Luna added: “We have taken the decision to mix and imprison in each of the cells the different groups of the criminal gangs that are causing so much damage to the country.
“The government will not bow down to any terrorist structure. This state is going to enforce the law and make it respected.”
Mr Bukele said: “The police and armed forces must prioritise safeguarding their lives, those of their companions and of honest citizens.
“The use of lethal force is authorised in self-defence or in defence of the lives of Salvadorans.”
According to prison authorities, 12,862 gang members are incarcerated in El Salvador.