(CNN)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.
The President of El Salvador has authorized lethal force by police and military against gangs after a deadly weekend
The president authorized lethal force "against the terrorists who are carrying out imminent threats against the physical integrity of the population," he explained.
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.
Gang members who have already been arrested are being put in a 24-hour lockdown across the country's seven maximum security prisons, with additional measures on Bukele's orders. Those measures include putting metal sheets over jail cells and housing prisoners who are members of different gangs together.
"Gangs increased the murders throughout the country after receiving orders from inside the jail cells, according to intelligence reports," Bukele said in his declaration.
The president shared images on his personal twitter accounts of jail cells being shuttered with metal and inmates lined up early on top of each other during a search of the Izalco prison, about 40 miles outside of San Salvador.
Those images, which show dozens of shirtless inmates with masks lined up sitting down back to front, were originally posted by Deputy Justice Minister and Director of Prisons Osiris Luna Meza.
Strict lockdown measures have been put in place across the country in response to the health crisis, including the threat of detention and quarantine if health directives are not followed and the confiscation of vehicles for those that do not abide by orders. The quarantine order is set to expire on May 5.