Social distancing ignored in El Salvador as prisoners are crammed together in jail lockdown after 22 murders in a single day

On Saturday, April 25th, prisoners in El Salvador were forced together in a jailhouse lockdown, ignoring the social distancing restrictions.

When President Nayib Bukele ordered a 24-hour lockdown of prisons with gang members, inmates in the Izalco prison were stacked up next to one another, despite the six-feet-away limitation. They were only wearing protective face masks. El Salvador’s president insisted their leaders would be sent into solitary confinement. This comes after a sudden spike of 22 murders occurred in only one day.

Image credits: El Salvador’s Presidency Press Office

President Nayib Bukele stated on his official Twitter account:

“Gang leaders will go into solitary isolation. No contact with the outside. Stores will be closed and all activities will be suspended, until further notice.” 

This statement was a follow-up tweet to the one, in which he claims the ‘maximum emergency’ lockdown would be enforced while police investigated the 22 homicides reported last Friday.

Image credits: AP

According to a spokesman, this number was the highest total in murders for a single day since Bukele became El Salvador’s president on June 1st, 2019.

A few years ago, before Bukele was the leader of El Salvador, the country had the highest homicide rate in Central America, due to the robust street gangs known as maras. However, since the current president became in charge, murders in the country have significantly decreased.

Responding to the current worldwide pandemic, El Salvador has established some of the strictest measures in the Americas to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The country’s lockdown regime began on March 22nd, making breaking lockdown laws punishable with imprisonment.

Image credits: El Salvador’s Presidency Press Office

Even though several human rights organizations have argued against the tough restrictions in the country, President Nayib Bukele has continued to defend the police’s authority to detain people and send them to quarantine.

The chief program officer of Cristosal, a San Salvador-based human rights organization, Celia Medrano told Al Jazeera:

“The government is insisting on using confinement as a punishment to whoever violates executive orders, which are unsustainable. They have to consider that there is a situation of informal employment for subsistence for many people who are not in conditions to maintain quarantine in their own home.”

By April 27th, there are 323 confirmed coronavirus cases in El Salvador, with 8 deaths.

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