El Salvador will boost prison security and deploy troops in the streets to fight a rise in gang violence that has increased murder rates to record levels, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said on Wednesday.
A state of emergency has been declared in seven prisons to limit imprisoned gang leaders’ movements by prohibiting visitors and outside communication for 15 days.
A thousand reserve soldiers are planned to be contracted in order to reinforce existing troops to control territory taken over by gangs, known as maras.
The small Central American state, ranking among the world’s most violent, has had an increase in murders by almost 120 percent in the first two months of this year compared to 2015.
"Faced with this irrational violence, we are forced to take urgent measures, of an extraordinary character, in order to guarantee security [and] peace for all Salvadorans," Sanchez Ceren said in a national broadcast.
The government will ask Congress to approve 14 new measures to increase prison controls to limit incarcerated leaders from ordering killings and extortions from behind bars.
El Salvador had also suspended some constitutional rights along with declaring a nationwide state of emergency to help combat gang violence.
Spokesmen for the two major gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and its rival Mara 18 (Barrio 18), pledged to reduce murders if the government halted its plans, though the authorities refused the offer.
The president is expected to ask legislators for a $1.2 billion loan to reinforce security measures.