SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Some 400 gang members were transferred on Friday from prisons in northern and eastern El Salvador to one with higher security in Izalco, 66 kilometers west of the capital, in order to cut off communication with their gangs and prevent new crimes, an official source reported.
The country’s prison administration announced via its Twitter account “the transfer of 400 inmates from the prisons in Ciudad Barrios and Chalatenango (respectively, 153 kilometers east and 80 kilometers north of San Salvador) to the prison in Izalco.”
According to the country’s prison administration, the transferred prisoners are “more dangerous criminals,” who will be in Izalco in “a higher security regime.”
The prison administration did not specify which of the gangs operating in the country the inmates belong to. Another 1,100 prisoners were relocated early this week in different prison facilities.
Prison administration head Rodil Hernández recently said the transfers are taking place “to cut off all channels of communication” allowing jailed leaders to order their gangs, or maras, to commit crimes outside the prisons.
The relocations had been announced a couple of weeks ago by President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, among a series of measures aimed at fighting off criminal violence, which has increased over the past months, particularly against state security forces.
According to the authorities, 23 policemen and six members of the military have been killed by gangs this year. A total of 1,194 people were killed in El Salvador between January 1 to April 5, according to official estimates.
The President has also ordered the creation of “immediate reaction” battalions, one in the police and three in the army, to combat gangs.
Local media published a communiqué on Friday in which gangs commit to respecting the lives of policemen, soldiers, prison guards, judges, public officials and politicians, and reducing murders in general.
“As of now we are instructing our units to remain garrisoned, and to store the weapons,” the dangerous Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs said in their communiqué, according to El Diario de Hoy.
Authorities estimate there are some 70,000 gang members in the country, 10,000 of whom are in prison.