SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Several top leaders of El Salvador's Mara street gangs have begun a hunger strike to protest conditions at the Zacatecoluca prison.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Safety did not identify the prisoners Friday, but local media say they are leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs.
Justice Minister Benito Lara says some prisoners are on hunger strike for better conditions. He says, "They are all stable; there are no problems."
The prison is known as "Zacatraz" and it has stricter rules than most Salvadoran prisons. No conjugal visits are allowed and there are few opportunities for contact with the outside world or participation in prison programs.
Most of the leaders are serving sentences of 20 years or more for crimes like homicide or extortion.