EFESan Salvador

A bus driver was murdered here on Wednesday, bringing to seven the number of drivers killed amid an offensive against public transportation by El Salvador's powerful gangs.

The death at the hands of gang members of Elias Emilio Melendez, 21, was confirmed to EFE by a police spokesman.

The enforced shutdown of public transportation continues on Wednesday and is affecting a number of routes in San Salvador, where authorities are implementing a contingency and security plan.

Since early on Monday, transport workers on several bus lines have not been working as a result of gang threats and the murders of several drivers.

The Salvadoran government blames the assault on mass transit on the Barrio 18 gang and said that if the gang activities continued on Wednesday it would send the army into the streets.

Attorney General Luis Martinez on Wednesday reported the capture of Barrio 18 gang member Cesar Vladimir Montano Climaco, alias "Saylor," calling him "responsible for the public transport work stoppage."

The government said that the shutdown was ordered by Carlos Eduardo Burgos Nuila and Jose Carlos Hernandez Mauricio, two imprisoned leaders of Barrio 18, who on Tuesday were transferred to Zacatecoluca, El Salvador's toughest prison.

Gangs in Central America derive much of their income from extortion rackets targeting bus operators and small businesses. Victims who refuse to pay often end up dead.

The Salvadoran government interprets the offensive against public transport as aimed at forcing authorities to negotiate with the gangs, something President Salvador Sanchez Ceren's administration has vowed not to do.