Indigenous Lenca leader shot dead in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A local leader of the indigenous Lenca group of Honduras was shot dead on Sunday, police said.

Pablo Isabel Hernández was killed on a dirt road near the town of San Marcos de Caiquín while walking to a local church with his father and brothers, police spokesman Cristian Manuel Nolasco said.

Nolasco said the ambush could be related to personal or political disputes.

Hernández was the director of a radio station called “Radio Tenan, the indigenous voice of the Lencas”. He was also active in indigenous education and environmental projects.

The Association of Honduran Community Media said in a statement that it “regards the killing as yet another attack on freedom of expression and the defense of human rights.”

Hernández was the second Lenca leader to be killed in less than a year. In March 2020, the Lenca activist Juan Carlos Cerros Escalante was shot dead in the city of Nueva Granada in the Caribbean province of Cortés. He had helped lead a fight against the construction of a dam.

Both Hernández and Cerros Escalante belonged to the same indigenous community as Berta Cáceres, an award-winning environmental and indigenous rights defender who was murdered in 2016.

According to human rights organizations in Honduras, more than three dozen environmental activists have been killed since Cáceres’ death.

Cáceres was a co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. She helped organize the resistance against the Agua Zarca dam project, which was to be built on the Galcarque River. The river has a spiritual meaning for the Lenca and is an important source of water. The dam project remains frozen.

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