Indigenous Lenca chief shot dead in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A local leader of the indigenous Lenca group in 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 as he made his way to a local church with his father and brothers, police spokesman Cristian Manuel Nolasco said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cáceres was co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. She helped organize opposition to the Agua Zarca dam project, which was to be built on the Galcarque River. The river has spiritual significance for the Lenca people in addition to being an essential water source. The dam project remains frozen.

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