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File photo of the late indigenous leader Pablo Hernandez File photo of the late indigenous leader Pablo Hernandez 

Honduras: Church calls for investigation into murder of Indigenous leader

The Catholic Church in Honduras and a coalition of ecumenical representatives have condemned the killing of an Indigenous leader and called for an investigation into the crime.

By Linda Bordoni

Pablo Isabel Hernández was shot in the back by unidentified gunmen while he was on his way to church, where he was an active pastoral agent. The young leader of the Lenca people was well known for his environmental activism and his faith.

Decrying the murder, a statement by The Churches and Mining Network, which focuses on the effects of mining on local communities and the environment, was released on 10 January after Hernández was ambushed the day before as he traveled to a local church with family members in the municipality of San Marcos de Caiquin.

“We join our voices to the national and international people and institutions that condemn this murder because silencing the voices of those who defend human rights, the rights of mother nature, and those who inform society is an attack against democracy and the rights of communities,” said the network’s statement, issued in English and Spanish.

The Episcopal Conference of Latin America (CELAM), and the Mesoamerican ecological network (Reemam) also issued statements of condemnation. They described Hernández as “a man of God, who loved his family, loved his people and respected and fought for the protection of our common home.”

Violence and intimidation against activists

Hernández was an outspoken critic of municipal officials and had received threats that he made public. His radio station had also been sabotaged. He is the second Lenca leader killed in less than a year.

In 2016, Berta Cáceres, a high-profile indigenous Lenca leader and environmental defender, was murdered in her home in western Honduras for organizing opposition against a hydroelectric project, provoking an international outcry. Eight individuals, including a former army intelligence officer, were convicted in the killing of Cáceres.

In 2021, violent incidents against some 208 human rights defenders and 93 journalists were recorded (in Honduras) of which 10 were murders of human rights defenders.

CELAM, Reemam and the ecumenical network have demanded an investigation into “this vile crime”, that those who are responsible be persecuted, and for the protection of all “social movement, environmental and human rights activists in Honduras.”

14 January 2022, 11:26