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Honduran Indigenous environmental activist killed in front of family

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Masked men armed with guns and machetes killed the Honduran environmentalist activist Felix Vásquez in front of his family.

Felix Vasquez was killed in the village El Ocotal, central Honduras.
Felix Vasquez was killed in the village El Ocotal, central Honduras.  © Screenshot/Google Maps

Vásquez, a defender of environmental and human rights, was shot dead at home on the night of 26 December after the attack in the village El Ocotal, central Honduras, according to police reports.

His murder comes just weeks after he reported death threats linked to his activism. His grown-up children were beaten by the four armed attackers, but survived, The Guardian reported.

Vásquez, a member of the indigenous Lenca community, had been advocating for indigenous land rights since the 1980s and had made a name for organizing protests to environmentally destructive projects and helping disowned communities reclaim their land.

The 60-year-old veteran leader had also intended to run for the Honduran congress as a member of the opposition LIBRE party in 2021 elections.

"Police authorities immediately decided to initiate a corresponding investigation. We hope to have an answer soon," police official Kevin Hernandez told Reuters.

Honduras is one of the world's most dangerous countries in which to defend land and natural resources from exploitation, with 14 environmental activists killed in 2019, according to data by advocacy group Global Witness.

"The state is directly responsible for his murder"

The graffiti reads BERTA DID NOT DIE, THE STATE MURDERED HER in the town of La Esperanza, hometown of slain environmental activist Berta Caceres.
The graffiti reads BERTA DID NOT DIE, THE STATE MURDERED HER in the town of La Esperanza, hometown of slain environmental activist Berta Caceres.  © imago images / Hans Lucas

Vasquez’s killing comes four years after the assassination of Lenca Indigenous activist Berta Caceres, a prominent human rights defender in Honduras. For decades, she had been defending the territory and rights of the Lenca people, including over a large dam projected on ancestral land.

A court convicted seven men in her killing. They had been hired by executives within Desa, a company constructing a dam on Lenca territory.

Vásquez had filed complaints to national authorities since 2017, alleging political persecution and death threats linked to his environmental activism, according to the NGO Coalition against Impunity (CCI).

"The state is directly responsible for his murder due to its omissions in the face of the serious risks of which it was duly aware," the CCI said.

Cover photo: imago images / Hans Lucas

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