MEXICO CITY (AP) — International condemnation poured into Honduras on Wednesday over the murder of two agrarian activists the day before.
Jose Angel Flores, leader of the United Farmworkers Movement of Aguan, or MUCA by its Spanish initials, and member Silmer Dionisio George were shot in northeast Honduras after leaving a meeting in the town of Tocoa.
In recent years, MUCA has seized thousands of acres of land, much of it privately held African palm oil plantations that previously had been cooperatives cultivated by the same farmworkers.
U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James Nealon condemned the killings in a statement Wednesday. He said he had offered U.S. resources to the Honduran government to help find those responsible.
"The United States of America calls for a prompt and thorough investigation and for the full force of the law to be brought to bear against those found responsible," the statement said.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras said in a statement that both Flores and George had been designated to receive protection by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since 2014. The statement also said that Flores had reported an attempt on his life in April 2015.
"I urge state institutions to take responsibility for the protection of defenders," said Maria Soledad Pazo, the U.N. Human Rights representative in Honduras.
A spokesperson at the Honduran Interior Ministry said that an official statement was being prepared, but by late Wednesday the government had still not commented.
The killings follow the murder in March of environmental activist Berta Caceres who had been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work to preserve land.
Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday that Honduras has become a "no-go zone" for land rights activists, highlighting the murder of Caceres as well.
"Authorities in Honduras must take immediate action to effectively protect those who work to promote and defend the basic human rights of all in the country," said Amnesty's Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas. "Anything less will only put more brave human rights defenders in mortal danger."