On 19 October, 2019, Garífuna community leader Oscar Francisco Guerrero Centeno was shot dead as he was driving through an area known as Los Achiote in the community of Masca, Honduras.
This killing took place just a week after the shooting dead of Garífuna teacher, María Digna Montero who was president of the Masca community board. Guerrero Centeno was a member of the security team set up to protect the family of María Montero who had continued to receive threats after her death.
The Garifuna are a community of mixed african and indigenous descent numbering about three thousand in Honduras. Their communal lands are increasingly under threat from land grabbers and companies who want either to expand agricultural production or develop mining projects.
In 2015, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognised that the state of Honduras had violated the human rights of the Garifuna communities and ordered it to implement a set of reparations, including the delimitation, demarcation and titling of traditional lands. To date, Honduras has not yet implemented those measures.
Instead of upholding the rights of Garífuna communities the state has continued its harassment and stigmatisation of community leaders. The Public Prosecutor´s Office has accused the Garifuna defenders of robbery with violence or intimidation, usurpation, damage and threats. According to the information received, these investigations arise from conflict related to the possession, use and ownership of certain lands for which there are both private property titles and an ancestral property title in favour of the communities.