Priest killed in Honduras could be first in nearly half a century

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Relatives, parishioners and fellow priests on Friday mourned Reverend José Enrique Vásquez, who was abducted, shot and thrown onto a bridge in northern Honduras — reportedly the first such killing since nearly half a century.

Despite widespread violence in Honduras, Reverend Juan Ángel López, spokesman for the Honduran Episcopal Conference, said he could not think of another time a Honduran priest was killed without going back on a massacre of 14 people, including two priests, by soldiers in 1975.

“(By) criminals none,” López said. “Assaults, yes… but assassinations no. The last killed were at Los Horcones in 1975.”

During a mass on Friday at the Cathedral of San Pedro Sula, Bishop Ángel Garachana condemned the murder of Vásquez.

“He was a victim of the violence that does not cease in our country, violence so serious that it has led to the death of thousands of people,” Garachana said.

Vásquez’s mother, who last saw her son when he left home on Wednesday morning, did not understand what had happened. “What makes me so sad is the way my son died, like he was a bad man,” she said.

Vásquez, 47, was abducted on his way to his parish in San Pedro Sula to hold the Ash Wednesday service. Friends and relatives tried throughout the day to reach him and reported him missing to the police.

His body was found on Wednesday evening on a bridge in the municipality of Morazan, far from the city. He had been shot at least six times in the head and chest. The body had no documents, so it was registered as unidentified at the morgue.

On Thursday morning, the priest’s car was found in the township of Victoria, an hour’s drive from where his body was discovered.

Bishop Garachana identified Vásquez’s body later Thursday.

Cristian Nolazco, spokesman for the Investigative Police Directorate, said the motive for the killing was not immediately clear, but an investigation was ongoing. “What I can say is that there is a lot of evidence, including hair, biological traces, fingerprints and six shell casings that were at the crime scene.”

In a statement, the Episcopal Conference said that if the crime is not properly investigated “we will be condemned to suffer the consequences of impunity and forced to resign ourselves to this happening again in our country. “.

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