An activist who advocated for the rights of Mexico’s indigenous peoples has been found dead near his home in Aquila in Michoacán state in the southwestern part of the country.

Jose Trinidad de la Cruz Crisoforo, 73, who was also a member of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (which was formed by poet-activist Javier Sicilia) had signs of torture on his body.

According to reports, he was with his hands tied behind his back, his left ear almost detached and with at least four bullet wounds. Apparently, de la Cruz had been beaten and threatened with death last June. That forced him to flee his home, although he returned in October.

BBC reported that De la Cruz, who was also known as Don Trino, was the leader of the Nahua indigenous people, and was believed to have been kidnapped on the day prior to his murder.

The Nahua peoples are involved in a bitter land dispute with paramilitaries in the region. Del la Cruz was reportedly on his way to a meeting with other activists and Nahua tribe members. According to media reports, 27 local people have been killed in the region since 2009 over the land conflict.

De la Cruz is now the third member of the Movement for Peace to be murdered this year. In October, Pedro Leyva Dominguez was murdered, while Nepomuceno Moreno Nunez was assassinated in the northwestern state of Sonora last month. Two other activists linked to the group have been kidnapped.

Clara Judsiman, a spokesperson for Movement for Peace, told reporters that the recent killings and abductions form part of a strategy of intimidation to silence human rights defenders.”

We are not only worried about this, we are alarmed and indignant, Sicilia told reporters. People who raise their voices for justice are in terrible security conditions.

Movement for Peace has organized rallies across the country, demanding an end to gang violence and for the government to alter its methods of tackling organized crime.