Paraguay drug prosecutor killed in Colombia while on honeymoon
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Bogotá (AFP) – Paraguayan anti-drugs prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was shot dead on Tuesday while on his honeymoon on a Colombian Caribbean island by men who fled by sea, police and his widow said.
Paraguay’s president denounced the crime as a “cowardly murder” and a fellow prosecutor said the modus operandi was reminiscent of “the mafia”.
Pecci, 45, was shot twice while relaxing on a beach on the tourist island of Baru, according to his wife, Paraguayan journalist Claudia Aguilera, whom he married on April 30 in the neighboring city of Cartagena.
“Two men attacked Marcelo. They came in a small boat, or on a jet ski, the truth is that I didn’t see well,” she told El Tiempo newspaper.
One of the assailants came out and “without a word he shot Marcelo twice, one (bullet) hit him in the face and another in the back,” Aguilera described.
Aguilera said her husband of less than two weeks received no threats.
The Decameron Hotel, where the couple were staying, said in a statement that “assassins arrived on the beach…and attacked and murdered one of our guests.”
The motive for the murder was not immediately known, but Paraguayan prosecutor Augusto Salas, a colleague of Pecci, said the modus operandi was “typical of the (drug) mafia, so that’s what I’ll think until ‘proved to the contrary’.
Colombian police chief Jorge Luis Vargas said five homicide investigators had been sent to Baru and would receive support from Paraguayan and American experts.
“Information is being collected (…) that will help us identify those responsible,” Vargas said.
Colombian President Ivan Duque “denounced” the murder on Twitter and said he had offered his condolences to his Paraguayan counterpart Mario Abdo Benitez and promised “cooperation in finding those responsible”.
For his part, Benitez said on Twitter: “The entire Paraguayan nation mourns the cowardly murder of prosecutor Marcelo Pecci in Colombia.
“We condemn this tragic event in the strongest terms and we redouble our commitment to the fight against organized crime,” he added.
Pecci’s office said in a statement that steps were being taken “to provide assistance and ensure the safety of his family.”
Pecci had specialized in organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorist financing.
He has been involved in investigations against Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho, who was detained in Paraguay for several months in 2020 over a fake passport scandal.
He also led an operation that led to the seizure of dozens of assets acquired through money laundering, and the arrest of around 30 people this year.
The United States Embassy in Paraguay offered its condolences to Pecci’s loved ones and praised his “commitment, professionalism and dedication in the fight against organized crime”.
The last post on Aguilera’s Instagram account on Tuesday showed a couple hugging on a beach with a pair of baby shoes in the foreground in what appeared to be a pregnancy announcement.
Other recent photos were of the couple’s wedding and happy times in Cartagena and Baru.
Paraguay’s ambassador to Colombia, Sophia Lopez, said Pecci was on a “private” trip and no business meeting was scheduled.
Colombia, the world’s biggest cocaine producer, is facing a wave of violence despite a 2016 peace deal that disarmed the FARC guerrilla group and ended nearly six decades of civil conflict.
Fighting for territory and resources continues in parts of the country between dissident FARC guerrillas, the rebel group ELN, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.
For its part, landlocked Paraguay – nestled between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina – has become a major launching pad for drugs bound for Europe.
Paraguay and Colombia have recently strengthened their alliance in the fight against organized and cross-border crime.
© 2022 AFP