Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci has been killed in Colombia – Copyright AFP SAUL LOEB
Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was shot dead execution-style Tuesday while honeymooning 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 felled by two shots 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 nearby city of Cartagena.
“Two men attacked Marcelo. They came in a small boat, or on a jet ski, the truth is I did not see well,” she told the El Tiempo newspaper.
One of the assailants got 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 had not received any 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 killing 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 is what I will think until the contrary is proven.”
Colombian police chief Jorge Luis Vargas said five homicide investigators have been dispatched to Baru, and will receive backing from Paraguayan and US experts.
“There is information being collected… that will help us identify those responsible,” Vargas said.
– Paraguay ‘mourns’ –
Colombian President Ivan Duque “denounced” the killing on Twitter and said he had offered condolences to his Paraguayan counterpart Mario Abdo Benitez and vowed “cooperation to find 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 fighting organized crime,” he added.
Pecci’s office said in a statement steps were being taken “to provide assistance and guarantee the safety of his family.”
Pecci had specialized in organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
He was involved in investigations against Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho, held 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 properties acquired through money laundering, and the arrest of some 30 people this year.
The US embassy in Paraguay offered its condolences to Pecci’s loved ones and hailed his “commitment, professionalism and dedication to the fight against organized crime.”
– Baby shoes –
The latest post on Aguilera’s Instagram account Tuesday showed a couple embracing 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 moments in Cartagena and Baru.
Paraguay’s ambassador to Colombia, Sophia Lopez, said Pecci was on a “private” trip and had no work meetings scheduled.
Colombia, the world’s largest cocaine producer, is contending with a wave of violence despite a 2016 peace deal that disarmed the FARC guerrilla group and ended a near six-decade civil conflict.
Fighting over territory and resources continues in parts of the country between dissident FARC guerrillas, the ELN rebel group, paramilitary forces and drug cartels.
For its part, landlocked Paraguay — nestled between Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina — has become an important launchpad for drugs headed for Europe.
Paraguay and Colombia have recently strengthened their alliance in the fight against organized and cross-border crime.