Paraguayan anti-drug prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was shot dead execution-style Tuesday while honeymooning on a Colombian Caribbean island by attackers 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 idyllic tourist island of Baru, according to his wife, Paraguayan journalist Claudia Aguilera.
The couple got married on April 30 in the nearby city of Cartagena.
“Two men attacked Marcelo. They came (by sea) in a small boat, or on a jet ski, the truth is I did not see well,” Aguilera 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,” she described.
Aguilera, who is pregnant, 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 attack appeared “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.
Late Tuesday, Colombian police released a photo of one of the presumed attackers, wearing black Bermuda shorts and a beige Panama hat.
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.
El cobarde asesinato del fiscal Marcelo Pecci en Colombia enluta a toda la Nación paraguaya.
Condenamos en los términos más enérgicos este trágico hecho y redoblamos nuestro compromiso de lucha contra el crimen organizado.
Nuestras sinceras condolencias a sus familiares.
— Marito Abdo (@MaritoAbdo) May 10, 2022
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 terror financing.
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.”
Paraguay Attorney General Sandra Quinonez said Pecci had obtained “important convictions” in an 11-year campaign against cross-border and drug crime.
“He just wanted to enjoy his honeymoon in privacy, and that is why he had no security” around him, she said.
“He was a great friend… he had announced to me that his wife was expecting a baby.”
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.
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.
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