Paraguay prosecutor Marcelo Pecci shot to dying in Colombia

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The Caribbean resort was the proper place for the newlyweds’ honeymoon, a getaway in Cartagena, one of the crucial widespread vacationer locations in Colombia. They had been a widely known couple from Paraguay — he, a extremely revered prosecutor; she, a tv journalist.

That they had posted movies of their wedding ceremony and selfies earlier than beachfront sunsets. On Tuesday morning, they shared a photograph hugging beside a tiny pair of purple footwear within the sand. They had been anticipating a child, Claudia Aguilera introduced on Instagram: “The very best wedding ceremony present.”

It could be one in every of their final images collectively. They had been on the seaside at Barú about 10:30 am when hit males rode up on private watercraft and one opened hearth on Marcelo Pecci. The bullets struck the prosecutor within the face and the again, killing him. He was 45.

“He simply checked out him and shot him,” Aguilera advised the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. “He did not say something,”

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The brazen killing of Pecci, a key South American accomplice of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, has shocked Colombians and Paraguayans alike, and appeared to underscore the hazards of investigating drug trafficking in Latin America. The id of the suspects and the motives are unclear, however authorities imagine Pecci was focused for his work investigating “worldwide terrorism.”

The US Bureau of Worldwide Narcotics and Legislation Enforcement Affairs expressed its dismay. “Pecci’s work combating organized crime stands for instance to us all — particularly his efforts to convey justice to those that engaged in cash laundering, drug trafficking, and corruption,” the company stated.

The killing, on the opposite facet of the continent from Pecci’s dwelling nation, confirmed the more and more worldwide nature of organized crime within the area, authorities and analysts stated.

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Pecci was one of the crucial highly effective prosecutors in Paraguay, a rustic of about 7 million folks landlocked between Brazil and Argentina. In recent times he had investigated such high-profile circumstances because the capturing of a drug trafficker and a mannequin at a live performance close to Asunción in January and the probe that jailed famed Brazilian soccer participant Ronaldinho in 2020 for coming into the nation on a faux passport.

Pecci was additionally a part of Ultranza, Paraguay’s largest-ever operation to sort out the stream of medicine to Europe. He lately ordered the seizure of properties owned by a Brazilian drug lord often known as Cabeza Branca.

His killing set off a world investigation, with Colombian and Paraguayan authorities working carefully with the FBI, DEA and Interpol. On Wednesday, Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas, the director of Colombia’s nationwide police, launched a sketch of a doable suspect sporting a hat generally worn on Colombia’s coast. Authorities stated the alleged suspect has a Caribbean accent.

“That is an assassination towards justice,” Vargas stated. “There’s a very organized crime system right here.”

One police official concerned within the investigation stated the hit man in all probability was Colombian, suggesting the job was outsourced to employed assassins within the nation. The lead suspect is just not from Cartagena, in response to the official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate the continuing investigation. Authorities are investigating any hyperlinks the suspect might need to felony organizations.

“The reality is that it was not tough to know the place the prosecutor was,” the official stated. “All the things was revealed on social media, and reaching that space is just not complicated.”

Private watercraft have re-emerged as a standard technique of strategy and escape for cartel hit males in Mexico, together with broad-daylight assaults in vacationer areas.

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Pecci and Aguilera had been assigned a safety element again in Paraguay, however they’d no bodyguards this week as they relaxed on the seaside. Aguilera advised El Tiempo that the couple had felt calm. “We had no threats,” she stated.

Paraguay is a traditionally peaceable nation, however it’s South America’s largest producer of marijuana and has suffered a latest uptick in violence tied to Brazilian drug cartels. Its location between Brazil and Argentina, the continent’s largest economies, “may make it a major spot for these teams to achieve a foothold,” stated Greg Ross, an analyst on the Latin America-focused political consultancy Hxagon.

“The truth that there is a chance that Colombian organized felony teams have a job in that is fairly hanging,” Ross stated.

The killing comes at a very tense time for Colombia, simply weeks earlier than its presidential election. In the course of the previous week, Colombia’s largest drug cartel terrorized cities throughout 10 departments, together with Cartagena’s division of Bolívar, with an “armed strike” to protest the extradition to america of its chief. For 4 days, the Clan del Golfo paramilitaries blocked roads, closed companies and ordered residents to remain of their properties.

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Officers stated it is likely to be the primary time a Paraguayan prosecutor has been killed in connection to his work. Paraguayan prosecutor Alicia Sapriza, talking to reporters in Cartagena, stated Pecci’s dying “hits us very exhausting.”

“We have now no precedent for a colleague with such a superb, irreproachable observe file, who has waged such a head-on battle towards organized crime, to have been a sufferer,” Sapriza stated. His dying, she stated, marks a “earlier than and after” for investigative work in Paraguay.

One former colleague of Pecci stated prosecutors in Paraguay are in a state of worry and panic.

“Right here, we should not have all of the infrastructure, we should not have cameras,” stated the previous colleague, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate the delicate matter. “Airports should not have radars, ports should not have management methods. … We’re not ready.”

A former accomplice of Pecci in Paraguay’s Nationwide Anti-Drug Secretariat described him as an trustworthy man and a “prosecutor like few others.”

“It’s a nice disgrace what occurred,” he stated. Like many others, the previous accomplice expressed shock that Pecci was gunned down far past his nation’s borders.

“They may have killed him in Paraguay if they’d needed to,” he stated. “That is what’s hanging.”

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