A top Paraguayan organized crime prosecutor was murdered while honeymooning at a beach in Colombia on May 10. The assassins arrived at the beach on a jet-ski or small boat and gunned down Marcelo Pecci, according to his new wife—prominent Paraguayan journalist Claudia Aguilera.
Pecci reportedly investigated some of Paraguay’s most high-profile organized crime cases, where local criminal groups often work with larger Colombian and Brazilian cartels. Paraguay is the largest marijuana-producing country in South America and is an important transition hub in the smuggling of cocaine around the world, according to Paraguayan anti-narcotics officials consulted by VICE World News.
Pecci and Aguilera married in late April and were celebrating their nuptials at the oceanside Decameron Barú Hotel, just south of the port city of Cartagena. Aguilera posted several photos of the couple at the resort in the days prior to the murder. One of her final posts was a picture of the smiling couple on the beach at dusk Monday evening with the caption: “The last sunset in Barú, but we have millions more together,” followed by a two-pink-hearts emoji.
Pecci was killed the next day.
Aguilera told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that she and Pecci were at the beach after breakfast on Tuesday when two men arrived around 10:30 a.m. on either a small boat or a jet-ski, although she wasn’t sure which.
“One of the men got off, and without saying a word, shot Marcelo [Pecci] twice. One hit him in the face and another in the back,” said Aguilera.
Video screenshots of the assassin later circulated on local media showing what appears to be a man wearing a Panama hat and sunglasses. Authorities have not announced a clear motive for the attack, but they’ve noted that in Paraguay, Pecci is often closely protected due to the dangerous nature of his work. Aguilera told El Tiempo that the couple were vacationing in Colombia without security guards.
Paraguayan newspaper La Nacion claimed that the killers rented a red jet ski for 30 minutes from a nearby tourist rental agency for around $50. The two men returned 16 minutes later, changed their clothes, and quickly escaped. The paper also alleged that the men spoke Spanish with a non-Colombian accent, without identifying where they may have come from. VICE World News could not independently verify this account.
Jet-ski drive-bys have become more common in Latin America, especially in Mexican seaside cities like Acapulco and Cancun.
Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez condemned Pecci’s death on Twitter, calling it a “cowardly murder” and promised to “redouble our commitment to fight against organized crime.”
Colombia Defense Minister, Diego Molano, also announced on Twitter that special investigators were sent to investigate the case, who will work with both Paraguayan officials and members of INTERPOL. Colombian authorities also announced a roughly $490,000 USD reward for information leading to the capture of the assailants.