(CMR) A Paraguayan public prosecutor who led a string of high-profile cases against organized crime and drug trafficking was shot dead as he honeymooned on a Colombian beach on Tuesday.
Marcelo Pecci married Claudia Aguilera, a well-known journalist, on 30 April, and they were spending their honeymoon at a hotel on the Barú peninsula on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
According to Aguilera, who was not hurt in the attack, the two attackers arrived at the hotel’s private beach by jetski. One of them approached and “without saying a word shot Marcelo twice, once in the face and once in the back,” she said.
Aguilera had posted the news of her pregnancy on social media hours earlier.
“The final sunset in Barú, but we’ll have millions more together,” she wrote.
The killing shocked Paraguay, which has seen a surge in contract killings linked to organized crime.
Paraguayan prosecutor Augusto Salas, a colleague of Mr. Pecci, said that the attack appeared “typical of the [drug] mafia, so that is what I will think until the contrary is proven,” according to the news agency AFP.
Both Colombian and Paraguayan law enforcers are investigating the apparent hit. Officials from the United States will also aid the investigation, Colombia's national police chief General Jorge Luis Vargas, said.
Colombian police offered a reward of 2bn pesos (£400,000) for information leading to the capture of the attackers.
Police said footage from the hotel revealed that the shooters had surveyed the hotel before carrying out the killing.
Paraguay’s president, Mario Abdo Benítez, condemned the “cowardly” murder, saying the “entire Paraguayan nation is in mourning” and that Paraguay would “step up our commitment to fight against organized crime.”
Pecci had worked on several recent high-profile cases of contract killings in Paraguay, including an investigation into the shooting of a drug trafficker, Marcos Rojas Mora, in a crowd of 20,000 people at a music festival in the town of San Bernardino in January.
He was reportedly at the heart of a series of operations against drug trafficking groups that led to the confiscation of large amounts of cocaine and marijuana.
Paraguay is reportedly the region's biggest marijuana producer and is also the main route for Bolivian cocaine being moved and processed on the way to Europe.
Pecci was also part of an ongoing operation against a large drug-smuggling network moving cocaine through Paraguay towards European ports.
Zully Rolón, the head of Paraguay’s anti-drug secretariat, described the operation – known as “At All Costs Paraguay” – as the biggest operation against drug money laundering in the country’s history.
Public prosecutor Belinda Bobadilla, the vice-president of the Paraguayan Public Prosecutors Association, told the Guardian that Pecci’s murder had sent deep shockwaves through the country and its institutions.
“We’ve made a commitment as an institution – as Marcelo’s long-time colleagues – to come out of this situation even stronger in honor of the bravery and courage he always displayed,” Bobadilla said.
“The fact this happened [in Colombia] is sending a message across all of South America that people who run investigations with integrity can suffer the same fate,” she said.