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Marcelo Pecci: The crime of the Paraguayan anti-mafia prosecutor in Colombia and the island surrounded by land | International

Claudia Aguilera next to the body of Marcelo Pecci, on the beach of Barú, Colombia.
Claudia Aguilera next to the body of Marcelo Pecci, on the beach of Barú, Colombia.RR SS

It was another Tuesday day in Paraguay. Social networks were full of comments about the recent case of the abuse of a 6-year-old boy in a private school, near Asunción, the capital. The candidacy of President Mario Abdo Benítez for the presidency of his party was debated on the radio. The news landed after 11 in the morning, like the explosion of a shot: Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci, delegate of Organized Crime, was murdered in Colombia in a mafia-style attack by hit men.

Pecci was on his honeymoon with his wife, Claudia Aguilera, whom he married on April 30. Aguilera had announced the day before, to her friends and friends on her Instagram, that she was pregnant. Many would have liked not to believe the confirmation of something that they really knew (we had known) for a long time: Paraguay is directly linked to the regional drug trafficking route to Europe and to international organized crime. What happened could not be considered a great surprise.

Prosecutor Marcelo Daniel Pecci Albertini, 45, was a regular figure in the media. Both in the news and in press conferences in which important operations of the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (Senad) and raids and accusations related to his work as an anti-mafia prosecutor were announced. Pecci was involved in the investigation of emblematic and recent cases linked to the world of organized crime in Paraguay, such as the murder of businessman Mauricio Schwartzman, riddled with bullets in front of his home in Asunción, or the theft and sale to criminal groups of weapons owned by the Armed Forces, or the murder of the daughter of the governor of the department of Amambay and three other people in the border area with Brazil. All events occurred less than a year ago.

It was also part of the investigation of the so-called “secret agreement of (the binational dam) Itaipu”, of high political content and that almost cost him in 2020 the political trial in Congress of President Abdo Benítez and his vice president Hugo Velázquez, now a candidate for the presidency in next year’s general election.

It is striking how Pecci was gunned down by gunmen who were traveling on a jet ski. On a paradisiacal Colombian beach, on the Barú peninsula, Cartagena de Indias. Without any personal custody, despite being who he was. His execution was not only shocking because of the message he gave to the prosecutor’s office and to the Paraguayan justice system. Because of the place where it happened, it is also a slap in the face to the authorities of Colombia and the United States, a country that trains “backyard” prosecutors who will be in charge of investigating drug trafficking and money laundering that affects their territory.

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Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci accompanied by his wife, Claudia Aguilera.
Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci accompanied by his wife, Claudia Aguilera.RR SS

The crime also brought stupor and sadness to the Paraguayan journalistic world. Her now widow, Claudia Aguilera Quintana, 34, was appreciated for her simplicity. Many of her colleagues remember her times as a reporter in coverage in Congress, the Presidency or the street. Her presence on television screens in recent months has made her popular with the general public.

There are several conjectures about the murder: Pecci was followed from Paraguay or the criminal organizations hired assassins in Colombia. It is a retaliation for a specific case in which the prosecutor touched his interests or an intimidation for the other prosecutors of Paraguay and the other countries involved in the drug route. Investigators from Paraguay, Colombia and the United States are now focused on clarifying and identifying the culprits. But the damage is done.

Justice and politics, in crisis

In Paraguay, a general disbelief is noticeable in people’s conversations. Despite the communiqués and the promises of the authorities of the three powers of the State to “continue the fight against crime”. It is difficult to believe in a Justice and a political system in which deputies suspected of having direct links with drug trafficking and money laundering remain proud in their positions and aspire to re-election. Or when Efraín Alegre, president of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA), the main opposition party, accuses former president Horacio Cartes, a key figure in the Colorado Party, who sponsors one of the presidential candidates for the next period (2023-2028). , of being the boss of the mafia in Paraguay.

It is more difficult to believe when most of the political proposals of the candidates for the next elections are summed up in complaints and fights and do not speak, with few exceptions, of addressing the great social inequality, nor of the peasants expelled from their lands for soybeans and ranchers, often foreigners. Nor to face an educational revolution or a serious fight against corruption in the State. Paraguay continues to be a country with high poverty standards (close to 28%) in the region, according to World Bank parameters

“Nothing will happen,” many disenchanted people say about the consequences of Pecci’s crime. They believe that the most that can happen is that the US State Department will soon return to a list of politicians and prominent figures in Paraguay considered “significantly corrupt.” And that it prohibits them from entering US soil, as it did before with two senators (one still in office) and a former attorney general. Perhaps, they believe, that will bring some commotion and move Paraguayan justice.

Paraguay is an “island surrounded by land”, said the writer and Cervantes Prize winner Augusto Roa Bastos (1917-2005). We could say, to continue with the metaphor, an island surrounded by “sharks”, in the form of criminal groups, who want to turn this country into a space for large banquets, legal and illegal businesses that will not take into account the impoverished majority. With a fragile and protected democracy, with weak and venal politicians and the threat, from the region’s mafias, reflected in the prosecutor’s crime, of settling permanently in Paraguay, as in other countries in the region, there are reasons for pessimism.

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