HomeNewsParaguay Grapples with Criminal Sophistication After Prosecutor's Slaying
NEWS

Paraguay Grapples with Criminal Sophistication After Prosecutor's Slaying

COLOMBIA / 12 MAY 2022 BY SERGIO SAFFON AND CARLOS PERIS EN

The assassination of a crusading Paraguayan prosecutor while on honeymoon in Colombia has caused widespread alarm about the rising levels of sophistication and brazenness of Paraguayan criminal groups.

The killing of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci – who was shot dead May 10 on the island of Barú – involved a complex operation that originated in Paraguay, Colombian authorities said.

“The murder of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci was linked to a transnational organized crime network with a high-level of planning and investment in resources,” Colombia’s police chief, Jorge Luis Vargas, wrote on Twitter on May 11.

The president of Paraguay’s Senate, Oscar Salomón, told the press that intelligence from Colombian authorities indicated the assassination order came from Paraguay.

SEE ALSO: Paraguay's Narco-Politics Exposed By Colossal Anti-Drug Operation

Pecci was one of the foremost anti-crime prosecutors in the country, working on a number of high-profile cases over the last decade. Most recently, he had been working on A Ultranza PY, an anti-drug operation that dismantled a criminal network moving cocaine from Paraguay to Europe. The probe into the network implicated politicians, army personnel and business elites, according to the BBC. He also investigated Brazil’s First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), which maintains a large presence in Paraguay. He was a lead investigator on the “Zootopia” case, which helped to break up an important Brazilian drug trafficking operation in Paraguay.   

His wife, Claudia Aguilera, said after his murder that her husband had never previously received death threats.

InSight Crime Analysis

Organized crime in Paraguay has become more sophisticated in recent years due to the country's increasing role as a major hub for cocaine and marijuana trafficking. The country has also long been a hotbed for contraband, particularly cigarettes, and it consistently ranks among the most corrupt countries in Latin America.

The assassination of its leading anti-crime prosecutor in a foreign country marks a startling escalation in the reach of organized crime. Besides Colombian authorities speculating that Pecci’s murder could have been carried out by the Urabeños, a drug trafficking group that controls the region where the hit took place, no specific groups or individuals have been identified as the authors of the killing.

SEE ALSO: Drug Trafficking and Political Protection in Paraguay: The Case of ‘Cucho’ Cabaña

The murder comes amid a number of worrying criminal trends in the country.

First, the number of contract killings is soaring. Twenty-five targeted assassinations, or one about every 28 hours, were recorded in January, an uptick from the previous record of 23 in October 2021.

In April, Paraguay’s police chief, Gilberto Freitas, blamed the increase of contract killings on conflicts between Paraguayan gangs, which had succeeded in displacing Brazilian groups, such as the PCC, before turning on each other.

Second, the country’s political corruption is infamous, and a series of recent cases has provided concrete examples of just how deep it goes. The Ultranza case, in which Pecci was a prosecutor, has implicated a government minister, senior government officials and business elites. Pecci himself led some of the Ultranza raids against properties connected to suspects in the case, according to newspaper La Nación.

The day after Pecci’s killing, InSight Crime interviewed agents at Paraguay’s anti-narcotics agency, who explained that the Ultranza case was a source of uncertainty for those who are already, or may soon be, under investigation.

“They are all on a glass roof. They are afraid of falling. And when they fall, very important people and a very complex structure will fall too,” said one of the agents, who requested anonymity.

Third, the country is at the heart of Latin America’s drug trade. While Paraguay is not a cocaine producer, it has become a crucial link for drugs being moved between Bolivia and Brazil. This has led to the aforementioned conflicts between Brazilian and local gangs, such as a series of brutal murders between the PCC and the local Rotela Clan.

The influx of traffickers and criminal actors has predictably led to politicians increasingly being accused of links to them. Speaking to the senate the day Pecci was killed, Esperanza Martínez, a lawmaker for the opposition Guasú Front, stated that “drug trafficking has shown its power with impunity…there can be no future or development in a country controlled by drug trafficking and organized crime."

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 18 FEB 2014

Guatemala has extradited a woman reported to have served as a link between Colombia's rebels and international drug trafficking organizations,…

COLOMBIA / 6 MAY 2011

Authorities are following through on a promised security surge in southwest Colombia, one of the most troubled areas in the…

COLOMBIA / 12 MAR 2020

After receiving threats, park rangers in Colombia have abandoned areas of the Amazon that they were protecting. Now these territories…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…

THE ORGANIZATION

Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…