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Shock for the mysterious death of a United Nations volunteer in Colombia


Mario Paciolla, collaborator of the UN Verification Mission of the peace process, was found lifeless in mid-July in San Vicente del Caguán. The causes of death have not yet been clarified.


On Friday the body of the UN volunteer Mario Paciolla, found dead in Colombia in mid-July in circumstances yet to be clarified, arrived in Italy. However, this is only the beginning of the investigation regarding the mysterious case of this young collaborator of the United Nations Verification Mission in the Andean country. The Italian authorities ask for clarifications on what happened; his mother, Anna Motta, rejects the Colombian police version, which has labeled the case as suicide. His shocked friends remember him as a cheerful and polite man. Paciolla's death recalls a case that left its mark in Colombia: that of Giacomo Turra, who died in Cartagena in 1995 in police custody, whose investigations have never been fully concluded. Furthermore, it also recalls the case of Giulio Regeni, assassinated in Egypt in 2016.


Mario Paciolla, 33, worked in the San Vicente del Caguán area, in the southern department of Caquetá - formerly one of the FARC guerrilla territories - where the United Nations delegation is evaluating the progress of the peace process achieved by the Colombian government with this rebel group four years ago. The Neapolitan was one of the 105 volunteers who support the officials of that mission. On the morning of July 15, according to various sources consulted in San Vicente, two of his colleagues went to look for him in his house, located in the Villa Ferro quarter, in this town of 70,000 inhabitants. The Italian - they said - did not answer their phone calls. Then they asked the house owner to open the door of Mario’s house for them. At that moment, one of his companions entered the house, found his body lifeless and warned the police.


What happened in the hours and days before his death remains unclear and few want to talk about it. The peacekeeping UN mission released a brief statement and expressed its condolences for Paciolla's death. UN announced that " they are closely following the investigations conducted by the Colombian authorities to determine the causes of death and also an internal investigation is underway". Paciolla's mother told the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica" that he "was terrified: in the past six days, he has only shown concern and anxiety about something he had seen, understood and sensed".


Paciolla’s landlord says that he did not hear any strange noise at dawn and that he opened Paciolla’s house front door to his colleagues only because they seem to be worried about him not responding at the phone. He remembers Mario as a "decent, polite and lonely" boy who had been living in that house for a year and three months. The last time he had a conversation with him was two days before his death, while the Neapolitan was smoking a cigarette on the balcony. At that moment he told him that his contract with UN had been terminated and that he would return to Italy, although he did not specify when or why.


Paciolla's mother provided other data that will be critical to the investigation. “I only know that since Friday, July 10 (last week before his death), my son was in a state of great suffering. He said to me literally:"Mum, I have to go back to Naples, I feel dirty, I have to come to bathe in the waters of Naples". The woman also told the Italian press that her son had a discussion with his bosses to whom he spoke with "clarity" and that he had "got into trouble".


The investigation is now being conducted by the Colombian deputy prosecutor, Martha Janeth Mancera, who, according to the Foreign Ministry, "asked to explore all the hypotheses to ensure that all investigative resources are used in this case".



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