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A Year Ago Mario Paciolla Died in Colombia: the UN Says it is Collaborating

On July 15, 2020, the UN aid worker was found hanged, but suspicions of murder have crossed over from the beginning, the parents accuse

Mario Paciolla, 1987-2020 (Illustrazione di Antonella Martino)

A year ago, Mario Paciolla died in his apartment in San Vicente del Caguán in Colombia. On July 15th, 2020, a sheet wrapped around his neck took his breath away and stopped the beating of his big heart that he has always put at the service of the needy. He was a young and brilliant UN cooperator, who lived in the South American country since 2016 and since 2018 he collaborated with the United Nations Mission on verifying the peace agreements between the local government and the FARC. The 33-year-old Neapolitan was drafting the mission report as part of a social reintegration program for former guerrillas — a task that Mario carried out with meticulousness and dedication.

One year after the tragedy, his death is still shrouded in mystery. We don’t know if someone killed him or if it was Mario’s will to die. What is certain is that a few days before his death he was terrified. He wanted to return his home, to Naples, to escape from who knows who. He told his mother he no longer felt safe and in fact, he was already planning his escape. He had bought a plane ticket to move first to Bogota and then to Italy with his ex-girlfriend, Ilaria Izzo. She had informed the Colombian investigators about Mario’s crisis the night before his death: “he was afraid of being intercepted and stalked“.

The journalist and friend, Claudia Julieta Duque, also confirmed the concerns of the young man, and a few days after the body was found, she published on El Espectador, a letter article that recounted the “troubled” relationship between Mario and his superiors at the UN Mission.

Mario Paciolla, il volontario ONU deceduto in Colombia.

Colombian authorities initially classified the tragedy as a suicide. A theory that neither the family nor those who knew him well ever believed. Assisted by lawyers Alessandra Ballerini and Manuela Motta, the family calls for justice.

The Rome prosecutor’s office has opened a murder case. Italian investigators have already traveled to Colombia to acquire useful information, but there is the utmost confidentiality on the matter. The autopsy also needs further investigation. There is a lack of elucidation, and the work is limited by the tissues of the body that wear out over time. Furthermore, Mario’s body reached the coroners’ office in precarious conditions, and without having been reassembled after a first autopsy in the South American country.

We know that Colombian prosecutor appears collaborative – Mario’s parents declared two months ago to Il Manifesto, – but we know little about the UN.” It is precise to the United Nations that Anna and Giuseppe Paciolla address their regret: “A very important and powerful organization, in our opinion unwilling to collaborate with our lawyers, perhaps for direct involvement and late in giving us answers on what happened in that discussion that Mario had precisely with members of the organization.

Since the beginning, the United Nations has kept silent, but are the accusations justified? This year, La Voce di New York has asked the spokespersons of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the tragic end of Mario and did so also on the anniversary of his death. Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq replied on Monday: “That is what we have been saying constantly. The information we had, we shared with the investigative authorities, that is, with the Colombian and Italian ones. We did and continue to do so … Again, we are not responsible for the investigation. There are investigative authorities in Colombia and Italy. They will be the ones to conclude.” (link, minute 6.30).


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