Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Brutal Gang-Rape of American Tourist in Brazil

A 21-year-old female American student was brutally gang-raped in a six-hour attack on a bus in the famous tourist Copacabana beach tourist section of Rio de Janeiro over the weekend.

After the attackers forced other riders off the bus, they drove it to various locations, beating and repeatedly raping the woman and severely beating her male French boyfriend, who they handcuffed and forced to watch the woman being assaulted. Then the Brazilian attackers -- police have identified three males, who were also implicated in a gang-rape of a Brazilian student two weeks ago -- drove around to various ATMs and forced the couple to withdraw cash before dumping the victims 30 miles from Copacabana.

Here's a news link.

The incident was the latest brutal sex assault by local males on a female tourist traveling abroad and, as the Associated Press reports, it "paralleled other gruesome gang rapes against women and tourists in developing countries."

Let me make a little point right here. In Brazil, there is always a loud cry that Brazil is not a "developing country" but rather has evolved into a first-world country, where safety and justice prevail. That questionable assertion underlies the triumph Brazil had in securing the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, despite grave concerns about street crime and air-travel safety, not to mention the proclivity in Brazil for reacting to any criticism with cries that it must reflect dark imperialist conspiracies generated by "North Americans" and others.

Is Brazil a modern, developed country, as its booming economy would indicate? Or does that top-level economic veneer merely layer over third-world squalor and political malfeasance in a dystopia where crime is out of control, where "cover your ass" is the default official response, where local media rush to blame foreign victims, where xenophobia defines responses to outside criticism, where foreigners expressing concerns about crime are lectured -- totally falsely -- that crime rates are as high in U.S. cities?

The jury (all irony fully intended, from someone who's had some experience here) is out.

But the evidence about gang rape in Brazil is deeply troublesome. As the Times reports today, the same men identified in the weekend attack were implicated by a 21-year-old Brazilian woman who said they raped her after boarding a similar bus on March 23. She reported the attack to police but, according to the Times, "the authorities were said to have slowly investigated the claim. Two police officials in charge of investigating the March 23 case were abruptly removed from their posts on Monday."

The Times report continues: 

"Brazil has recently grappled with other high-profile cases of gang rape, including one episode in 2012 in Queimadas, a city in the northeast ParaĆ­ba State, in which six men were convicted of raping five women at a birthday party. Two of the women were killed after recognizing their attackers.
More broadly, reports of rape in Brazil have climbed significantly since 2009, when the nation’s criminal code was changed to expand the legal definition of rape to include crimes involving anal penetration. More than 5,300 people, about 90 percent of whom are women, registered cases of rape in the first six months of 2012, an increase of more than 150 percent since 2009."


Meanwhile, international tourists need to pay very close attention to warnings about street crime in countries where crime is out of control, and especially in countries where all forms of street harassment against women, even just the verbal kind that prevails culturally in the Middle East and some Latin American countries, are routine. The U.S. based international group called Stop Street Harassment is helping to sponsor Anti-Street Harassment Week next week, by the way. Here's a link.

And here is a link to the current State Department travel warnings for countries where foreign travelers  are considered most at risk.

And following, in full, is the section on crime from the State Department's current travel advisory for Brazil. I've highlighted some sections in bold-face:


CRIME: Brazilian police and media report that the crime rate remains high in most urban centers, including the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and is also growing in rural areas within those states. Brazil’s murder rate is more than four times higher than that of the United States, and rates for other crimes are similarly high.
Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike. Foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens, are often targets, especially in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife. While the risk is greater during the evening and at night, street crime also occurs during the day, and safer areas of cities are not immune. Incidents of theft on city buses are frequent. You should keep a copy of your passport with you while in public and keep your passport in a hotel safe or other secure place. You should also carry proof of your health insurance with you.
The incidence of crime against tourists is greater in areas surrounding beaches, hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs, and other tourist destinations. It is especially prevalent prior to and during Carnival (Brazilian Mardi Gras), but also occurs throughout the year. Several Brazilian cities have established specialized tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists.
Use caution when traveling through rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles. Robberies and “quicknappings” outside of banks and ATMs occur regularly. In a “quicknapping,” criminals abduct victims for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim’s ATM card. Some victims have been beaten and/or raped. You should also take precautions to avoid being carjacked, especially in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and other cities.
In airports, hotel lobbies, bus stations, and other public places, pick pocketing and the theft of hand-carried luggage and laptop computers is common. You should "dress down" when in public and avoid carrying valuables or wearing jewelry or expensive watches. "Good Samaritan" scams are common. If a tourist looks lost or seems to be having trouble communicating, a seemingly innocent bystander offering help may actually be a participant in a scam. Take care at and around banks and ATMs which accept U.S. credit or debit cards. Travelers using personal ATM or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with unauthorized charges after returning from a visit to Brazil, or discover that their cards were cloned or duplicated without their knowledge. If you use such payment methods, carefully monitor your bank records for the duration of your visit.
While the ability of Brazilian police to help recover stolen property is limited, we strongly advise you to obtain a "boletim de ocorrencia" (police report) at a "delegacia" (police station) if any of your possessions are lost or stolen. This will facilitate your exit from Brazil and assist with insurance claims. Be aware, however, that the police in tourist areas are on the lookout for false reports of theft for purposes of insurance fraud.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. These goods are illegal in the United States, and if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Brasilia: Brasilia has significant crime problems. Reports of residential burglaries continue to occur in the generally affluent residential sections of the city. Public transportation, hotel sectors, and tourist areas report the highest crime rates, but statistics show that these incidents can happen anywhere and at anytime. The “satellite cities” that surround Brasilia have per-capita crime rates comparable to much larger cities. Police reports indicate that rates of all types of crime, including “quicknappings,” have risen dramatically in Brasilia in the last two years. Brasilia’s Central Bus Station or “Rodoviaria” is a particularly dangerous area, especially at night. This location is known to have a large concentration of drug dealers and users. Illegal drugs such as crack cocaine and “oxi” (a derivative of cocaine base produced with cheaper chemicals) have become very common in the “Plano Piloto” area and satellite cities.
Rio de Janeiro: The city continues to experience high incidences of crime. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to street thefts and robberies in the evening and at night especially in areas adjacent to major tourist attractions. There have been attacks, including shootings, along trails leading to the famous Corcovado Mountain and in other parts of the Tijuca Forest. If robbed, do not attempt to resist or fight back, but rather relinquish your personal belongings. At all times, pay close attention to your surroundings and the behavior of those nearby. There have been reports of thieves and rapists slipping incapacitating drugs into drinks at bars, hotel rooms, and street parties. While crime occurs throughout the year, it is more frequent during Carnival and the weeks prior.
Choose lodging carefully considering location, security, and the availability of a safe to store valuables. Do not answer your hotel room door until you positively confirm who is on the other side. Look out the peephole or call the front desk to confirm the visitor. There have been several recent incidents where mass holdups of guests have occurred at hotels and hostels in the city. 
Rio de Janeiro’s favelas are a subject of curiosity for many U.S. travelers. A favela pacification program, instituted in 2008, installed police stations in some favelas, primarily in the Zona Sul area. However, most favelas exist outside the control of city officials and police. Travelers are urged to exercise caution when entering any “pacified” favelas and should not go into favelas that are not “pacified” by the state government. Even in some “pacified” favelas, the ability of police to provide assistance, especially at night, may be limited. Several local companies offer “favela jeep tours” targeted at foreign tourists. Be aware that neither the tour company nor the city police can guarantee your safety when entering favelas.
Be vigilant while on the roads, especially at night. There have been shootings and carjackings on the Linha Vermelha that links the airport to the Southern Zone of the city. In Rio de Janeiro, motorists should be especially vigilant at stoplights and when stuck in traffic. Carjackings and holdups can occur at intersections, especially at night.
Visitors should also remain alert to the possibility of manhole cover explosions. There have been multiple manhole cover explosions in Rio de Janeiro in the past few years, with a higher incidence in the Centro and Copacabana neighborhoods.
Report all incidents to Rio's tourist police (DEAT) at (21) 2332-2924. The tourist police have been very responsive to victims and cooperative with the U.S. Consulate General. 
Sao Paulo: All areas of Greater Sao Paulo have a high rate of armed robbery of pedestrians and drivers at stoplights and during rush hour traffic. The "red light districts" of Sao Paulo, located on Rua Augusta north of Avenida Paulista and the Estacao de Luz metro area, are especially dangerous. There are regular reports of young women slipping various drugs into men's drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious. Armed holdups of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles (“motoboys”) are a common occurrence in Sao Paulo. Criminals have also begun targeting restaurants throughout the city including, but not limited to, establishments in the upscale neighborhoods of Jardins, Itaim Bibi, Campo Belo, Morumbi and Moema. Victims who resist run the risk of violent attack. Laptop computers, other electronics, and luxury watches are the targets of choice for criminals in Sao Paulo.
Throughout 2012, armed groups in Sao Paulo targeted restaurants, robbing patrons during the peak business hours of 2100 to 2400. These criminal events are not isolated to one area of the city and target both rich and poor neighborhoods.
Efforts of incarcerated drug lords to exert their power outside of their jail cells have resulted in sporadic disruptions in the city, violence directed at the authorities, bus burnings, and vandalism at ATM machines, including the use of explosives. Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution at all times. Respect police roadblocks and be aware that some municipal services may be disrupted. 
As in Rio de Janeiro, favela tours have recently become popular among foreign tourists in Sao Paulo. We advise you to avoid Sao Paulo’s favelas as neither the tour company nor the city police can guarantee your safety when entering favelas.
Recife: As in Rio de Janeiro, tourists in Recife should take special care while on the beaches, as robberies may occur in broad daylight. In the upscale Boa Viagem neighborhood, carjackings can occur at any time of the day or night.



Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Sharkey:

This was a well-written and timely assessment of a country that is soon to host hundreds of thousands of slow-moving tourists for several global sporting events. While glitzy construction is certainly in evidence, one has to wonder what improvements are planned for local and national law enforcement agencies in Brazil.

Jack Riepe

ChefNick said...

Even for me, never having set foot anywhere near Brazil (and never having the slightest desire to do so) it's quite obvious that the veneer of civilization over an underlying hellhole is very akin to the scum that forms on top of just-scalding milk. I don't think you can paint on that scum, but that's the only thing, that smooth, uninterrupted glossy exterior that hides the steaming cauldron of boiling muck that is Brazil underneath.

I saw it in Senegal, where I lived for a year (thankfully back in 1975 -- you couldn't put a gun to my head to go there now) and I saw it in Zaire (now called that delightfully Alice-in-Wonderland name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo) where I passed three years during possibly the only three years of its existence (1970-73) where you could be white, walk outside, and not get worked over by the military.

However, knowing the Congolese as I do (a proud and extremely kind people) I'd go there in a heartbeat with a little protection, whereas a squad of Brazil's finest as 24-hour guards couldn't prompt me to set foot there.

I respectfully predict that all hell is going to break loose when the Olympics come to grace the pseudo-third world that is Brazil -- I place it just below Venezuela in terms of civility -- and oh, by the way, I'm happy to report Lonely Planet guidebooks have gone out of business -- you know, the outfit that could make a week's stay in downtown Tegucilgalpa sound like a Club Med dream -- so now we can rely upon that source which has no reason to prettify ANY place, which would be our very own Consular travel sheets for travellers abroad.

Now Joe, surely you aren't going to let that tiny misunderstanding about the Gol fiasco dampen your traveller's ardor, and aren't you going to be "Our Man in Brasilia" during the entire Olympics extravaganza? I can think of no one better equipped, experience-wise. You might give ol' Jani Palladino a ring and have him be the colour man! Joey Lapore probably wouldn't miss it for the world, either.