Monday, April 1, 2013

Brazil: Foreign Couple Abducted, Robbed, Woman Raped in Rio's Copacabana

According to, two Brazilians have been arrested for abducting and robbing a foreign couple and raping the woman during the early morning hours of Saturday (March 30) aboard a rented mini-bus used for public transportation. Additionally, the rape victim's boyfriend was also severely beaten.

Jonathan Foudakis de Souza, 20, and Wallace Aparecido Souza Silva, 22, were arrested in the neighboring city of São Gonzalo on Saturday night, just a few hours after the incident occurred. The victims identified the two suspects, one of whom was the driver of the mini-bus.

The incident reportedly occurred while the couple were riding from Copacabana to Lapa, a section of Rio de Janeiro  known for it nightlife. 

The assailants ordered the other passengers to get off the mini-bus in the Botafogo district of the city and subsequently took the two victims to the nearby city of Niteroi, holding them hostage for six hours, while the woman was raped and the couple abducted, robbed and beaten. The victims were later abandoned in Itaborai, another Rio suburb, where they requested assistance from police.

COMMENT: Tragically, this account is yet another example of unchecked violence against foreign tourists, similar in tactics to what we've seen in India of late, half a world away.

Fortunately, the victims were able to promptly identify the mini-bus that enabled police to identify the owner of the vehicle who rented it for public transportation. FYI: In most developed nations, such practices are not permitted.

When arrested later on Saturday, one of the suspects still was in possession of the female tourist's mobile phone.

Coincidentally, a Brazilian woman went to the same police station and reported being raped a week earlier by the two suspects on the same mini-bus.

The woman later saw the suspects' photos on the Internet and recognized them as the individuals who picked her up in a mini-bus in Copacabana, abducted and raped her, and later left her in São Gonzalo. 

From a standpoint of lessons-learned, using collectivos, or mini-vans that operate on fixed routes for a small amount of money in a variety of countries, is generally a BAD idea, largely because the drivers of such vehicles are not licensed and vetted, as are taxis.

Although collectivos are a cheap way of getting around in low-risk destinations, I discourage their use in high-crime rate cities such as Rio and São Paulo, because they place a large group of strangers in close proximity to each other, thereby
permitting drivers and passengers to evaluate possible crime targets.

Admittedly, licensed taxis may cost a bit more, but they are much safer, particularly if  dispatched by cell-phone or radio or operate from established, luxury hotels.

As I have said in so many postings in the past,  NO city is "safe." Thus, it is incumbent upon travelers to make wise choices when it comes to selecting the wide range of transportation options that are available. Unfortunately, choosing badly can have adverse results.

Hailing taxis in most developed countries is NOT suggested, but asking friends who have been to the country what form of transportation they used can be helpful,
although asking one's embassy or consulate for the names of reliable and reasonably-priced taxi services is probably a more prudent thing to do. 

If one does not want to take the time to visit their embassy or consulate, another safe approach is to go to your foreign affairs agency's or embassy website before initiating travel, as many of them offer information on traveling safely in the country, including listing suggested modes of transportation.

Finally, ALWAYS pick up free tourist literature which may very well explain a safe way of getting around the city and country.

In a pinch, asking a well-dressed local how to get around safely is also not a bad idea.