Crime wave hits Rio tourist trade

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The Independent US

Tourists heading to Rio de Janeiro for a holiday of sun, fun and carnival have been warned that Brazil's party capital is experiencing an explosion in muggings and violent crimes.

Tourists heading to Rio de Janeiro for a holiday of sun, fun and carnival have been warned that Brazil's party capital is experiencing an explosion in muggings and violent crimes.

Authorities were stepping up security yesterdayafter 24 muggings were reported to police last weekend. Visitors from Germany, Italy and Argentina were among the victims. A 61-year-old Japanese woman was in hospital after being stabbed on Friday while fleeing her attackers.

"These numbers are not normal and something has got to change," a spokeswoman for the state security secretariat said. Police and security officials have been accused of failing to prevent the crime wave. "Whatever new measures the authorities decide to take now, they should have been taken long time ago," Alfredo Lopes de Souza, president of the Rio de Janeiro Hotel Industry Association, said. "The authorities are not doing enough to protect tourists and citizens."

Rio depends on the $1bn (£540m) that foreigners spend annually in its hotels, restaurants and bars, and if signs that criminals are targeting those big-spenders continue, Rio's economy could be seriously damaged.

Last month, gunmen held up a bus carrying 17 Germans to a hotel from the airport. The next day, two Americans were robbed on the same motorway.

"All this affects the decisions made by tourists on where to go. We could be building new hotels, but we aren't. Violence is the biggest problem in Rio," Mr Lopes said.

Ib Teixeira, a sociologist and author of a book on the cost of violence to Rio, says one million tourists have been lost in the past year because of crime.

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