Washington confirms US woman raped in Rio de Janeiro

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Washington, April 3 (IANS/EFE) The US State Department Tuesday confirmed the US nationality of the tourist raped last weekend in a transit van in Rio de Janeiro.

“We can confirm that a US citizen was sexually assaulted in Rio de Janeiro. Our thoughts are with the victim at this difficult time,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at her daily press conference.

According to the tourist’s complaint, the incident occurred early Saturday morning when she and her boyfriend boarded a minibus that was driving through the tourist neighbourhood of Copacabana and was en route to the bohemian and central Lapa neighbourhood.

Shortly thereafter, two men forced the other passengers to get out of the minibus in the neighbourhood of Botafogo and took the foreigners to the nearby city of Niteroi, holding them hostage for six hours but eventually releasing them in the Rio suburb of Itaborai, police said.

During that time, the boyfriend of the victim was violently beaten and handcuffed while one of the attackers raped the woman in the vehicle.

“Our consulate in Rio is in contact with the victim; we’re also providing all appropriate consular assistance to her,” added Nuland.

“I want to also take this opportunity to thank the Brazilian authorities for their quick response and assistance,” she said.

On Sunday, a day after the complaint, Brazilian police announced the arrest of two men accused of rape and robbery.

Jonathan Foudakis de Souza, 20, and Wallace Aparecido Souza Silva, 22 – whom the tourists later identified and one of whom was the driver of the bus – were arrested in the neighbouring city of Sao Gonzalo Saturday night, just a few hours after the incident occurred.

The two men also had taken the bankcards of the two tourists, demanded the cards’ PIN numbers and made several cash withdrawals at ATMs along the bus’s route.

A Brazilian woman later went to the police and told officers that the suspects, who do not have prior criminal records, raped her a week earlier on the same minibus.

The woman saw the men’s photos on the Internet and recognized them as the individuals who picked her up in a minibus in Copacabana, abducted and raped her, and later left her in Sao Gonzalo.

–IANS/EFE

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