An Italian tourist was killed on Thursday in a shantytown fought over by rival drug gangs near the center of Rio de Janeiro. Authorities identified the dead man as Roberto Bardella and said another Italian tourist, Rino Polato, had been found unharmed at an entrance to the Morro dos Prazeres favela early in the day.
The men were touring South America on motorcycles, officials said, adding they believe the two men entered the favela, which is close to the Santa Teresa neighborhood, a popular tourist spot, by mistake after following their GPS map.
They were immediately stopped by a group of armed men, according to testimony Polato gave police. After spotting that Bardella’s crash helmet had a video camara attached to it, they shot him in the head. Polato said the gang mistook them for police officers.
The gang then bundled Bardella’s body into the trunk of a car and took Polato with them while they drove around for two hours. Eventually, they dumped Polato and the body by a roadside, stealing their posessions.
The killing took place around 10am, and an hour later the two men were reported missing. A search operation was launched that sealed off the slum, which has officially been “pacified” since 2011, although cutbacks have seen a recent surge in violence between rival gangs.
The security forces now find that they are increasingly unable to enter favelas
Rio’s city government says it has spent $560 million on social programs since 2011. But with so much need for the roughly 20% of Rio’s population that lives in slums, frustration over what residents see as a lack of progress has exacerbated tensions with heavily armed police.
As a result, lawlessness has risen, and even the security forces now find that they are increasingly unable to enter favelas. The killing of the Italian tourist is the third such case of somebody being murdered after mistakenly going into one of the more than 30 such slums in the city.
During the Olympic Games in August, a police patrol lost its way and found itself in the Maré favela and came under attack. One officer lost his life.
The men were touring South America on motorcycles
In October 2015, an elderly couple was attacked in the Niterói slum. Francisco and Regina Murmura, aged 69 and 70 were held up by a group of armed men. The woman was shot and later died of her wounds.
The state of Rio de Janeiro, which is responsible for policing and security, reported 376 homicides in June in the state up from 272 in June 2015. In the first six months of 2016, there were 2,470 homicides compared to 2,105 in the same period a year earlier.
English version by Nick Lyne.