Brazil arrests third suspect in rape, kidnap of foreign student

RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Police in Rio de Janeiro have arrested a third suspect after the weekend rape and kidnapping of a foreign student that shocked residents and once again raised concerns about security in Brazil ahead of the World Cup, Olympics and other major international events in the coming years.

The man was detained late on Monday, following the arrest of two other suspects on Saturday, in Brazil's second-biggest city which is preparing for World Youth Day in July, a gathering of young Catholics expected to attract more than 2 million people, and the Confederations Cup, a June warmup for next year's soccer World Cup.

Police said the crime happened early on Saturday after the student and her boyfriend hailed a van operated by the three suspects as it passed through the touristy seaside neighborhood of Copacabana. Minivans are used by millions of residents in Rio as an alternative to packed buses and subway trains.

Instead of taking the couple to their intended destination in central Rio, the suspects, three men between the ages of 20 and 22, forced other passengers to leave the van and then proceeded to rape the woman and beat her boyfriend with a metal rod, police said.

Police did not identify the victims or their nationalities, but Brazilian media, citing police sources, said the woman is American and the man is French. The woman has already left Brazil, police said on Monday.

The crime prompted renewed outcry over security shortfalls in Rio.

Despite progress against drug traffickers and petty crime, Rio continues to suffer from violent crime at levels above that of many other cities of comparable size.

Tourism officials fear the grisly nature of the crime could lead to a decline in tourist visits.

"Copacabana is our Disney theme park," Mr Alfredo Lopes, the president of the Brazilian Hotel Industry Association, told Rio daily O Globo, noting the need for authorities to stay on guard in areas popular with tourists.

"Nobody expects to be assaulted in a Disney theme park."

After details of the crime emerged, along with police photos and video of the suspects, a Brazilian woman has come forward and complained of a similar rape by the same men.

Others have identified the suspects as the culprits behind recent robberies.

Authorities said the suspects used one of the victims' credit cards at local gas stations and also had one of the victims' cellphones in their possession when arrested.

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