September 25, 2016 / 9:33 PM / 3 years ago

Local candidate killed in Rio suburb, highlighting crime woes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A candidate for town council in upcoming municipal elections was shot to death in a Rio de Janeiro suburb on Sunday, the latest in a wave of killings of local politicians in the city’s outskirts in recent months.

The fatal shooting, which coincided with an increase in violent crime in the Brazilian metropolis despite the mostly safe staging of the Olympic Games in August, took place shortly after the candidate, seeking a council seat in the town of Itaboraí, attended a campaign event a week before municipal elections.

Rio’s military police force, which confirmed the shooting in a statement, declined to give the victim’s name, but local media identified the slain candidate as José Ricardo Guimarães, 49.

The shooting, carried out by assailants as the victim sought to flee them by motorcycle, was the latest killing of a municipal candidate in Rio’s suburbs, where drug traffickers and militia groups compete for dominance and routinely use violence to intimidate or eliminate anyone suspected of threatening their interests. Police said the gunmen in Sunday’s shooting were still at large.

On Friday, a mayoral candidate in the Rio suburb of Japeri survived an attack by gunmen. In July, assailants killed candidates planning to run for town council in the suburbs of Duque de Caxias and Magé.

Last month, according to state crime statistics released on Friday, 386 murders were reported in the state of Rio de Janeiro, a region of about 16 million people that comprises the city of the same name and many suburbs. That represented an increase of 15 percent, or 50 killings, compared with August 2015.

For the year so far, the state reported 3,224 murders, a 17 percent increase from the 2,747 murders through August a year ago. Robberies in the state, including street heists and bus holdups, have surged 41 percent during the year, with more than 80,000 incidents reported through August.

A deployment of 85,000 police, soldiers and other security personnel reduced crime drastically around sporting venues and popular tourist sites during the Olympics.

But rising crime figures in the rest of the region and anecdotal reports of problems since the Games ended are leading many Rio residents to worry that the trend will worsen, especially amid Brazil’s economic recession, which has caused unemployment to rise and forced the state government to slash public security funding.

Reporting by Paulo Prada; Editing by Peter Cooney

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