RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - An Italian tourist traveling South America by motorcycle was shot dead on Thursday after mistakenly entering a hillside slum in Rio de Janeiro.
The tourist, identified by police as 52-year-old Roberto Bardella, was sightseeing with an Italian companion, also on motorcycle, when their GPS navigation system led them into a favela, as many of Rio’s poor neighborhoods are known.
There, a group of armed bandits opened fire on the two travelers, police said, and forced them from their motorcycles. Bardella died and his companion, whom police did not identify, was released.
The shooting, in the Morro dos Prazeres slum near the scenic hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, comes as violence in Brazil’s best-known city rebounds following a years-long effort to reduce crime before Rio hosted games for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
An ongoing recession, rising unemployment and drained public security budgets have enabled drug traffickers and other criminal gangs to retake territory in many Rio neighborhoods where police had won an upper hand.
As struggles between traffickers, other criminals and police have intensified, residents fear Rio could return to sort of violence common in decades past, when parts of the seaside city resembled war zones.
Last month, after daylong shootouts between police and suspected criminals in the favela of Cidade de Deus, a police helicopter crashed, killing four officers. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the crash, but said initially that the helicopter did not appear to have been shot down.
Many residents of the slum, subject of a blockbuster 2002 film known in English as City of God, accused police of using excessive force during the fighting, in which at least seven people were killed.
Reporting by Paulo Prada; Editing by Alan Crosby