RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A senior U.S. diplomat in Brazil was shot in the foot during an attempted robbery on a highway near Rio de Janeiro, highlighting surging violence in Rio state where an economic crisis has drained public resources.
Police said in a statement on Friday that the vice consul was taken from the scene near Angra dos Reis to the Hospital Samaritano in the state capital to undergo surgery.
Press representatives at the U.S. Embassy in Brazil did not immediately respond to questions about the incident, which newspaper O Globo said happened on Thursday night.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed that “a consulate official suffered non-life-threatening injuries in an incident involving gunfire” and the case is under investigation.
The diplomat and her husband had pulled over on the side of coastal highway BR-101, which links up some of Brazil’s most popular beaches, when they were approached by unidentified individuals, O Globo reported.
As the couple sped away the assailants fired two shots at their vehicle, one of which hit the diplomat’s foot, Globo reported, citing the account of a federal police officer.
The attack coincides with a rising tide of violence in Rio, where Brazil’s deepest recession on record, a downturn in the local oil industry and a string of political corruption scandals have paralyzed many public services and compounded social ills.
President Michel Temer has deployed thousands of army soldiers in recent months to help patrol the slums of Rio’s capital, but it has had little effect on the violence.
Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Bruno Federowski; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Richard Chang