May 6, 2008 / 4:09 PM / 11 years ago

Firm in trouble for slum tour with a twist

Members of an elite Brazilian police force stand amidst spent bullet cases left over from a shootout the night before, during a raid against drug gangs inside the Complexo do Alemao slum, in Rio de Janeiro February 14, 2007. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A Rio de Janeiro tour company could be in trouble for giving tourists too intimate a view of life in the city’s notorious slums, including photo opportunities with drug gang leaders.

The Brazilian city’s tourism chief said on Monday that the company, Private Tours, could be stripped of its license after a report in Sunday’s Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that it had set up meetings between traffickers and tourists.

The paper sent a reporter disguised as a foreign tourist on the 4-hour, $55 tour of Rocinha, the city’s largest slum, that included visits to the “bocas de fumo” where traffickers sell drugs to Rio residents.

It said the traffickers told the tourists stories about their time in prison, described the life of a Rio drug dealer, and would then pose for pictures with their guns — as long as their faces were not photographed.

Rio tourism chief Rubem Medina said the firm could lose its license if the story was accurate.

“It’s not necessary to do this kind of tour in Rio; there are a lot of wonderful attractions,” he told Reuters.

Pedro Novak of the Private Tours firm acknowledged that he ran that kind of tour but that “I’m not the only one.”

Several companies have for years offered tours of the city’s more than 600 slums, offering tourists a controversial alternative to the city’s beaches and an insight into the lives of the more than 1 million people who live there.

The slums, or favelas, are largely controlled by heavily armed drug gangs with names such as “Red Command” and “Friends of Friends” that fight each other for control of the lucrative cocaine market.

Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Todd Benson and Vicki Allen

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