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Protest erupts in Rio de Janeiro
as police ban public transit vans

Angry drivers converge on popular tourist zone after vicious assault on passengers prompts shutdown

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

RIO DE JANEIRO – Several hundred Brazilians staged a raucous protest on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach over a ban that prevents public transit vans from operating in the city’s popular South Zone.

The ban, which took effect on Monday,  was initially intended to improve the city’s chronically snarled traffic. But it gained new urgency as a safety measure following the gang rape two weeks ago of an American student and her French companion aboard one of the vans. The two were attacked by a van driver and two other young men.

The vans, which seat 12 people and are seen as a quicker alternative to buses, will be prohibited from operating in high-rent neighbourhoods of this city of 6 million, including Ipanema,  Leblon and Copacabana, where the two foreigners boarded the van to travel to a nightlife hotspot downtown. Vans caught operating in the South Zone will be fined $625 and passengers will be forced off.

Traffic was choked to a near-standstill on Copacabana’s main beachfront thoroughfare Monday as some 300 van drivers and money-takers demonstrated against the ban.

  • Protest erupts in Rio de Janeiro <br>as police ban public transit vans
  • Protest erupts in Rio de Janeiro <br>as police ban public transit vans Brazilian riot police officers talk with drivers of vans and minibuses during a protest in Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, on April 15, 2013. A new law promoted by Rio's mayor Eduardo Paes that bans the operation of vans and minibuses in the southern part of the city -- including the famed beach districts of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon -- came into effect on Monday, prompting protests from the workers of these transportation services. On March 30, a 21-year-old American student was repeatedly sexually assaulted and her French boyfriend was beaten during a six-hour abduction aboard a minibus in Copacabana. AFP PHOTO/VANDERLEI ALMEIDAVANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images
  • Protest erupts in Rio de Janeiro <br>as police ban public transit vans A public transport van carries passengers along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro in this file photo. The vans have been banned as of Monday.
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