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Many in Rio know of such van services for their precarious safety conditions and reckless driving, as well as their links to organized crime. Some vans are linked to militias largely composed of former police and firemen that control large swaths of the city’s slums and run clandestine transportation and other services. In general, tourists avoid the vans and opt for regular buses or taxis.
Foreigners are more often the targets of muggings and petty crime in Rio, with assaults a particular problem on public transit. Last year, a woman was raped on a moving bus in broad daylight in a widely publicized case, and the Rio subway has special women-only cars to help prevent such attacks.
More than 5,300 cases of sexual assault were reported in Brazil between January and June 2012, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
AP Television producer Ana Pereira contributed to this report.
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