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Rio gang-rape spotlights problem faced by developing-world cities

The gang-rape ordeal the American woman and her companion endured puts a focus on safety issues as Rio leaders prepare to host both the World Cup and Summer Olympics.

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A public transport van picks up passengers along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The gang-rape ordeal the American woman and her companion endured reportedly in Brazil puts a focus on a gorgeous but violence-plagued city, as Rio leaders prepare to host both the World Cup and Summer Olympics.

Felipe Dana/AP

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The brutal gang-rape in a Rio de Janeiro transit van of a young American woman reportedly in Brazil to learn Portuguese raises troubling questions for a gorgeous but violence-plagued city trying to remake its image before it takes the world stage next year.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s postcard-perfect metropolis of famed beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema, is set to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

But the terrifying six-hour long ordeal the woman and a male companion endured Saturday night on one of Rio’s thousands of poorly regulated transit minivans presents a nightmare for city leaders.

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Reminiscent of a similarly horrific attack and gang-rape on a bus in Delhi last December, the Rio attack casts a spotlight on the problem in many developing-world cities of loosely regulated independent transportation options that can expose local riders – and unwitting tourists – to violence, organized crime, and corruption.

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