In what appears to be a tragic case of GPS technology leading to disaster, two tourists riding through South America on motorcycles mistakenly steered into the heart of a notorious hillside ‘favela’ slum in Rio de Janeiro.
The tourists were both Italian and one was killed. Police identified the dead tourist as 52-year-old Roberto Bardella. Gunmen, probably working for the drug gangs that infest the infamous Morro dos Prazeres favela, shot him dead. Bardella’s companion was apparently not hit and was later released, police said.
The slum, located near the hilltop precinct of Santa Teresa, featured in the 2002 film Cidade de Deus (City of God), which focused on gang warfare in Rio slums.
The two Italians were navigating their way through Rio, using on their motorbikes a GPS system of the type common in cars and on smartphones, when they roared into Morro dos Prazeres. Some reports said drug criminals had mistaken them for motorcycle policemen and a group of 10 young men armed with pistols and submachine guns had confronted the two Italians.
Drug lords and armed gangs have wrested back control of some favelas since being driven out by massive police crackdowns preceding the Rio Olympics. Before that, parts of Rio resembled a war zone.
Police generally enter favelas cautiously, carrying submachine guns and using armoured personal carriers and paramilitary backup squads. They have been venturing into the favelas less often since the Olympics, apparently.
Written by Peter Needham