RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Public transit vans like the one in which an American student was gang raped last month were banned Thursday from Rio de Janeiro's touristy South Zone neighborhoods.
The measure was floated late last year as a way to help ease the city's chronic traffic jams but gained urgency as a safety measure in the wake of the March 30 attack on the American woman and her French companion, who were attacked by a van driver and two other young men who brutalized them for about six hours inside the vehicle.
Under a decree published Thursday in the local government's Official Journal, the vans will be prohibited from operating in high-rent neighborhoods including Ipanema and Leblon beaches, as well as Copacabana, where the two foreigners boarded the van to travel to a nightlife hotspot in downtown. Exceptions will be made for vans serving two "favela" hillside slums sandwiched between high-rent South Zone neighborhoods, according to the decree, which takes effect on Monday.
Without the vans and with a key metro station closed pending the extension of the subway, residents and workers in the South Zone will need to rely on buses, taxis and private vehicles to get around.
The 12-seat vans are seen as a quicker alternative to buses and largely travel the same routes. They will continue to ply the poor, sprawling suburbs that ring this city of 6 million.
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