Vietnamese diplomat, tourists escape captors in Rio


RIO DE JANEIRO – A Vietnamese diplomat and three Chinese tourists were kidnapped at gunpoint on their way to Rio de Janeiro’s famed Christ the Redeemer statue but managed to escape from their captors a day later, police said on Sunday.

The victims were ambushed in broad daylight on Saturday by a group of heavily armed men wearing black ski masks on the remote, windy road that climbs Corcovado mountain to Rio’s best-known tourist site.

Vu Thanh Nam, a Vietnamese Embassy official, was riding in a taxi with some visiting relatives when the gunmen appeared. A van carrying the Chinese tourists was also stopped on its way to the statue.

A police spokesman said what initially appeared to be a hold-up turned into a kidnapping when Vu revealed he was a diplomat, prompting the gunmen to abduct him and the three Chinese tourists.

The victims reappeared unharmed but shaken on Sunday afternoon after escaping from the house where they were being held in one of Rio’s roughest slums, Complexo do Alemao.

A sultry, seaside metropolis with breathtaking views, Rio is Brazil’s most popular tourist destination. But the city is as well known for its high crime rates as it is for its beautiful beaches.

The violence has become so bad in some shantytowns that Rio’s state governor has requested federal troops be sent to patrol the streets and ensure safety during upcoming municipal elections.