Brazilian muggers hold Portugal’s education minister at knifepoint in Rio

Described as moments of terror, Portugal’s education minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues and his female press attaché Rita Roque were threatened at knifepoint in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, as they attended the Olympic Games in honour of Portuguese national athletes.

Brazilian daily paper “O Dia” claims one of the muggers “held a knife at the minister’s neck”.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã elaborates on the story: “We had just been to a cycle race with our athletes and were returning to our hotel by car with members of the Olympic commission,” Rodrigues explained.

“We got out close to the hotel in one of the safest neighbourhoods and were approached by two individuals, one of them with a knife, who asked us for our money.

“We did not resist. We gave up our personal effects but lots of people saw and they dropped our belongings. One of them was intercepted by police.”

Rita Roque added: “It was a fright but happily everything turned out well.”

Nonetheless the incident served to show that despite massive police presence in Rio, the issue of crime and personal attacks will not go away.

Four men armed with knifes have also been reported as assaulting the Olympic Games’ chief of security, claim press reports in Brazil, stressing that the “lack of security has been one of the most hotly debated topics among countries competing in these games”.

For Rodrigues and Rita Roque, however, the risks they run are on countdown. They are due to return on Wednesday, and so far this incident in the high-end area of Ipanema has been the only black spot in the trip.

Both have been attending the games without any kind of security backing, and the education minister told reporters this will be the case for all other Portuguese ministers travelling to Rio.

Meantime, press reports continue to highlight crime levels in the country. In June, for example, no less than 404 murders were reported – and that was just in Rio.

Police are also understood to have registered 8,011 muggings and assaults in the capital over the same period.