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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 05:54 GMT
Charles draws crowds in Rio
Prince Charles tours Cantagalo favela
Charles was surrounded by tight security and many fans
The Prince of Wales has defied both health and safety scares to tour a shanty town in the Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro - much to the delight of the crowds there.

Charles was surrounded by a throng of well-wishers as he toured the Cantagalo "favela" shortly after dark on Monday evening.

But he was also surrounded by a tight ring of security guards, following a shoot-out on Sunday night in which police killed a suspected drug trafficker from the area and sparked a mini-riot.

One local housewife managed to squeeze through the prince's cordon to give him a kiss on the cheek.

Cantagalo used to be run by drug traffickers and was a no-go area for city police.

Police killings

But the Brazilians were keen for Charles to see how British funding has helped turn the area around.

Charles shows a Fluminense football jersey given to him by the Brazilian state secretary of energy, naval industry and oil, Wagner Victer
Prince Charles was given a Fluminense football shirt
During the 45-minute tour of the area, Charles visited the Viva Rio charity centre.

The programme receives funding from the British Foreign Office. It is aimed at boosting social and education amenities for children, and also has a community policing programme.

It was created in 1993 amid outrage over police killings of street children and is credited with transforming relations between the police and residents.

Luke Dowdney, 29, a Briton working for the charity, said: "Seven people died at the hands of police before we came, and since we set up the community police programme, there have been no murders."

Dengue fever

Officers now openly patrol in Cantagalo, which until recently they would only enter when heavily armed.

"It is important to understand that this is the first time in the history of Rio that police have had a constant presence in an area such as this," said Mr Dowdney.

"The prince's visit is of fundamental importance because it puts a focus on the project and increases the chances of it being replicated across the city.

"It is changing the face of policing in Rio."

The Rio authorities also sent a lorry-load of insect repellent ahead of the prince to spray the streets to rid them of mosquitoes.

An epidemic of the potentially fatal, mosquito-borne dengue fever disease is currently sweeping Rio and has so far killed dozens of people, with 40,000 more suffering from a less serious strain.

Samba show

Charles' two-day official trip to Brazil to promote social and environmental projects began in the capital Brasilia, with lunch with the country's president.

He then visited Alpina Briggs, a British company which deals with oil spills at the oilfields and platforms in the waters off Rio.

He is also due to visit an Action Aid project, where he is scheduled to attend a soccer class and watch a samba performance.

He then heads to Palmas, in the southern Amazon state of Tocantins, where he will meet with Karaja Indians and visit an environmental research station.

Later this week, Charles will move on to Mexico for three days.

The BBC's Jennie Bond in Rio de Janeiro
"The battle to save the rainforest remains one of the hottest political issues here in Brazil"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
27 Feb 02 | Americas
Dengue fever grips Rio
05 Jul 00 | Americas
Rio police purged
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