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Rio rolls out new light rail trains ahead of Olympics

38614124 - 06_06_2016 - BRAZIL-OLY-2016-TRANSPORT-VLT.jpg
Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes on Sunday inaugurated a light rail transport system just ahead of the Olympic Games, and was met by demonstrators who oppose heavy Games spending and Brazil's interim government.

[RIO DE JANEIRO] Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes on Sunday inaugurated a light rail transport system just ahead of the Olympic Games, and was met by demonstrators who oppose heavy Games spending and Brazil's interim government.

The 28-kilometer (17.4-mile) VLT, as it is known, runs from the downtown and port areas to Santos Dumont Airport, as Rio scrambles to ready for the first Olympics to be held in South America.

"We could hold the Games without having the VLT. But we can also seize this moment to improve the city's downtown" infrastructure, said Mr Paes, as some demonstrators booed and shouted "coup supporter." It was a reference to the government of Brazil's acting president Michel Temer.

Mr Temer, the former vice president, took over from Dilma Rousseff after her suspension for an impeachment trial on May 12.

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The timing of her impeachment proceedings is unclear, though they could take place during the Games.

An open letter signed by more than 200 international doctors, scientists and researchers has called for the Rio Games to be moved or delayed due to the Zika virus. Rio is the second most affected city in Brazil.

The government and World Health Organization first rejected the idea as unnecessary, but the WHO is now giving the situation another look.

Zika can cause birth defects, including the devastating syndrome microcephaly in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brains.

Nearly 1,300 babies have been born in Brazil with the irreversible defect since the mosquito-borne Zika began circulating there last year.

The virus, which is mainly spread by two species of Aedes mosquito, as well as through sexual contact, has also been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal neurological disorder.

WHO chief Margaret Chan has asked a panel of experts to help determine whether the Rio Summer Olympics should be held as scheduled due to concerns it could spread the Zika virus.

AFP

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