SÃO PAULO -- A woman plans to file charges against the United States Embassy in Brazil after alleging that four government employees ran her over, in a second case that has tarnished the image of U.S. government employees in Latin America.
Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, 31, and her lawyer said three Marines and one civilian staffer in a van broke her collarbone, punctured her lung and left her lying in a Brasília nightclub parking lot in December after a fight broke while they attempted to hire her and three of her friends for sex.
“We’ll be suing the U.S. Embassy because it authorized the use of a vehicle that was used for attempted murder,” Antonio Rodrigo Machado, Ferreira’s lawyer, told the Los Angeles Times in a telephone interview Thursday.
“We have waited until now because we were in negotiations with the Embassy over an agreement to keep silent about the case,” which did not come to fruition, Machado said.
A U.S. Embassy representative denied that there had been any negotiations and said Embassy officials had no knowledge of lawsuit, although they did know that Ferreira had been injured after interactions with the employees.
The four U.S. citizens have since left the country.
The accusations come at a difficult time for the image of U.S. workers in Latin America. President Obama's visit to Colombia earlier this month was overshadowed in the media by claims that Secret Service agents had taken prostitutes back to their hotels.
Ferreira says she and three friends met the men at the club and agreed to go back to one of the men’s apartments. In the van, a fight broke out between Ferreira and the hired Brazilian driver, who didn’t want to help them speak English with the Americans, Machado said.
One of the U.S. citizens then pushed Ferreira out of the vehicle and another insisted that the driver leave quickly, the woman and her lawyer said.
“They didn’t try to kill her,” Machado said. “But they didn’t care at all that they were running the risk of killing her.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in Brazil's capital, Brasília, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said the Marines had been disciplined and their ranks had been reduced.
“I have no tolerance for that kind of conduct. Not here, or any place in the world," Panetta said. "And where it takes place, you can be assured that we will act and make sure they are punished and that kind of behavior is not acceptable.”
-- Vincent Bevins