Brazil tourism cracks down on 'sex destination' promotion

Brazilian authorities have launched a campaign to clamp down on websites that improperly promote the biggest country in Latin America as a destination for sexual tourism.

The tourism ministry said that it began monitoring more than 2000 Internet sites last year that misuse its logo and found that 82 per cent of them had content with a sexual or sensual connotation. Most of the websites were hosted in the United States.

In a statement released Tuesday, the ministry said 1100 such sites were altered or removed from the Internet as a result of its action.

And Tourism Minister Gastao Vieira said that his ministry was working with other public institutions to step up the battle against such "criminal practices."

"Sexual tourism is a crime and those responsible must be punished," he said, stressing that his ministry was monitoring the Internet to "devise strategies with the entire federal government and crack down on attempts to give our country a negative connotation."

Vieira stressed that his ministry's efforts to promote the country's natural beauty, cultural attractions and the hospitality of the Brazilian people had led a growing number of foreign tourists to visit.

Last year, some 5.4 million foreigners visited Brazil, which is preparing to host two major sporting events, the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

The ministry also said it was relentlessly fighting child sexual exploitation and had invested $US17.6 million over the past six years to combat the scourge.