BRASILIA, Brazil — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that three Marines on a U.S. Embassy security team and one embassy staff member were punished for allegedly pushing a prostitute out of a car in Brasilia late last year after a dispute over payment.
The incident is similar, but unrelated, to the scandal involving Secret Service agents at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, before President Barack Obama arrived.
Panetta, speaking to reporters in Brasilia, said the Marines were pulled out of the country. Two had their ranks reduced, and the embassy staffer was removed from his post.
Panetta said he had “no tolerance for that kind of conduct.”
“Where it takes place, you can be sure that we will act to make sure that they are punished and that that kind of behavior is not acceptable,” he said.
A senior defense official said the three Marines — including one supervisor — were members of the embassy security team in Brasilia.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an investigation, said the woman broke her collarbone when she was pushed from the car in late December.
The official said the embassy tracked the woman down and paid for her medical expenses. But in the wake of the Cartagena scandal, she has hired an attorney and is suing the embassy.
Panetta is touring South America to meet with his counterparts in the region.