The New York Times 2024-02-07 12:36:36


Mideast Crisis : Biden Criticizes Opposition to Bill That Includes Aid to Israel and Gaza

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Jerusalem Feb. 7, 3:12 p.m.

Immigration bill also authorizes billions of dollars in aid to Israel.

President Biden criticized Republican lawmakers on Tuesday for attempting to thwart bipartisan legislation that would overhaul the nation’s immigration system and, among other things, authorize billions of dollars in aid for Israel.

In a televised speech from the White House, Mr. Biden said that opposing the bill would deny military assistance to Israel and humanitarian aid to Palestinian people, who he emphasized were “really suffering and desperately need help.” In particular, he denounced former President Donald J. Trump, who has been lobbying Republicans to kill the bill in order to deny Mr. Biden a political win, blaming him for helping to create the congressional deadlock.

Mr. Biden also suggested that the political gridlock in Washington stood to hinder progress toward a deal to get Israeli hostages released.

He said there had been “some movement” on negotiations with Hamas to release hostages, who were taken during the Oct. 7 attack.

“There’s been a response from the opposition,” he said, referring to Hamas, “but it seems to be a little over the top.”

At roughly the same time as Mr. Biden was speaking, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was holding a joint news conference in Doha, Qatar, with the Qatari prime minister, at which they announced that Hamas had responded to the latest offer of a deal for a pause in the fighting in Gaza and a hostage-prisoner exchange.

Senators from both parties shaped the bill, which links a crackdown on unlawful migration across the U.S. border with Mexico to delivering emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel, but far-right Republicans have condemned the immigration restrictions as too weak. The proposal includes $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones including Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.

In an unusual letter, a group of U.S. ambassadors stationed in the Indo-Pacific region urged congressional leaders on Monday to secure passage of legislation providing assistance to Ukraine, Israel and allies in the Pacific, saying America’s credibility with its strategic partners was on the line.

Mr. Biden said on Tuesday that he was not going to consider supporting separate bills that just addressed military assistance for Israel or Ukraine.

“I’m not going to concede that now,” he said. “We need it all. The rest of the world is looking at us.”

Carl Hulse contributed reporting.

Blinken says a deal is achievable, but there is ‘a lot of work to be done.’

Hamas has responded to a cease-fire framework that could free hostages in Gaza, officials in Qatar and the group said on Tuesday, though the U.S. secretary of state, who is in the Middle East for days of shuttle diplomacy aimed at rallying support for the deal, cautioned that there was still “a lot of work to be done.”

In Washington, President Biden called Hamas’s demands “a little over the top,” without elaborating.

Standing with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken after a meeting in Doha, the prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, offered a more positive reaction, saying that Hamas’s response had been delivered to Israeli officials and that negotiations would continue. “We are optimistic,” he said.

Mr. Blinken was on the second day of a Middle East tour aimed at building support for the proposal, which was hammered out with Egyptian and Qatari mediators and backed by the United States and Israel. The proposal is aimed at pausing the fighting between Israel and Hamas for the first time since a one-week cease-fire in late November, during which more than 100 hostages were freed. Mr. Blinken was expected to meet with Israeli officials on Wednesday.

Hamas confirmed that it had responded to the proposal, saying it had dealt with the framework “positively,” though it reaffirmed earlier demands, including for a permanent cease-fire, reconstruction of Gaza, a lifting of the blockade, and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has already objected to some of these demands.

Hamas did not lay out its specific response, though its Al Aqsa TV reported that the militant group had offered amendments to the framework related to the issues of a cease-fire, reconstruction, lifting the blockade, evacuating wounded people and the return of displaced people to their homes and providing them with shelter.

An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, suggested that Israel was dissatisfied with Hamas’s counterproposal. Hamas, the official said, wants a deal only if it ensures its continued control of Gaza and ends the war —conditions rejected by Israel.

The Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, said in a statement that “Hamas’s response was passed over by the Qatari mediator to the Mossad and its details are being examined in depth by all officials engaged in the negotiations.”

The United States had just hours to review Hamas’s response before providing a public reaction, according to a senior U.S. official. When Mr. Blinken arrived for his first meeting in Qatar, the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, revealed the surprising news that the Qataris had received the counterproposal from Hamas an hour earlier.

Roughly three hours before the joint news conference with Sheikh Mohammed, Mr. Blinken’s team quickly reviewed the counterproposal and briefed White House officials, the official said. Mr. Biden received details, the official said, before he began a televised speech from the White House aimed at rallying Congress to pass a national security supplemental package that includes funding for the Israeli military and for Palestinian aid.

In recent days, Hamas leaders had signaled that substantial gaps remained between the two sides, even as representatives from the United States, Egypt and Qatar sought common ground.

“Hamas responded tonight,” Mr. Blinken said in Doha. “We’re reviewing that response now and I’ll be discussing with the government of Israel tomorrow.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” he said.

When he visits Israel on this trip, Mr. Blinken was expected to convey American concerns about the civilian death toll in Gaza, according to U.S. officials.

Mr. Blinken will also discuss what diplomats call the “day-after” plans for governing Gaza after the fighting ends, including a possible role for the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Maps: Tracking the Attacks in Israel and GazaSee where Israel has bulldozed vast areas of Gaza, as its invasion continues to advance south.

Arriving in Israel, Argentina’s new president promises to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.

President Javier Milei of Argentina stepped off a plane in Israel on Tuesday to start his first state visit as president, and immediately promised to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem. His declaration drew praise from the Israeli government and criticism from Hamas, the armed Palestinian group Israel is at war with in the Gaza Strip.

“I come to support Israel against the Hamas terrorists,” Mr. Milei said to Israel’s foreign minister, Yisrael Katz, at the airport in Tel Aviv. “I plan to move the embassy to West Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem’s status has long been contested. Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, and Palestinians hope it will one day form the capital of a future Palestinian state. All but a handful of foreign governments consider it occupied territory, and have their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Mr. Milei, an arch conservative who took office in December, had pledged to move the embassy during his presidential campaign last year, and his announcement on Tuesday prompted a thank-you from the office of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The Prime Minister spoke about this with President Milei after his election, and welcomes the fact that the President has kept his promise,” Mr. Netanyahu’s office said on X.

Hamas, the group that controlled Gaza before its current war with Israel, said in a statement that it “strongly condemns” the move.

In 2017, President Donald J. Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, and later moved the U.S. Embassy there.

Mr. Milei has sought to align Argentina strongly with the United States and Israel on diplomatic issues. The Argentine president, who describes himself as Catholic, also professes to have a deep connection with Judaism, saying he often consults with rabbis instead of priests and studies the Torah.

In a recent interview, Mr. Milei said that he would consider converting to Judaism, but that its rules on observing Shabbat would make it difficult to carry out his duties as president.

Mr. Milei is expected next to visit Italy, where he will meet with Pope Francis, a fellow Argentine. Mr. Milei drew criticism during his campaign for his harsh attacks against the pope in the past, including calling him a “filthy leftist.”

An internal Israeli report estimates a fifth of the remaining 136 hostages have died.

Israel has called securing the freedom of the hostages abducted to Gaza a key goal in its war against Hamas, so many in the country were shocked on Tuesday when it emerged that at least a fifth of the captives were already dead.

The news was likely to worsen a furor in Israel, where a debate over the government’s course of action in Gaza regarding the hostages has become divisive.

Israeli intelligence officers have concluded that at least 30 of the remaining 136 hostages captured by Hamas and its allies on Oct. 7 have died since the start of the war, according to a confidential assessment that was reviewed by The New York Times.

The bodies of two other dead Israelis, killed in 2014 during a previous war between Israel and Hamas, have been held in the territory ever since, bringing the total number of slain hostages inside Gaza to at least 32.

The Israeli government late on Tuesday released a statement saying that only 31 had been confirmed dead; the discrepancy between the two numbers could not be immediately reconciled.

“We have informed 31 families that their captured loved ones are no longer among the living and that we have pronounced them dead,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman, said Tuesday after The Times published a report about the previously undisclosed hostage deaths.

Four officials said that Israeli intelligence officers were also assessing unconfirmed information that indicated that at least 20 other hostages may have also been killed.

Some of the dead were killed inside Israel on Oct. 7. Their deaths were unconfirmed at the time and they were counted among the hostages, but their bodies were taken by Hamas to Gaza, according to two of the officials.

Others were injured during the Hamas-led assault and died of their injuries after being abducted to Gaza, the officials said. Others still, the officials added, were killed by Hamas once inside Gaza.

At least three hostages were killed by the Israeli military during its ground operations. Another was killed during a failed rescue operation. Israeli soldiers found the bodies of some hostages, intact and without external injuries, inside the warren of tunnels Hamas has dug beneath Gaza. The army has yet to clarify the causes of those deaths.

The figure of 32 deaths is higher than any previous number the Israeli authorities have publicly disclosed.

In January, some family members stormed a meeting at Israel’s Parliament to demand that lawmakers take greater action to secure the captives’ release. That protest and similar demonstrations in recent months have helped expose a societal rift between those who support making a deal with Hamas to secure the captives’ release and those who seek the militant group’s total destruction.

More than 240 hostages were captured by Hamas and its allies during the Oct. 7 raid on southern Israel, prompting Israel to retaliate with massive airstrikes and then a ground invasion. Roughly half of the hostages have been freed, almost all during a temporary truce in November, when they were exchanged for 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in Israeli jails.

Since that truce, the Israeli government has said that its military operations in Gaza would pave the way to further hostage releases. Officials have argued that every Israeli military success places Hamas under more pressure to negotiate another exchange, and makes the military better able to rescue the remaining captives by force.

But scores of survivors and families of the hostages have said that the military campaign is endangering their loved ones’ lives. They want the government to make it a priority to reach a new hostage deal instead of pressing ahead with the invasion, lest their relatives be killed in the crossfire. Only one hostage has been freed by an Israeli military rescue operation.

The debate over the hostages has become particularly acute in recent days, as negotiations over another cease-fire deal — mediated by Egypt and Qatar — have gathered momentum.

Egypt and Qatar have negotiated with the leaders of Hamas on a proposal backed by the United States that could temporarily stop the war, free the remaining hostages there in exchange for Palestinians detained in Israeli jails, and allow more food, water, medicine and other supplies into the territory.

On Tuesday, Hamas said it had received the proposal and delivered a response to the mediators, but did not elaborate.

Right-wing members of Israel’s ruling coalition have threatened to leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government if he agrees to a deal that allows Hamas to remain in power in exchange for the freedom of all the remaining hostages.

But other members of his coalition, including a centrist former general, Gadi Eisenkot, have suggested that freeing the hostages is a more important goal than further military gains, and that the two goals are mutually incompatible.

Asked for comment, the Israeli military said in a statement that it was “deploying all available resources to locate and retrieve as much information as possible regarding the hostages currently held by Hamas.”

A spokeswoman for the main alliance of hostage families, Liat Bell Sommer, said the alliance was seeking an immediate deal.

“We are aware that there are bodies in Hamas captivity. We are also aware that every day the hostages are held in Hamas tunnels is a death sentence to them,” Ms. Sommer said.

Other hostages may have also already died, but the military has yet to declare them dead because it needs to attain absolute proof before telling their families, according to Avi Kalo, who led a military intelligence department that dealt with prisoners of war and missing people.

“When it comes to the decision about whether to declare a prisoner of war, or a missing person, dead, Israeli intelligence needs 100 percent certainty,” said Mr. Kalo.

“Such a terrible message must not be conveyed except in the case of absolute and final knowledge,” he added.

The Israeli military’s assessment did not conclude that any of the dead hostages were killed in Israeli strikes. But some of the hostages freed in November have said that they fear those still in Gaza could be killed in Israeli salvos. At least one freed hostage said the relentless Israeli bombardment at times felt as menacing as the threat posed by her captors.

“Many times I told myself that, in the end, I will die from Israel’s missiles and not from Hamas,” said Sahar Kalderon, speaking in an interview last December, weeks after being released. Her father remains captured inside Gaza.

“What about my father, who has been left behind?” she said in the interview. “I ask of everyone who sees this: Please, stop this war; get all the hostages out.”

Reporting was contributed by Johnatan Reiss, Aaron Boxerman, Gabby Sobelman and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad.

It Was Once Pakistan’s Military Stronghold. Now Even It Has Had Enough.

As they head to the polls this week, residents in Pakistan’s most populous and affluent province are fed up.

Just look around, they say: The economy is in free fall and inflation has soared. A favorite politician has been thrown behind bars. Everyone from young laborers to prominent influencers in the province, Punjab, have been jailed alongside him.

And it’s become clear, many say, that a group once widely supported in Punjab is to blame: the country’s military.

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Playing Soccer in Abidjan? Get Yourself a Pair of Lêkê.

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

“How did the pros started playing when they were kids like us? With lêkê,” he added, referring to the sandals that are ubiquitous not only in his pickup game but almost any place an Ivorian puts their feet.

While the best African teams run out in expensive branded cleats at this year’s continental soccer championship, the Africa Cup of Nations, it is in lêkê (pronounced leh-keh) that amateur players craft the best street soccer.

They praise the cheaper sandals for their practicality — “They’re lighter, they fit better and they’re more comfortable where we play,” as Mr. Camara put it — in games that take place not on manicured grass fields in shiny new stadiums but on countless sandy pitches, dusty courtyards and narrow alleyways.

“Lêkê are the national shoes of Ivory Coast,” said Seydou Traoré, his feet resting inside an orange pair (the national color) as he watched a nerve-racking match on a television pulled into the street alongside dozens of neighbors and friends. Many of them wore lêkê, too.

It is unclear how the shoe became so popular in Ivory Coast. Most players said they had been wearing them since they were toddlers. School children wear them to school. And they blossom on countless feet when the streets of Abidjan fill with water during the rainy season.

And while the jelly shoe has become trendy in the fashion world in recent years, with luxury brands like Gucci making their own version, they’re chic in Ivory Coast for reasons of both style and pragmatism.

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“Apart from in the office, you can wear them everywhere, even at a party,” said Mr. Traoré, an amateur player who once competed in Ivory Coast’s second league.

Heels, dress shoes or leather sandals remain the favored shoes for the office in Ivory Coast, one of West Africa’s largest economies and home to a dynamic middle class. But the appeal of lêkê shone through few years ago, when one of the country’s most famous singers turned businessman posed on the cover of a style magazine wearing a Western-style gray suit and white plastic sandals.

The story goes that the jelly sandal was born in 1946, when a French knifemaker invented the original model as a way to use a large batch of plastic he had ordered to make knives. Its original shape — soles studded with spikes, a round tip and a basket-weave top — has barely changed in decades.

The French company that now owns the patent, Humeau-Beaupreau, sells 800,000 pairs a year, according to a representative of the company. But the bulk of the lêkê seen across West Africa are manufactured locally; in Ivory Coast, one can buy a pair on almost every street corner for about $1.50.

On a recent afternoon, Céliba Coulibaly and Saliou Diallo were purchasing a new pair — “chap chap,” they said, or hurriedly — because they had tickets to collect for a Cup of Nations match later that day featuring Guinea, Mr. Diallo’s home country.

Of course they would go to the stadium in lêkê, Mr. Diallo said. “They’re light and comfortable,” he added. “What else would I wear?”

In Ivory Coast, amateur soccer players are divided on the best model to wear — those bearing the name of the Argentine star Lionel Messi, or those named after Basile Boli, the Ivorian-born French player who retired from soccer before many of those now wearing lêkê were born.

As soccer shoes, lêkê are a short-term commitment, since the straps often break after only a few weeks. They are only replaced when they can’t hold the feet anymore, so worn soles are a point of pride — proof of hours of uninterrupted play on scrappy fields locally known as Maracana, in homage to famed soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The scars and scratches left on feet by the metallic strap are both a badge of suffering and a symbol of dedication to the game, players say.

“Let a guy come with proper sneakers and we’ll make fun of him: ‘You think you’re a professional player or what?’” Iliass Sanogo said as he watched a group of friends — all wearing lêkê — play in the hazy twilight.

Street vendors said the popularity of the sandals colored with the Ivorian flag (orange, white and green) had soared during the Africa Cup of Nations.

“Then we started losing and sales collapsed,” joked one of them, Aboubakar Samaké, as he hawked jerseys for the tournament’s teams and all kinds of green and orange goodies, from bracelets to lêkê, in a bustling neighborhood in Abidjan.

The drop in sales might also be because Mr. Samaké, describing his mood as “overwhelmed” after one particularly crushing loss, didn’t leave the house for two days.

“But discouragement isn’t an Ivorian thing,” Mr. Samaké quickly added, now back at work.

A few hours later, Ivory Coast’s national team was scheduled to face the reigning Cup of Nations champion, Senegal. Mr. Camara, dusty and sweaty from his pickup game, rushed home, dropped his lêkê and jumped in the shower. He resurfaced minutes later wearing an Ivory Coast jersey and clean jeans. He left his lêkê to rest, donned flip flops, and strolled to a nearby kiosk to watch his team win.

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Russian Strikes Hit Ukrainian Cities at a Tense Time for Kyiv

Missiles streaked into Kyiv early Wednesday in a Russian attack that killed at least five people, according to local officials, jolted residents awake with air alarms and explosions, and ignited a fire that sent plumes of smoke billowing over the Ukrainian capital.

The barrage, which directed missiles and drones at cities across the country, coincided with a moment of heightened uncertainty for Ukraine. Russian forces are pressing assaults in towns and villages along the front, American aid is in doubt, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is preparing for what he has hinted will be a major shake-up in his government and the army’s leadership.

Mr. Zelensky is considering replacing Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the country’s top military commander, but has not announced any decision on the matter. General Zaluzhny remains in his job and said on Wednesday morning that Ukrainian air defense teams had destroyed 44 of the 64 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones that Russia had fired in the assault.

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Terrorized by Gangs, Ecuador Embraces the Hard-Line ‘Noboa Way’

Annie Correal and Federico Rios reported from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Since Ecuador’s president declared war on gangs last month, soldiers with assault rifles have flooded the streets of Guayaquil, a sprawling Pacific Coast city that has been an epicenter of the nation’s yearslong descent into violence.

They pull men from buses and cars looking for drugs, weapons and gang tattoos, and patrol roads enforcing a nighttime curfew. The city is on edge, its men and teenage boys potential targets for troops and police officers who have been ordered to take down powerful gangs that have joined forces with international cartels to make Ecuador a hub of the global drug trade.

Yet when people see soldiers pass, many clap or give them a thumbs-up. “We applaud the iron fist, we celebrate it,” said Guayaquil’s mayor, Aquiles Álvarez. “It has helped bring peace.”

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Tucker Carlson Has Interviewed Putin, Kremlin Says

Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host, has interviewed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, a sign that the Russian leader is seeking to make a direct appeal to American conservatives as U.S. aid to Ukraine hangs in the balance.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said Mr. Carlson had conducted the interview on Tuesday. He did not say when it would be released.

Mr. Carlson has been in Moscow for several days, according to Russian state media, which has delivered a blow-by-blow account of his visit, raising anticipation of a potential interview by Mr. Carlson of Mr. Putin. On Tuesday night, he revealed that he was interviewing the Russian leader.

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Sweden Closes Investigation Into Nord Stream Pipeline Blasts

The Swedish authorities on Wednesday closed a more than yearlong investigation into the undersea attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, citing a lack of authority to further pursue those responsible for sabotaging the critical piece of energy infrastructure intended to supply Western Europe with Russian gas.

“Sweden does not have the jurisdiction to investigate this matter further,” the Swedish Security Service said in a statement on Wednesday. The September 2022 attack on the natural gas pipelines — just seven months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — prompted rampant public speculation about who was to blame. Assigning responsibility for the attacks seemed urgent for Europe when Russia was viewed as a possible perpetrator, but the matter grew increasingly complex over the past year after intelligence suggested that the sabotage had been carried out by a pro-Ukraine group.

The series of underwater explosions ripped holes in three of the four strands of Nord Stream pipelines and led officials to conclude that they were most likely caused by a state actor. Some saw the attacks, which came close to damaging a cable supplying electricity from Sweden to Poland, as a warning that raised concern about what other infrastructure could be vulnerable.

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Giorgia Meloni Solidifies Her Credentials in Europe

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, was isolated, the sole holdout to a landmark European Union fund for Ukraine worth billions. As pressure mounted on him on the eve of an emergency E.U. summit last week, he needed someone to talk to.

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, who had long shared his antagonism to the E.U, was that sympathetic ear.

Over drinks for an hour, Mr. Orban complained about being treated unfairly by the E.U. for his hard-right politics. A hard-right leader herself, Ms. Meloni told him that she too had felt the prejudice. But, she said, instead of attacking the E.U., she had tried to work with it in good faith, according to a European official with knowledge of the discussion. That approach, she argued, obliged the E.U. to engage her, too, and in the end, it came through for her by agreeing that Italy had complied with requirements for the release of billions of euros in Covid relief funds.

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A Year After a Devastating Quake: Container Cities, Trials and Grief

At 4:17 a.m. on Tuesday, thousands of people in cities across southern Turkey gathered to cry, light candles and chant against the government, marking the moment a year ago that a powerful earthquake devastated the region.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, and a second violent tremor hours later, damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings, killing more than 53,000 people in southern Turkey and another 6,000 people in northern Syria. It was the area’s broadest and deadliest earthquake in hundreds of years.

The scale of the destruction, and the failure of emergency services to reach many people buried in the rubble until days later, angered survivors. Many accused building contractors of cutting corners to increase their profits and the government of failing to enforce safe building standards.

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King Charles Has Cancer. Here’s What to Know.

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On Monday night, Buckingham Palace made a sudden announcement that King Charles III had been diagnosed with cancer, less than 18 months after beginning his reign. He is receiving outpatient treatment in London.

The British monarch’s diagnosis prompted an outpouring of sympathy from leaders around the world, with President Biden saying that he was praying for “a swift and full recovery,” and the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, describing himself as “shocked and sad” at the news. “He’ll just be in our thoughts and our prayers,” Mr. Sunak told BBC radio on Tuesday. “Many families around the country listening to this will have been touched by the same thing.”

Here is what to know about the king’s condition and its implications for Britain’s monarchy.

Not very much. Buckingham Palace said on Monday night that “a form of cancer” had been diagnosed, but did not state what kind, and asked that reporters not try to contact those involved in Charles’s care.

The palace said that doctors had identified “an issue of concern” while treating Charles, 75, last month for an enlarged prostate. They confirmed cancer — though not prostate cancer — with subsequent tests.

Charles, the statement added, began a schedule of regular treatments on Monday, and “remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible.”

Mr. Sunak, who has spoken to Charles about his cancer, told BBC radio, “Thankfully, this has been caught early.” A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said later that this was a reference to the palace statement, which cited a “swift intervention” by medics.

That the palace has not publicly identified the form of cancer is not a surprise; the British royal family tends to be intensely private about health matters. Three weeks ago, when Charles’s planned prostate treatment was made public, the announcement was seen as a break with tradition.

The palace said that the king, who supported several cancer charities as Prince of Wales, had chosen to share his diagnosis “to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer.”

On the advice of his doctors, Charles will temporarily step back from public engagements, which typically include speeches, visits to charities that he supports, community projects and foreign trips.

But the king will continue to carry out his duties as Britain’s largely ceremonial head of state. That includes meeting weekly with Mr. Sunak and tackling a daily “red box” of official paperwork, such as the signing of routine government documents and receiving the credentials of new ambassadors to Britain.

Queen Camilla will carry out a full program of official engagements during her husband’s treatment, the palace said, and Prince William, the heir to the throne, is set to return to public engagements this week. William, 41, had suspended his public duties for a few weeks because his wife, Catherine, was hospitalized in January for abdominal surgery. She is now convalescing at home.

Officials said there were no plans to appoint counselors of state to act in King Charles’s place — a procedure that could signal that the sovereign was unable to fulfill his duties because of illness.

If the king is temporarily unable to act as head of state because of illness or traveling abroad, counselors of state are appointed to cover his duties.


Some core constitutional actions still require the king to help formalize them, including dissolving Parliament to make way for new elections; appointing new members to the House of Lords, Parliament’s unelected upper chamber; and appointing a prime minister.

If Charles were to become incapacitated, he could remain king but with a “regent” fully taking on the sovereign’s duties. The regent would be the next in the line of succession: Prince William.

Under the 1937 law that governs the procedure, the king himself would not make the decision. Instead, a group including Queen Camilla and some of Britain’s most senior officers of state, including the head of the English judiciary and the speaker of the House of Commons, would sign a declaration of incapacity, supported by medical evidence.

William would then take a series of formal oaths, including swearing to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to King Charles III, his heirs and successors according to law,” before beginning his new duties.

If the king later recovered, the regency could be ended by a declaration of “cessation of incapacity.”

Mark Landler contributed reporting.

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Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera Dies in Helicopter Crash

Sebastián Piñera, a former president of Chile who helped strengthen the nation’s young democracy after becoming its first conservative leader since a military dictatorship, died in a helicopter crash in Chile on Tuesday, the government said. He was 74.

The helicopter, carrying four people, crashed into Lake Ranco in the Los Ríos region in southern Chile about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, shortly after taking off, the government said. Three people survived and swam to shore, and the Chilean Navy recovered Mr. Piñera’s body. It is unclear who was piloting the aircraft, but Mr. Piñera was known to fly his own helicopter.

Mr. Piñera was a billionaire businessman and investor who served two terms as Chile’s president, from 2010 to 2014 and from 2018 to 2022.

A conservative, Mr. Piñera ushered in pro-business policies that helped boost growth and make the nation of 19 million, in his words, “a true oasis” in Latin America.

But he also faced enormous protests from residents who said his government disregarded the poor — Chile is one of the world’s most economically unequal nations — and he left office both times with low approval ratings.

“President Piñera contributed, from his perspective, to build broad agreements for the good of the nation,” President Gabriel Boric of Chile said in a televised address on Tuesday. “He was a democrat from the very beginning and genuinely sought what he believed was best for the country.” Mr. Boric announced three days of national mourning.

Perhaps Mr. Piñera’s most significant legacy was helping Chile’s conservative movement win power for the first time since the end of Chile’s brutal military dictatorship under Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1990.

After 20 years of leftist rule following the dictatorship, his first election, in 2010, showed that Chile’s democracy was strong and healthy, said Robert Funk, a political science professor at the University of Chile.

“He did that basically on his own,” Mr. Funk said. “He pushed the parties on the right to participate and accept the rules of the game at a time when they were not so convinced.”

Mr. Piñera is survived by his wife, Cecilia Morel, whom he married in 1973, and their four children.

Mr. Piñera made his first fortune by introducing credit cards to Chile during the dictatorship in the early 1980s. He later used those funds to invest in a vast array of companies, including in real estate, banking, energy and mining. He owned a television broadcaster along with major shares of an airline and a professional soccer club.

He then used his wealth to enter politics, first as a senator and later as president.

Mr. Piñera steered Chile through some of its most difficult moments in recent years. Weeks after he was elected in 2010, a powerful earthquake and tsunami killed 525 people in the country and displaced an additional 1.5 million.

Later that year, Mr. Piñera staked his presidency on rescuing 33 miners who were trapped nearly a half-mile underground. His government’s elaborate plan — drilling a narrow hole and lowering a custom-made capsule — was successful, and Mr. Piñera embraced and celebrated with the men as they were lifted to freedom one by one after 68 days underground.

In his second term, Mr. Piñera oversaw his government’s widely praised response to the pandemic, as he secured a large stock of vaccines from China and rolled out an efficient vaccination program.

His government also faced mass protests in 2019 that began over a small hike in subway fares but eventually ballooned into broad complaints over inequality.

Mr. Piñera used the military to quell the protests, and later clashes between the police and demonstrators left more than 30 civilians dead and 460 others blinded or with severe eye trauma from rubber bullets.

Eventually, Mr. Piñera acquiesced to demands for a national referendum on whether to scrap Chile’s Constitution, which had roots in the dictatorship. Chileans voted overwhelmingly to draft a new charter, but last December, after four years and two failed constitutional plebiscites, the nation chose to live, for now, with the current text.

Mr. Piñera was an efficient and skilled manager, who in general oversaw a broad improvement in Chileans’ quality of life, Mr. Funk said, but he also often failed as a politician and communicator, particularly in understanding poorer people’s problems.

“He governed through an Excel spreadsheet,” Mr. Funk said. “He said we’re doing well on this box, on this box. But his failure was that he didn’t have a sense of the politics beneath that, of people’s frustration, of how his governments would really rub people the wrong way.”

Mr. Piñera also faced scandals. He went into hiding briefly in the 1980s when the authorities sought to arrest him as part of an investigation into fraud at a bank he helped lead. He was never convicted.

When he transitioned from business to politics, he was criticized for conflicts of interest between his investments and his positions in public office.

As president, he was eventually forced to have his assets managed by blind trusts. Yet, it was later revealed that he had moved much of his wealth to tax havens in Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands, said Sergio Jara, the author of a book on Chilean business leaders, including Mr. Piñera.

“He was a voracious and diverse investor, owning minority shares in over 100 companies,” Mr. Jara said. “This allowed him to build one of Chile’s greatest fortunes.”

John Bartlett contributed reporting from Valdivia, Chile.

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President’s Assassination Case Yields an Unexpected Name: the First Lady’s

A Haitian prosecutor has recommended charges against 70 people for the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Among the former Colombian soldiers and Haitian government officials accused in the case is one unexpected name: former First Lady Martine Moïse, who was seriously injured in the attack.

A copy of a criminal complaint filed by a public prosecutor and submitted to a Haitian court that was obtained by The New York Times does not accuse her of planning the killing or offer any direct evidence of her involvement.

Instead, it says that she and other accomplices gave statements that were contradicted by other witnesses, suggesting that they were complicit in the attack and notes that one of the main suspects in custody in Haiti claimed Mrs. Moïse wanted to take over the presidency.

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Welcome to ‘Dalifornia,’ an Oasis for China’s Drifters and Dreamers

To find the dance circle in the bed-and-breakfast’s courtyard, drive north from the bedsheet factory converted into a crafts market, toward the vegan canteen urging diners to “walk barefoot in the soil and bathe in the sunshine.” If you see the unmanned craft beer bar where customers pay on the honor system, you’ve gone too far.

Welcome to the Chinese mountain city of Dali, also sometimes known as Dalifornia, an oasis for China’s disaffected, drifting or just plain curious.

The city’s nickname is a homage to California, and the easy-living, tree-hugging, sun-soaked stereotypes it evokes. It is also a nod to the influx of tech employees who have flocked there since the rise of remote work during the pandemic, to code amid the picturesque surroundings, nestled between snow-capped, 10,000-foot peaks in southwest China, on the shores of glistening Erhai Lake.


Map locates the city of Dali in southwest China, on the shores of Erhai Lake.

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For New Moms in Seoul, 3 Weeks of Pampering and Sleep at a Joriwon

Four mothers sat quietly in the nursing room around midnight, breastfeeding their newborn babies. As one mother nodded off, her eyelids heavy after giving birth less than two weeks earlier, a nurse came in and whisked her baby away. The exhausted new mom returned to her private room to sleep.

Sleep is just one of the luxuries provided by South Korea’s postpartum care centers.

The country may have the world’s lowest birthrate, but it is also home to perhaps some of its best postpartum care. At centers like St. Park, a small, boutique postpartum center, or joriwon, in Seoul, new moms are pampered for a few weeks after giving birth and treated to hotel-like accommodations.

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London’s Highline Will Echo Its New York Inspiration, With Local Notes

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The derelict rail bridge stretches across a busy north London street, green foliage peeking out of the gaps between the beams overhead, where bright blue paint flakes from rusting steel.

Farther east, the railway’s grand Victorian-era arches span a small slice of park wedged between two streets, where tents belonging to homeless people, a discarded mattress and broken bottles are scattered about.

While the elevated train line and some of the areas it cuts through may look neglected now, if all goes according to plan, it will become the site of the Camden Highline, a planned public park that aims to turn this disused stretch of the city into a thriving green space.


Map locates the proposed Camden Highline in Camden Town in north central London. It also locates the town of King’s Cross, east of Camden Town.

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An Italian Town Full of the Elderly Wants to Feel Young Again

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As the traveling brass band ended San Giovanni Lipioni’s annual holiday concert with a rendition of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” the gray-haired villagers seated in the old church of the central Italian hill town gazed dotingly at the few young children clapping to the music.

“Today there is a little movement,” Cesarina Falasco, 73, said from the back pew. “It’s lovely. It’s different.”

San Giovanni Lipioni used to be known — if at all — for the discovery in its countryside of a third-century B.C. Samnite bronze head, a rare Waldensian Evangelical community and an ancient annual pageant with pagan roots that venerates a circular cane garlanded in wild cyclamen flowers. (“It represents the female genital organ,” said a tourism official, Mattia Rossi.)


Map locates the the town of San Giovanni Lipioni in the Abruzzo region of Italy, as well as the town of San Salvo, also in Abruzzo. It also locates the region of Molise, south of Abruzzo, and the cities of Bologna, and Ribordone in northern Italy.

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

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A Woman Who Shows Age Is No Barrier to Talk Show Stardom

Pushing a walker through a television studio in central Tokyo earlier this week, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi slowly climbed three steps onto a sound stage with the help of an assistant who settled her into a creamy beige Empire armchair.

A stylist removed the custom-made sturdy boots on her feet and slipped on a pair of high-heeled mules. A makeup artist brushed her cheeks and touched up her blazing red lipstick. A hairdresser tamed a few stray wisps from her trademark onion-shaped hairstyle as another assistant ran a lint roller over her embroidered black jacket. With that, Ms. Kuroyanagi, 90, was ready to record the 12,193rd episode of her show.

As one of Japan’s best-known entertainers for seven decades, Ms. Kuroyanagi has interviewed guests on her talk show, “Tetsuko’s Room,” since 1976, earning a Guinness World Record last fall for most episodes hosted by the same presenter. Generations of Japanese celebrities across film, television, music, theater and sports have visited Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch, along with American stars like Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga; Prince Philip of England; and Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union. Ms. Kuroyanagi said Gorbachev remains one of her all-time favorite guests.

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They Thought They Knew Death, but That Didn’t Prepare Them for Oct. 7

At 76, David Weissenstern has collected the remains of the dead for most of his adult life. But after the Oct. 7 attacks, in which Hamas-led fighters killed about 1,200 people along Israel’s border with Gaza, he can no longer stand the smell of grilled meat. The odor, he says, reminds him too much of burned human flesh.

His son Duby Weissenstern, 48, has lost track of time after working successive days and nights to recover those killed on Oct. 7. He now marks time in relation to that date.

And his son-in-law Israel Ganot, 32, now gags at the smell of food that has turned rotten. He was in the second wave of recovery workers who reached bodies that had been trapped under rubble for weeks.

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

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Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

Depardieu, 75, has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been convicted in connection with any of the accusations against him.

On Monday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said that Darras’s suit was dropped in late December because the statute of limitations had run out on the alleged assault, an outcome that was widely expected — including by the actress herself. She told Agence France-Presse in December that she still “wanted to respond to the defense that plays down our allegations by saying they’re ‘just’ witness accounts.”

In France, adult victims of sexual assault have six years after an alleged crime to file a lawsuit.

Another lawsuit, filed in Spain by Ruth Baza, a Spanish journalist who has accused Depardieu of kissing and groping her without her consent when she was in Paris in 1995, could face a similar fate.

Depardieu has been charged with rape and sexual assault in a case involving Charlotte Arnould, a French actress who says he sexually assaulted her in Paris in 2018, when she was 22. That investigation is continuing, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

While allegations of Depardieu’s sexual misconduct had been growing for years, criticism of the actor resurfaced recently after the France 2 documentary.

Darras was one of 13 women — actresses, makeup artists and production staff — who in April had told Mediapart, an investigative news website, that Depardieu had made inappropriate sexual comments or gestures during film shoots over the years.

In the France 2 documentary, and in interviews with Mediapart and other outlets, Darras said that in 2007, on the set of “Disco,” Depardieu had groped her repeatedly in between takes, touching her hips and buttocks, and had propositioned her, even after she refused.

Darras, who was 26 at the time, had said that no one on set had reacted to the groping because Depardieu was treated like a “king,” and that she had been afraid to speak out because she was just starting her career and was worried about being blacklisted.

In a news conference this month, Macron — who had condemned what he called a “manhunt” against Depardieu — said he had “no regrets about defending the presumption of innocence for a public figure.”

But, he added: “If I have one regret, at that moment, it’s that I didn’t say enough about the importance of the voice of women who are victims of this violence, and how essential this fight is for me.”

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

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Luis Rubiales, Ex-Chief of Spanish Soccer, to Face Trial Over World Cup Kiss

Luis Rubiales, Spain’s onetime soccer chief, is due to be tried over his nonconsensual kiss of a star player during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony last summer after a judge recommended on Thursday that he face a court’s judgment in a high-profile case that has upended the sport in Spain.

The judge also recommended that Mr. Rubiales and three officials with the Royal Spanish Football Federation, soccer’s governing body in the country — including Jorge Vilda, who was fired as the women’s team coach in the wake of the incident — be tried on charges of coercion for exerting pressure on the player, Jennifer Hermoso, to show support for Mr. Rubiales in the immediate aftermath of the kiss.

The judge concluded that the kiss by Mr. Rubiales, after the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney, Australia, “was nonconsensual and was a unilateral and surprise act.” The judge also found that even if the kiss was more celebratory than sexual in nature, Mr. Rubiales’s behavior was within the bounds of the “intimacy of sexual relations” and he should be held to account.

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El rey Carlos es diagnosticado con cáncer. Hay preocupación y pocos detalles

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El rey Carlos III ha sido diagnosticado con un tipo de cáncer y suspenderá sus compromisos públicos para someterse al tratamiento médico, lo que ensombrece un ajetreado reinado que comenzó hace menos de 18 meses tras la muerte de su madre, la reina Isabel II.

El anuncio, hecho por el Palacio de Buckingham el lunes por la noche, se produjo una semana después de que el monarca, de 75 años, fuera dado de alta de un hospital londinense, tras una intervención para tratar un agrandamiento de la próstata.

El palacio no reveló qué tipo de cáncer padece Carlos, pero un funcionario del palacio dijo que no era cáncer de próstata. Los médicos lo detectaron durante la intervención y el rey comenzó el tratamiento el lunes.

La noticia del diagnóstico de Carlos resonó en todo el Reino Unido, el cual, tras siete décadas de reinado de Isabel, ha empezado a sentirse cómodo con su hijo. Carlos esperó más tiempo para ascender al trono que nadie en la historia de la monarquía británica, y ya era una figura conocida: su vida personal fue diseccionada de forma implacable por los medios británicos en el momento en que se convirtió en soberano.

Sin embargo, como rey, Carlos se ha convertido en un veterano estadista seguro de sí mismo, y le ha impreso un sello sutil pero inconfundible a la monarquía. Ha realizado numerosos viajes y se ha pronunciado sobre temas como el cambio climático, los cuales han sido importantes para él desde hace mucho tiempo.

La preocupación por Carlos se mezcló con la esperanza de que pueda recuperarse rápidamente. Pero a falta de detalles sobre su estado, inevitablemente hubo especulaciones mientras los observadores reales analizaban el anuncio de cuatro párrafos del palacio.

“Durante el reciente procedimiento hospitalario del rey por el agrandamiento benigno de la próstata, se notó otro problema digno de preocupación”, declaró el palacio. “Las pruebas diagnósticas subsiguientes han identificado un tipo de cáncer. Su Majestad ha comenzado hoy un calendario de tratamientos regulares, durante el cual los médicos le han aconsejado posponer los deberes públicos”.

Funcionarios del palacio afirmaron que el rey seguirá desempeñando otras funciones, entre ellas su reunión semanal con el primer ministro, así como la montaña diaria de papeleo que completa como jefe de Estado. Los funcionarios dijeron que no había planes para nombrar consejeros de Estado que actuaran en su lugar, una medida que podría indicar que el soberano era incapaz de cumplir con sus obligaciones debido a la enfermedad.

El palacio dijo que Carlos “permanece completamente optimista acerca de su tratamiento” y que esperaba con interés la reanudación de los compromisos públicos. Regresó de su residencia campestre, Sandringham, a Londres para comenzar el tratamiento como paciente externo, dijeron funcionarios del palacio.

Carlos, que ascendió al trono en septiembre de 2022, ha gozado por lo general de buena salud. De niño sufrió de amigdalitis recurrente, pero de adulto practicó deportes vigorosos como el senderismo, el polo y el esquí.

La revelación por parte del rey de la intervención de la próstata, y ahora de su diagnóstico de cáncer, es inusual en la familia real, cuyos miembros suelen decir poco sobre su salud. Tras la muerte de la reina a los 96 años, el palacio emitió su certificado de defunción, en el que figuraba su causa de muerte simplemente como “vejez.

Aun así, los funcionarios de palacio dejaron claro el lunes que no publicarían actualizaciones periódicas sobre el estado del rey y pidieron a los periodistas que no intentaran ponerse en contacto con las personas implicadas en su tratamiento.

El palacio declaró en su comunicado que el rey había decidido compartir su diagnóstico “para evitar especulaciones y con la esperanza de que pueda ayudar a la comprensión pública para todos aquellos en todo el mundo que están afectados por el cáncer”.

El hijo menor del rey, el príncipe Enrique, ha estado en contacto con su padre y tiene planeado viajar al Reino Unido para visitarlo, según la BBC. Enrique ha estado en gran medida alejado de la familia real desde que él y su esposa, Meghan, anunciaron que se retiraban de sus funciones oficiales y se mudaron a California.

Funcionarios del palacio dijeron que la reina Camila seguirá llevando a cabo un cronograma completo de compromisos oficiales durante el tratamiento de su marido. Ella fue una visitante frecuente durante su hospitalización por el tratamiento de la próstata en la Clínica de Londres, un hospital privado de élite en el vecindario de Marylebone de la ciudad.

La enfermedad de Carlos es el colofón de un periodo de noticias preocupantes relacionadas con la salud de la familia real. Catalina, esposa del príncipe Guillermo, estuvo hospitalizada casi dos semanas tras someterse a una cirugía abdominal. Fue dada de alta la semana pasada, pero el palacio de Kensington ha dado pocos detalles sobre su recuperación, que se espera que dure hasta después de las vacaciones de Pascua.

Sarah Ferguson, duquesa de York y exesposa del hermano menor del rey, el príncipe Andrés, declaró recientemente que le habían diagnosticado un melanoma, un tipo grave de cáncer de piel. Fue su segundo diagnóstico de cáncer en un año. Ferguson, de 64 años, había hablado públicamente sobre su decisión de someterse a una mastectomía y cirugía reconstructiva el año pasado, tras el diagnóstico de un cáncer de mama en el verano.

La noticia de la enfermedad del rey suscitó una avalancha de buenos deseos por parte de líderes británicos y mundiales, así como de otras personalidades públicas.

“Le deseo a Su Majestad una completa y rápida recuperación”, publicó el primer ministro Rishi Sunak en las redes sociales. “No me cabe duda de que recuperará toda su fuerza en poco tiempo y sé que todo el país le deseará lo mejor”.

El presidente Joe Biden, de viaje en Las Vegas, dijo a los periodistas: “Estoy preocupado por él. Acabo de enterarme de su diagnóstico”. Biden, que fue recibido en el castillo de Windsor por el rey el pasado mes de julio, dijo que esperaba hablar pronto con Carlos.

Michelle O’Neill, la líder nacionalista irlandesa que acaba de ser nombrada ministra principal de Irlanda del Norte, escribió en X: “Siento mucho enterarme de la enfermedad del rey Carlos y quiero desearle lo mejor para su tratamiento y una completa y rápida recuperación”.

Los observadores de la realeza se mostraron reacios a especular sobre cómo afectaría la enfermedad del rey a la corona, dada la escasez de información sobre su estado. Algunos señalaron con esperanza la optimista caracterización del estado de ánimo de Carlos por parte del palacio.

“Si el rey enferma de gravedad, entonces habrá cuestiones constitucionales que responder”, dijo Ed Owens, historiador de la realeza que publicó recientemente un libro, After Elizabeth: Can the Monarchy Save Itself? (“Después de Isabel: ¿Puede salvarse a sí misma la monarquía?”).

“Del mismo modo, un periodo prolongado fuera de la atención pública exigirá que el resto de la familia real —ya sobrecargada de trabajo— haga más”.

Owens afirmó que la edad del rey hacía inevitable la preocupación por su salud, y añadió: “Son momentos como éste los que ponen de manifiesto las cualidades muy humanas, y potencialmente frágiles, de la Constitución del Reino Unido”.

En su breve estancia en el trono, Carlos ha sido a la vez una figura de continuidad y de cambio: ha llevado una vida muy parecida a la que ha tenido durante décadas, pero ha adoptado un papel más comprometido políticamente que el que nunca tuvo su madre.

El año pasado, recibió en el castillo de Windsor a la presidenta de la Comisión Europea, Ursula von der Leyen, tras la firma de un acuerdo comercial sobre Irlanda del Norte con Sunak. El momento en que se realizó esta actividad suscitó críticas, ya que parecía darle un visto bueno real al acuerdo, en lo que algunos consideraron una intervención indebida del monarca en la política.

El rey realizó con gran éxito dos visitas de Estado a Europa: se dirigió al Parlamento alemán con un servicial empleo del idioma alemán y atrajo a multitudes entusiasmadas durante un paseo con el presidente de Francia, Emmanuel Macron.

En diciembre, Carlos pronunció un discurso en la ceremonia inaugural de la cumbre climática de Naciones Unidas en Dubái, en el que enumeró una letanía de desastres naturales relacionados con el clima que habían azotado al mundo en el último año: incendios forestales en Canadá; inundaciones en India, Pakistán y Bangladés; ciclones en el Pacífico; y una sequía en África Oriental.

“Estamos llevando el mundo natural fuera de normas y límites equilibrados, y a un peligroso territorio inexplorado”, afirmó. “Nuestra elección ahora es más cruda y oscura: ¿Hasta qué punto estamos dispuestos a hacer de nuestro mundo un lugar peligroso?”.

Mark Landler es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Londres del Times. Cubre el Reino Unido así como la política exterior estadounidense en Europa, Asia y Medio Oriente. Es periodista desde hace más de tres décadas. Más de Mark Landler

Nayib Bukele se adjudica la victoria en El Salvador

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Nayib Bukele, el presidente milénial que reconfiguró su país con una serie de medidas enérgicas contra las pandillas y las libertades civiles, se adjudicó una victoria aplastante en las elecciones de El Salvador del domingo, lo que podría extender durante años su control sobre cada área del gobierno.

Si bien no se han dado a conocer los resultados oficiales, las encuestas habían insinuado durante semanas que Bukele ganaría por mucho, mostrando que los votantes casi con certeza le darían otro periodo de cinco años y ampliarían la mayoría absoluta de su partido en la legislatura.

La noche del domingo, el presidente dio un discurso a miles de sus seguidores que se reunieron en la plaza central de San Salvador, la capital, en el que aseguró haber conseguido más del 85 por ciento de los votos y dijo que su partido, Nuevas Ideas, logró casi todas las curules de la Asamblea Legislativa, descartando las preocupaciones de que bajo su mandato se habían efectuado prácticas represivas y deteriorado las normas democráticas.

“Sería la primera vez que en un país existe un partido único en un sistema plenamente democrático” dijo Bukele a la multitud. “Toda la oposición junta quedó pulverizada”.

Los problemas con el registro del recuento de los votos paralizaron la transmisión de los resultados preliminares el domingo por la noche, y el lunes por la mañana los colegios electorales tuvieron que pasar a registrar los votos a mano, según informó la autoridad electoral. La página web con los resultados preliminares mostraba que, con el 70 por ciento de las actas procesadas, Bukele había obtenido el 83 por ciento de los votos.

El lunes por la mañana no se había aclarado el conteo para la legislatura.

Los juristas afirmaron que Bukele violó una prohibición constitucional al buscar un segundo mandato consecutivo, pero los votantes lo respaldaron de todos modos.

Desde que impuso un estado de excepción en la primavera de 2022, el gobierno de Bukele ha encarcelado a miles de personas sin un debido proceso, inundado las calles de soldados y suspendido libertades civiles cruciales. Sin embargo, las pandillas que alguna vez gobernaron el país han sido diezmadas, otorgándole al líder de 42 años una enorme popularidad.

“La mayoría de salvadoreños estamos de acuerdo en que Nayib Bukele siga”, dijo David Lobato, de 38 años, afuera de un centro de votación en San Salvador, la capital. “Ha dado un giro al país, las cosas están distintas”.

Los cinco candidatos presidenciales de la oposición no lograron casi ningún avance en las encuestas. Entre ellos, los contendientes del partido de derecha Arena y del partido de izquierda Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, o FMLN, que dominaron la política salvadoreña por 30 años.

El lunes, el secretario de Estado de EE. UU., Antony Blinken, felicitó a Bukele en la plataforma de redes sociales X. “Esperamos seguir priorizando la buena gobernanza, la prosperidad económica inclusiva, las garantías de un juicio justo y los derechos humanos en El Salvador”, dijo.

Ricardo Zúniga, que fungió como enviado especial del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. a Centroamérica durante la presidencia de Joe Biden, dijo que la decisión de Bukele de buscar la reelección “es una demostración de poder”.

“Quieren demostrar que pueden hacerlo”, dijo. “Que tienen el apoyo popular para hacerlo, y quieren que todos simplemente se resignen a ello, sin importar lo que diga la Constitución”.

Los críticos dijeron que les preocupaba que la votación del domingo solo incentivara a Bukele a profundizar sus ataques a los medios de comunicación, los grupos civiles y cualquier otra persona que representara una amenaza a su control.

El compañero de fórmula de Bukele para la vicepresidencia, Félix Ulloa, declaró al Times que ambos estaban “eliminando” un sistema democrático que solo benefició a los corruptos y dejó al país con decenas de miles de personas asesinadas. “A esta gente que dice se está desmantelando la democracia, mi respuesta es sí. No la estamos desmantelando, la estamos eliminando, la estamos sustituyendo por algo nuevo”, dijo Ulloa.

En una conferencia de prensa el domingo, Bukele dijo: “Nosotros no estamos sustituyendo la democracia porque El Salvador jamás tuvo democracia”. Y añadió: “Esta es la primera vez en la historia que El Salvador tiene democracia”.

El argumento más fuerte de la candidatura de Bukele fueron los casi dos años de estado de excepción que su gobierno impuso luego de que las pandillas que dominaban las calles desde hace mucho tiempo cometieron una ola de asesinatos en marzo de 2022.

Las autoridades han arrestado a unas 75.000 personas desde entonces, incluidas 7000 que finalmente fueron liberadas y miles más que no son miembros de pandillas pero siguen tras las rejas, según organizaciones defensoras de derechos humanos. También han presentado informes sobre reclusos que han sido torturados y privados de alimentos.

Pero la transformación de El Salvador ha sido innegable. Las tres pandillas que convirtieron al país en uno de los lugares más violentos del mundo al parecer han perdido todo vestigio de poder.

“El principal pilar sobre el que ha construido este respaldo social es lo que ha hecho el gobierno en materia de seguridad”, afirmó Omar Serrano, vicerrector de Proyección Social de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas. “El estado de excepción es lo que la gente más valora”.

Bukele, descendiente de una familia de migrantes palestinos que llegaron a Centroamérica a principios del siglo XX, es uno de 10 hermanos y medios hermanos criados en la Escalón, una colonia de clase media alta en San Salvador, la capital. Bukele estudió en un colegio bilingüe de élite.

Después de trabajar como publicista en varias campañas electorales, Bukele incursionó en la política y rápidamente saltó a la fama. Con 30 años, se convirtió en alcalde de Nuevo Cuscatlán, un pequeño municipio a las afueras de San Salvador, representando al partido de izquierda FMLN. Tres años después se convirtió en alcalde de San Salvador, un cargo que es considerado como un trampolín para la presidencia.

En vísperas de las elecciones presidenciales de 2019, Bukele fundó su propio partido, Nuevas Ideas, pero se postuló como el candidato de un pequeño partido de derecha, GANA, a fin de cumplir con los requerimientos legales para competir. Obtuvo la victoria gracias a la promesa de romper con la política corrupta del pasado.

Sin embargo, una vez en la presidencia, Bukele viró hacia tácticas que muchos percibieron como un retorno al liderazgo autocrático por el que el país había librado una guerra civil de 12 años que terminó en 1992.

Envió soldados a la Asamblea Legislativa para presionar a los congresistas a aprobar financiación para el gobierno y luego reemplazó a un fiscal general que investigaba casos de corrupción en su gestión.

En 2021, tras ganar la mayoría absoluta en el Congreso, su partido reemplazó a los jueces principales de la Corte Suprema, la cual pocos meses después reinterpretó la Constitución para permitirle competir de nuevo por la presidencia.

Hay algunos focos de resistencia hacia Bukele, especialmente entre aquellos que dicen que sus familiares fueron encarcelados injustamente.

“Nosotros como ciudadanos estábamos en la obligación de venir y demostrar que por lo menos hay un porcentaje que no está de acuerdo con las políticas que se están llevando”, dijo Nelson Melara, de 41 años, que votó en la capital el domingo por la tarde.

“Hay cosas buenas con este gobierno, pero también hay cosas malas que merecen muchas interrogantes”, dijo.

Sin embargo, su atractivo apenas ha menguado en el país y entre un notable contingente de admiradores en todo el hemisferio. Políticos de Colombia y Ecuador han prometido emularlo.

“Los de mi generación pensamos que, aunque el poder se esté concentrando en una persona, siento que valdría la pena”, dijo Natalia Pérez, de 27 años, resaltando que por primera vez en mucho tiempo puede caminar de noche y sentirse segura. “Hemos visto acciones y cambios”, añadió.

Natalie Kitroeff es jefa de la corresponsalía del Times en México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff


Los incendios forestales en Chile consumieron un jardín botánico de 107 años

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

El viernes por la tarde, cientos de personas deambulaban por los idílicos terrenos del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Viña del Mar, en Chile, en su mayoría ajenos a que, justo al otro lado de unas colinas y una carretera, un voraz incendio forestal galopaba hacia ellos.

El peligro no tardó en hacerse patente. Los guardaparques empezaron a recorrer el lugar en moto, gritando a los visitantes que huyeran hacia las salidas. Pero cuando muchos llegaron allí, el fuego ya había arribado.

“Un humo negro y grueso se alzaba arriba de nosotros, así que nos tiramos al pasto justo dentro de la reja”, recordó Alejandro Peirano, el director del jardín, el lunes por la mañana. “Uno de mis guardaparques me miró y me dijo: ‘Director, ¿vamos a morir?’”.

En otro lugar, otros tres guardaparques intentaban rescatar a una compañera, Patricia Araya, de 60 años, cuidadora de un invernadero que vivía en el jardín y cuidaba de sus dos nietos y de su madre, de 92 años. Llegaron a la puerta de su cabaña, pero el fuego se acercaba. “Sentía que el calor me quemaba la espalda. Me di cuenta que me caían encima pedazos” de corteza, dijo Freddy Sánchez, de 50 años, el lunes, mientras resguardaba la entrada del parque.

“Tuvimos que volver”, dijo. “Lo único que el cuerpo quiere es buscar cómo escapar del calor”.

La multitud que se apiñó en el jardín delantero sobrevivió. Fue una especie de milagro, dado que el 98 por ciento del jardín de más de 400 hectáreas fue destruido.

Araya, su madre y sus dos nietos no lo hicieron, convirtiéndose en cuatro de las 122 muertes confirmadas en uno de los incendios forestales más mortíferos de la historia moderna.

El lunes, las autoridades continuaron la búsqueda de cadáveres con perros rastreadores en los casi 65 kilómetros cuadrados arrasados por los rápidos incendios del viernes en la provincia de Valparaíso, una popular zona turística cerca de la costa central de Chile.

También hicieron balance de la destrucción general, incluidas unas 15.000 viviendas y una de las joyas nacionales de Chile: el Jardín Botánico Nacional de Viña del Mar, de 107 años de antigüedad.

El jardín botánico, que se extiende a lo largo de unos cuatro kilómetros cuadrados, es uno de los más grandes del mundo, y es también un centro crucial de conservación e investigación para la región. Durante décadas, el personal ha construido y estudiado un jardín diverso, con más de 1000 especies de árboles, entre ellas algunas de las más raras del mundo.

Debido a la aislada geografía de Chile, un país incrustado entre la cordillera de los Andes y el océano Pacífico, el país alberga muchas especies vegetales endémicas, es decir, que no aparecen en ningún otro lugar en estado salvaje.

El jardín ha sido fundamental para preservar esas especies, entre ellas muchos cactus raros. También ha albergado plantas medicinales, plantas exóticas de Europa y Asia, una gran colección de especies de las remotas islas Juan Fernández, en el Pacífico, y algunos de los últimos árboles Sophora toromiro conocidos del mundo, originarios de Rapa Nui, o Isla de Pascua, pero extintos en estado salvaje.

“Es una pérdida terrible. Años y años de investigación que muchísima gente ha hecho en el jardín, cultivando colecciones especiales”, dijo Noelia Álvarez de Román, especialista en América Latina de Botanic Gardens Conservation International, una red mundial de jardines botánicos.

Peirano dijo que el parque había sido dañado por incendios en el pasado, incluyendo en 2013 y 2022, con alrededor de una cuarta parte de los terrenos quemados. Comentó que el personal está habituado y que patrullan diariamente las zonas más susceptibles al fuego, limpiándolas y concientizando a las personas.

“Pero este incendio fue totalmente inesperado”, añadió. “Nunca hemos visto nada de esta magnitud”.

Wildfires in Chile’s Valparaíso region

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Source: NASA Notes: Data is as of 8:31 a.m. Chile Summer Time on Feb. 7. Areas marked in red indicate where active burning was detected within 24 hours of the most recent fires reflected on the map. Exact fire boundaries may differ from the map by 500 meters or more. By Madison Dong, John Keefe and Matthew Bloch

Peirano subrayó que las vidas perdidas eran mucho más devastadoras que los daños físicos. Araya había trabajado en el parque durante unos 40 años, y esta semana había planeado celebrar una nueva ceremonia de matrimonio con su pareja de muchos años para luego irse de vacaciones juntos, dijo Peirano en una entrevista en la televisión.

Ya se había tomado el viernes libre en el trabajo, y sus nietos, de 1 y 9 años, habían llegado a quedarse con ella ese mismo día.

Las autoridades reiteraron el lunes que creían que los incendios habían sido provocados de manera intencional.

El gobernador de la provincia de Valparaíso, Rodrigo Mundaca, declaró a la prensa que las autoridades habían determinado que al menos un incendio de grandes proporciones comenzó hacia las 2 p. m. del viernes en cuatro focos diferentes, a pocos metros unos de otros.

“¿Me parece que eso puede ser espontáneo, natural? No”, dijo, y añadió que los trabajadores de los bosques nacionales habían apagado fuegos provocados intencionadamente un día antes. “Por lo tanto”, añadió, “yo lo he dicho: aquí hay una intencionalidad manifiesta y esperamos que la justicia pueda dar con los responsables”.

Dos personas fueron detenidas el domingo como sospechosas de intentar provocar incendios cerca del jardín botánico, pero posteriormente fueron puestas en libertad porque la policía dijo que no tenía pruebas suficientes. Las autoridades dijeron que mantendrían los toques de queda nocturnos mientras proseguían la investigación y la recuperación de los incendios.

Las altas temperaturas y la sequía que precedieron a los incendios crearon condiciones peligrosas en Chile. El fenómeno climático cíclico conocido como El Niño ha contribuido al calor y la sequía en algunas zonas de Sudamérica, y el cambio climático global también ha provocado un aumento generalizado de las temperaturas.

Los fuertes vientos del viernes hicieron que los incendios se propagaran rápidamente, lo que sorprendió a las autoridades y dejó a muchas personas atrapadas tratando de escapar de los asentamientos en las laderas. El lunes, los bomberos habían controlado en gran medida las llamas.

En el jardín botánico, el humo de los bosques de eucaliptos quemados todavía flotaba en el aire, mientras los trabajadores talaban los árboles caídos con motosierras y helicópteros con enormes cubos de agua sobrevolaban la zona. Peirano estaba claramente entristecido, y calificó los jardines carbonizados que tenía a sus espaldas de “un tesoro para los chilenos”, pero también se mostró decidido a que el bosque volviera a crecer.

“Los bosques nativos volverán a brotar, pero vamos a necesitar que lleguen las lluvias y esas no van a llegar antes de mayo”, dijo. Añadió que algunas de las especies exóticas del jardín también sobrevivieron al infierno, al igual que el histórico baniano de 150 años de Lahaina, Hawái, del cual empezaron a brotar hojas pocas semanas después de que un incendio forestal destruyera gran parte de la ciudad.

Entre las plantas supervivientes se encontraban algunos de los casi extintos árboles Sophora toromiro de Rapa Nui, así como árboles Ginkgo biloba del “Jardín de la Paz” del parque, formado por plantas que sobrevivieron a la bomba atómica de Hiroshima, Japón.

El lunes, en una entrevista en la televisión, dijo que estas plantas habían tenido fuerza “para brotar después de Hiroshima”. Y añadió que, ya que el incendio les pasó por encima, tendrán “doble fuerza si superan esta etapa”, y su significado será doblemente fuerte.

Daniel Politi y Lis Moriconi colaboraron con la reportería.


La primera dama y el bolso Dior: una crisis política sacude Corea del Sur

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

El presidente estaba enfrentando una economía en desaceleración, una mortífera avalancha humana y amenazas nucleares de un vecino beligerante. Luego se presentó un escándalo mucho más personal: las imágenes de una cámara oculta que mostraban a su esposa aceptando como regalo un bolso Dior de 2200 dólares.

Se ha convertido, rápidamente, en una de las mayores crisis políticas para el presidente Yoon Suk Yeol de Corea del Sur, quien se ha destacado en la política exterior al alinear su país más estrechamente con Estados Unidos y Japón, pero se ha visto empantanado con controversias en casa. Y muchas de ellas involucran a la primera dama, Kim Keon Hee.

El video de Kim, que se dio a conocer a fines del año pasado, causó una ruptura entre Yoon y uno de sus lugartenientes de mayor confianza. Ha sacudido a su partido político: un miembro de alto rango pidió a Kim que se disculpara y la comparó con María Antonieta. Y, según las encuestas, se ha convertido en un problema significativo antes de unas elecciones parlamentarias cruciales en una atmósfera política cada vez más polarizada.

Durante casi dos años, Kim ha desafiado cómo esta sociedad profundamente patriarcal ve el papel de la cónyuge presidencial. A diferencia de las primeras damas anteriores, que solían permanecer a la sombra de sus maridos, ella ha disfrutado de la atención mediática e incluso ha instado públicamente al gobierno de Yoon a prohibir la cría y el sacrificio de perros para el consumo humano. Ha hablado sobre la devoción de Yoon por ella, diciendo en 2022 que él había prometido cocinar para ella y “mantuvo esa promesa durante la última década”.

Pero Kim también ha cortejado frecuentemente la controversia, a veces de maneras que, según los críticos, ponen de relieve su influencia indebida en el gobierno.

En 2021, cuando Yoon, quien había sido fiscal, estaba en campaña para la presidencia, ella se disculpó por maquillar su currículum para promocionar su negocio de exposiciones de arte. Luego vino la publicación de conversaciones con un reportero, quien grabó secretamente a Kim insinuando que estaba profundamente involucrada en la campaña de su esposo. Llamaba a Yoon “un tonto” que “no puede hacer nada sin mí”. También declaró que se vengaría de los medios de comunicación hostiles “si tomo el poder”.

Kim también ha enfrentado acusaciones de que estuvo envuelta en un esquema de manipulación de precios de acciones antes de la elección de Yoon. En diciembre, el Parlamento controlado por la oposición aprobó un proyecto de ley que hubiera dispuesto que un fiscal especial investigara los dichos. Yoon, de 63 años, quien como Kim, de 51, ha negado las acusaciones, vetó el proyecto de ley.

Yoon, quien ha dicho que su “recuerdo más feliz” fue casarse con Kim en 2012, no ha podido dejar atrás las imágenes relacionadas con la bolsa de Dior.

El video fue tomado en septiembre de 2022 por un pastor coreano-estadounidense llamado Choi Jae-young con una cámara oculta dentro de un reloj de pulsera. Las primeras noticias sobre el episodio surgieron más de un año después, en un canal de YouTube de izquierda llamado la Voz de Seúl, el mismo medio que publicó la charla de Kim con un reportero.

En el video se muestra a Choi de visita en la oficina personal de Kim fuera del complejo presidencial dándole el regalo.

“¿Por qué sigues trayendo estas cosas?”, se le oye decir a Kim. “Por favor, no necesitas hacer esto”.

Choi aboga por relaciones amistosas entre Corea del Norte y Corea del Sur, mientras que Yoon ha adoptado una postura más agresiva hacia el Norte. Dijo que conoció a Kim cuando Yoon estaba en campaña para presidente y recibió una invitación para la toma de posesión de Yoon en mayo de 2022. Un mes después, visitó la oficina de Kim para agradecerle y dijo que le regaló un juego de cosméticos de Chanel de 1300 dólares.

Durante esa reunión, Choi dijo que escuchó una conversación en la que Kim parecía estar desempeñando un papel en el nombramiento de un alto funcionario del gobierno. Dijo que fue entonces cuando decidió “desenmascararla”. Un reportero de la Voz de Seúl le proporcionó la cámara espía y el bolso Dior de piel de ternera azul nube, y Choi envió una foto del bolso Dior a Kim, pidiendo otra reunión.

Choi dijo que aunque había pedido reunirse con la primera dama varias veces, solo se le concedió audiencia en dos ocasiones y únicamente cuando ella sabía de antemano que llevaba regalos caros. A los funcionarios gubernamentales y sus cónyuges se les prohíbe aceptar regalos con valor de más de 750 dólares incluso si no hay un posible conflicto de interés.

“El regalo era un boleto para una audiencia con ella”, dijo Choi.

En el video, Kim también expresó su deseo de “participar activamente en las relaciones Corea del Sur-Corea del Norte”, lo que hace temer que se estuviera extralimitando en su papel.

Mientras que el escándalo causa estragos, Kim ha evitado apariciones públicas durante un mes y medio. Cuando se le preguntó a la oficina de Yoon si el presidente y Kim tenían algún comentario sobre el asunto, respondió que no tenía “nada que compartir”.

Kim no ha comentado públicamente sobre las diversas acusaciones en su contra desde su disculpa de 2021, cuando dijo que se “limitaría al papel de esposa” si Yoon era elegido. Pero durante una inusual entrevista con Artnet News el año pasado, señaló un cambio, al decir que quería convertirse en “una vendedora de la cultura K” y apoyar a Yoon y su gobierno en la “diplomacia cultural”.

En las conversaciones grabadas por Choi y Voz de Seúl, ella parecía negar las acusaciones de irregularidades, calificándolas de campañas de difamación política.

Algunos funcionarios del Partido del Poder Popular de Yoon han acusado a Choi de tender una “trampa” a Kim y programar la publicación del video para influir en las elecciones de abril. También han dicho que Kim no ha usado el bolso, que ha sido almacenado en un depósito presidencial.

En las encuestas, una mayoría de los surcoreanos dicen que fue inapropiado que Kim aceptara el bolso y que quieren una investigación y una explicación de Yoon.

“Este es un asunto explosivo” porque recuerda a los surcoreanos la corrupción recurrente que ha deshonrado a la mayoría de los expresidentes del país, dijo Ahn Byong-jin, politólogo de la Universidad Kyung Hee en Seúl.

Algunos miembros del partido de Yoon han exigido una disculpa de Kim como control de daños. La oposición acusó a Kim de tráfico de influencias y “manipulación de asuntos gubernamentales”. Yoon, agregaron, estaba siendo excesivamente protector de su esposa, en marcado contraste con el enérgico enjuiciamiento de su gobierno por cargos de corrupción contra Lee Jae-myung, el líder de la oposición.

Yoon también ha sido criticado por sus aliados en los medios de comunicación.

“Los conservadores de este país ya no pueden cargar con el ‘riesgo Kim Keon Hee’”, dijo un columnista en el diario conservador Dong-A Ilbo.

El presidente del Partido del Poder Popular, Kim Gi-hyeon, renunció ante la creciente presión,. Yoon lo reemplazó con un aliado cercano, Han Dong-hoon. Pero Han pareció criticar cómo el gobierno gestionó el escándalo y nombró al alto oficial que luego comparó a la primera dama con María Antonieta, una crítica que resonó ampliamente entre el público.

Yoon luego exigió la renuncia de Han, según los medios locales, pero la semana pasada los dos hombres parecían haber llegado a una tregua incómoda.

Su manejo del escándalo ha mostrado cuánta influencia tiene Kim dentro de la oficina de Yoon, dijeron analistas políticos. Es por eso que los surcoreanos bromeaban, a decir de Ahn, con que “hay dos VIP en la oficina de Yoon y la VIP Número 1 es Kim Keon Hee”.

Choe Sang-Hun es el jefe de la corresponsalía de The New York Times en Seúl. Cubre noticias de Corea del Norte y del Sur. Más de Choe Sang-Hun


La censura china busca acallar a las voces que critican sus políticas económicas

Daisuke Wakabayashi y

Reportando desde Seúl

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La principal agencia de inteligencia de China emitió el mes pasado una ominosa advertencia sobre una amenaza creciente para la seguridad nacional del país: los chinos que critican la economía.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

En una serie de publicaciones en su cuenta oficial de WeChat, el Ministerio de Seguridad del Estado pidió a los ciudadanos que comprendieran la visión económica del presidente Xi Jinping y no se dejaran influir por quienes buscan “denigrar la economía de China” mediante “falsas narrativas”. Las autoridades del ministerio dijeron que, para combatir ese riesgo, los organismos de seguridad se centrarán en “reforzar la propaganda económica y la orientación de la opinión pública”.

China intensifica su represión mientras lucha por recuperar el dinamismo y el rápido crecimiento económico del pasado. Pekín ha censurado y ha tratado de intimidar a economistas prestigiosos, analistas financieros, bancos de inversión y personas influyentes en las redes sociales por sus valoraciones críticas de la economía y las políticas del gobierno. Además, se están suprimiendo los artículos periodísticos sobre personas que pasan apuros económicos o sobre el bajo nivel de vida de los trabajadores inmigrantes.

China ha seguido dando unas perspectivas positivas para la economía, señalando que el año pasado superó su previsión de crecimiento económico del 5 por ciento sin recurrir a medidas de estímulo arriesgadas y costosas. Sin embargo, más allá de las cifras, su industria financiera batalla por contener enormes cantidades de deuda de los gobiernos locales, su mercado bursátil se tambalea y su sector inmobiliario está en crisis. El lunes se ordenó la liquidación de China Evergrande, una promotora inmobiliaria ambiciosa que estaba acuciada por una deuda de más de 300.000 millones de dólares.

El alcance de la nueva campaña de información es mayor que el de la labor habitual de los censores gubernamentales, quienes siempre han vigilado de cerca las conversaciones sobre economía en internet. Ahora sus esfuerzos se extienden a los comentarios económicos generales que se permitían en el pasado. La implicación de las agencias de seguridad también evidencia cómo los intereses empresariales y económicos entran en la visión cada vez más grande de Xi acerca de lo que constituye una amenaza para la seguridad nacional.

En noviembre, el Ministerio de Seguridad del Estado, autodenominándose como “firmes guardianes de la seguridad financiera”, afirmó que otros países utilizaban las finanzas como arma en los juegos geopolíticos.

“Algunas personas con segundas intenciones intentan crear problemas y sacar provecho del caos”, escribió el ministerio. “No se trata solo del ‘mercado del oso’ y ‘los vendedores en corto’. Estos agoreros del mercado intentan sacudir la confianza inversora de la comunidad internacional en China y desencadenar una agitación financiera interna en nuestro país”.

En el último año, China ha fijado su atención en las empresas consultoras y asesoras con vínculos en el extranjero mediante redadas, detenciones y arrestos. Estas empresas, que ayudaban a las compañías a evaluar las inversiones en el país, se han convertido en un daño colateral en la campaña de Xi para reforzar la seguridad nacional. Estos esfuerzos por frenar el flujo de información, restringir la publicación de datos económicos desfavorables y limitar el discurso financiero crítico solo parecen aumentar la preocupación de los inversores y las empresas extranjeras sobre el estado real de la economía china.

“En mi opinión, cuanto más suprime el gobierno la información negativa sobre la economía, menos confianza tiene la gente en la situación económica real”, dijo Xiao Qiang, investigador científico de la Escuela de Información de la Universidad de California en Berkeley.

Las nuevas inversiones extranjeras en China cayeron un 8 por ciento en 2023, su nivel más bajo en tres años. El índice chino CSI 300, que sigue a las mayores empresas cotizadas en Shanghái y Shenzhen, cayó un 12 por ciento el año pasado, frente a una subida del 24 por ciento del S&P 500. El índice chino ha bajado otro 5 por ciento este año, hasta mínimos de casi cinco años.

El primer ministro Li Qiang pidió el lunes medidas más eficaces para estabilizar el mercado bursátil, en un contexto de informaciones sobre un posible paquete de rescate del mercado de valores.

Xiao, el investigador académico, dijo que en la segunda mitad de 2023 empezó a notar que los censores chinos retiraban con más rapidez muchos artículos de noticias financieras. Entre ellos: un artículo de diciembre en el sitio de noticias financieras Yicai que citaba una investigación según la cual 964 millones de chinos ganaban menos de 280 dólares mensuales.

Este mes, también se retiró de internet un documental de NetEase News sobre trabajadores inmigrantes que soportaban un nivel de vida extremadamente bajo. Los resultados de la búsqueda del documental titulado Working Like This for 30 Years, también se restringieron en Weibo, un sitio de redes sociales similar a X.

Desde junio, Weibo ha restringido que decenas de cuentas publiquen después de que, según dijo, “publicaran comentarios que hablaban mal de la economía” o “distorsionaran” o “desprestigiaran” las políticas económica, financiera e inmobiliaria de China.

En noviembre, Weibo advirtió a los usuarios que no fueran “maliciosamente pesimistas” sobre la economía ni difundieran sentimientos negativos. El mes pasado, la empresa dijo que esperaba que los usuarios ayudaran a “incrementar la confianza” en el desarrollo de la economía.

Otros servicios de redes sociales también están tomando medidas para censurar el discurso negativo sobre la economía. Douyin, la versión china de TikTok, tiene normas específicas que prohíben la “malinterpretación maliciosa de las políticas relacionadas con el sector inmobiliario”.

A Liu Jipeng, decano de la Universidad China de Ciencias Políticas y Derecho de Pekín, se le prohibió publicar o añadir nuevos seguidores en Douyin y Weibo el mes pasado, después de que dijera en una entrevista que no era el momento adecuado para invertir dinero en acciones. También escribió en Weibo, donde tiene más de 500.000 seguidores, que a la gente le resultaba difícil invertir con seguridad porque había muchas instituciones poco éticas. Su cuenta de Douyin, en la que tiene más de 700.000 seguidores, tiene un aviso que dice que el usuario “tiene prohibido ser seguido debido a una violación de las normas de la comunidad”.

Los bancos y las sociedades de valores también están sometidos a un intenso escrutinio por el contenido de sus estudios económicos. En junio, la Oficina Reguladora de Valores de Shenzhen advirtió a China Merchants Securities, una agencia de valores con sede en Shenzhen, sobre un informe “elaborado descuidadamente” un año antes, en el que se advertía que las acciones nacionales seguirían bajo presión debido a la economía.

En julio, Goldman Sachs provocó una venta masiva de acciones bancarias chinas después de que uno de sus informes de investigación calificara con la etiqueta de “venta” a tres grandes prestamistas y advirtiera que los bancos podrían tener dificultades para mantener los dividendos por las pérdidas derivadas de la deuda de los gobiernos locales. Securities Times, un periódico financiero estatal, contratacó diciendo que el informe se basaba en una “interpretación errónea de los hechos” y que “no es aconsejable malinterpretar los fundamentos de los bancos chinos”.

Un economista de una sociedad de valores extranjera dijo que un funcionario del gobierno chino le había pedido recientemente que fuera “más reflexivo” al redactar informes de investigación, especialmente si el contenido podía interpretarse de manera negativa. El economista pidió no ser identificado por temor a represalias.

Incluso un comentario que antes era aceptable se ha vuelto problemático a la luz de los actuales retos económicos de China.

En una entrevista de 2012, un año antes de que Xi asumiera el poder, Wu Jinglian, un famoso economista chino, advirtió que el país se encontraba en un punto de inflexión. Afirmó que China podía avanzar con una economía de mercado regida por la ley, o podía dejarse influir por quienes buscaban una agenda alternativa de fuerte implicación gubernamental.

Wu dijo en la entrevista que los problemas sociales de China “son fundamentalmente el resultado de unas reformas económicas incompletas, un grave retraso en las reformas políticas y una intensificación del poder administrativo para reprimir e interferir en las actividades económicas privadas legítimas”.

La entrevista se volvió a publicar el año pasado con motivo del 45 aniversario de la apertura de la economía china. Fue ampliamente compartida y es considerada como un reproche a la política económica de Xi —que ha impulsado un mayor control estatal a expensas de las reformas del mercado— antes de que fuera retirada de WeChat.

Pero la campaña de presión se ha intensificado tanto que está convirtiendo en críticos a quienes suelen defender las políticas de Pekín. Hu Xijin, influyente comentarista y exredactor jefe de Global Times, periódico del Partido Comunista, escribió en Weibo que la labor de las personas influyentes era “ayudar constructivamente” al gobierno a identificar los problemas, “en vez de encubrirlos activamente y crear una opinión pública que no es real”.

Daisuke Wakabayashi es corresponsal de negocios en Asia para el Times, con sede en Seúl. @daiwaka

Claire Fu cubre noticias en China continental para The New York Times en Seúl. @fu_claire