The New York Times 2024-02-08 18:08:26


Middle East Crisis : After Netanyahu Rejects a Truce Proposal, Hamas and Israel Signal They May Keep Talking

Israel has to ‘make a deal’ to get Gaza hostages back, an official says.

As a Hamas delegation went to Cairo on Thursday for more talks about ending the war in Gaza, Israeli officials signaled that their government was still open to negotiation, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strong public rejection of a Hamas proposal.

“There is agreement among members of the governing coalition, and particularly among individual members of the government, that we do have to get the hostages back and to make a deal,” Miki Zohar, an Israeli government minister, said in a radio interview on Thursday morning.

“But not at any price,” Mr. Zohar added. “Stopping the war, for example, they won’t agree to.”

Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday dismissed a Hamas proposal that called for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, abide by a long-term cease-fire and exchange hostages for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. The Israeli leader said at a news conference that to “surrender to the ludicrous demands of Hamas” would neither free the more than 100 hostages still in Gaza nor restore Israel’s security.

The comments appeared to dampen hopes raised by U.S. and Qatari officials who said that the Hamas offer reflected potential progress. But Mr. Netanyahu, a canny negotiator, avoided specifics. Asked whether Israel had formally rejected the deal framework, Mr. Netanyahu said: “Based on what they passed to us? From what I’ve seen so far — you, too, would have said no.”

Israeli leaders felt Hamas’s core demands were unacceptable, but they concluded that there was still room for discussion if Hamas’s offer was an opening bid rather than a final offer, according to two other government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a sensitive matter.

Nadav Shtrauchler, a political analyst who previously served as Mr. Netanyahu’s media strategist, said the Israeli leader’s comments “left a window open.”

“The door has been closed, but the window is still open — not for that deal, which he couldn’t accept, but for a different deal,” Mr. Shtrauchler said.

Hamas’s proposal outlined a path to the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza in exchange for some of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Such a deal would in effect end Israel’s military offensive in Gaza without toppling Hamas’s rule there, analysts said. Mr. Netanyahu has said he would not agree to any postwar arrangement that leaves Hamas in power, arguing that it would allow the group to commit another assault on Israel similar to the Oct. 7 attack that Israeli officials have said killed roughly 1,200 people.

In a sign that Hamas was prepared to continue negotiating with mediators, the group said in a statement that a delegation led by one of its senior officials, Khalil al-Hayya, had arrived in Cairo on Thursday to participate in cease-fire talks. Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesman, told a news conference on Wednesday in Beirut that the delegation would discuss the group’s proposal.

The Biden administration has been working in public and behind the scenes to try to advance a deal. The White House said on Thursday that King Abdullah II of Jordan would visit President Biden on Monday to talk about efforts to bring an end to the war in Gaza, among other topics.

Airstrikes hit a crowded Gazan city where Israel says it plans an advance.

Israeli forces bombarded the southern Gaza border city of Rafah with airstrikes, killing multiple civilians, Palestinian media reported on Thursday, the day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said the military was preparing to advance on an area crowded with people who have fled other parts of the Strip.

The strikes heightened fears among the more than a million Palestinians crowded into Rafah, which lies along a closed Egyptian border, as Israel’s army has repeatedly warned that it plans to push further south in its ground invasion in Gaza in what it says is an attempt to defeat Hamas.

“I am hearing people saying Israel is planning to storm Rafah,” said Fathi Abu Snema, a 45-year-old father of five who has been sheltering in a United Nations-run school there for nearly four months. He worried that a military advance would bring “total destruction.”

“There is no place for the people to run to. Everyone from all other parts of Gaza ended up in Rafah. I don’t know where to go if they come here,” he added, referring to Israeli forces.

Palestinian news media reported that two homes in Rafah were hit in deadly strikes overnight into Thursday. Gaza’s health ministry said that more than 100 people had been killed over the previous 24 hours. More than 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza during the four-month war, health authorities there say.

Many of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced multiple times in search of safety. In Rafah, many are sheltering in ramshackle tents that offer little protection from rain and cold. Airstrikes have continued to pound all parts of the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Netanyahu said late Wednesday that his government had directed the military to prepare to advance into Rafah and two nearby camps, which he called “Hamas’s last remaining strongholds.” Hamas led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that Israeli authorities say killed some 1,200 people.

Aid groups and the United Nations have repeatedly warned that an advance on Rafah would be devastating to civilians. Describing “destruction and death” in Gaza unparalleled during his tenure, the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, told the General Assembly on Wednesday that he was “especially alarmed” by the reports that Israel had set Rafah as a military target.

A military offensive there “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences,” he said.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, an aid agency, warned that a full-scale Israeli military assault on Rafah and the surrounding area would lead to more civilian deaths and risk halting the trickle of humanitarian aid that is coming into the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

“An expansion of hostilities could turn Rafah into a zone of bloodshed and destruction that people won’t be able to escape,” Angelita Caredda, the aid group’s Middle East and North Africa regional director, said. “Conditions in Rafah are already dire.”

Early Thursday, a local Gazan journalist posted video on social media of two young brothers from Rafah who had been brought to a hospital after a bombardment. They appeared to have light injuries and were covered in dust.

In the video, which The New York Times could not immediately verify, one brother says: “I woke up and found that there was fire in the house. I told Mama, ‘Pick me up, I’m hurt,’ and she said, ‘I can’t pick you up.’”

The other boy says: “Smoke was filling the entire home. No one could see anyone else, no one could breathe.”

Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.

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

Some hostages’ families say Israel should keep fighting, even if it prolongs their captivity.

As mediators pursue a deal that would free hostages from Gaza in exchange for a pause in Israel’s military campaign, a small group of relatives of Israeli hostages says that the government should keep waging war against Hamas — even if it prolongs their loved ones’ captivity.

Family members of three hostages say that Israel should not agree to a deal with Hamas before the Israeli military has achieved its objectives in the war. They have formed a group, called Forum Tikva, or “hope,” to press their position.

That puts them at odds with the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, the main alliance of hostages’ families, which has forcefully urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to give priority to the captives’ release.

One of Forum Tikva’s founders is Tzvika Mor, whose son Eitan was working as a security guard at the Tribe of Nova music festival on Oct. 7. Eitan became one of the roughly 240 civilians and soldiers Israel says were abducted to Gaza during the Hamas-led attack that day. Any negotiation with Hamas, Mr. Mor said, should come from a position of strength.

“I want my son back now, but I want the Israeli government to make a good deal for all the people of Israel, not only for me,” he said.

His comments are a reflection of the emotionally charged debate in Israel around the fate of the hostages as the war in Gaza enters its fifth month. At least 30 of the roughly 136 remaining hostages captured Oct. 7 are believed to be dead, according to an Israeli intelligence assessment. As hostages’ families mount more aggressive protests to demand that Israel secure their release, a rift has deepened among Israelis about the cost the country is willing to absorb to have the remaining captives brought home.

Mr. Mor said that Israel should not agree to any deal with Hamas that would involve the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners he sees as dangerous, such as those convicted of involvement in attacks that killed Israelis. During a weeklong cease-fire in November, about 100 hostages were exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israel, most of whom were young and had not been convicted of crimes.

Hamas delivered a plan this week to Qatari and Egyptian mediators that called for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, abide by a long-term cease-fire and exchange hostages for Palestinians detained in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu dismissed the Hamas offer as “ludicrous” on Wednesday and signaled that Israel would keep fighting in Gaza, saying that victory was “within reach.”

Mr. Mor said that he and other members of Forum Tikva were willing to accept that their loved ones would remain captive longer if Israel did not make a deal soon.

“Like any other son who went to war, my son knows he might not come back,” Mr. Mor said. “But he’s doing that to save the nation of Israel.”

Those views echo those of some senior members of Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition, mostly from the far right. Officially, Forum Tikva says it has no political affiliation. Its director of strategy, Eitan Zeliger, said the group opposed protests intended to put pressure on the government to expedite the release of hostages.

Mr. Netanyahu has said that protests demanding the hostages’ immediate release only strengthen Hamas. A spokeswoman for the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, Liat Bell Sommer, said there was “no time to delay” in making a deal.

“Releasing terrorist prisoners may be painful, but abandoning hostages is worse,” Ms. Sommer said.

Mr. Zeliger said that protesters were “talking emotionally” and not with Israel’s broader security interests in mind.

“We want all the hostages, alive or dead, to come back home as soon as possible,” Mr. Zeliger said. “But not if that incontestably undermines the security of other Israelis.”

Israel is severely restricting aid deliveries in northern Gaza, the U.N. says.

Israel has severely restricted humanitarian groups from delivering aid to northern Gaza, denying access to more than half of the planned aid missions to the region last month and delaying others to the point where missions had to be aborted, a United Nations official said on Wednesday.

Andrea De Domenico, the leader of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, described layers of challenges in coordinating with Israeli officials that, he said, begin long before aid trucks set off toward the north. The region faced heavy bombardment and was entirely cut off for several weeks, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis.

In January, according to a report from the U.N. office, 34 of the 61 missions planned to areas north of Wadi Gaza — a strip of wetlands that curves across the Gaza Strip — were denied access by Israeli officials. During negotiations with Israeli authorities, Mr. De Domenico said in an interview, securing access to deliver fuel to hospitals was a “constant fight” and missions aimed to alleviate a dire lack of clean water and sanitation facilities were “rejected even before being considered.”

On other missions, Israeli authorities have “imposed reductions on the volume of assistance, such as the quantity of food,” according to the report.

The Israeli government agency that oversees policy and operations in the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the problems described by the report or to questions about Israeli restrictions on the volume of food assistance. The agency has previously denied that it is blocking aid to Gaza, and Israeli officials have accused Hamas of seizing some supplies.

The U.N. aid office said that in nine aid missions planned for northern Gaza in January that Israeli officials had initially facilitated, convoys were impeded by Israeli checkpoints or by Israeli instructions to take roads that were impassable.

Mr. De Domenico said that Israeli authorities were making guarantees to humanitarian groups about the safety of coordinated aid missions, but then failing to uphold their pledges. He said aid convoys in Gaza have repeatedly come under fire, and protocols that were negotiated to ensure the security of humanitarian workers at checkpoints between central and northern Gaza had been violated by Israeli forces “countless” times.

Despite departing as early as dawn, some convoys have been unable to complete their delivery during daylight hours because of excessive delays at Israeli checkpoints, Mr. De Domenico said.

“They know that we do not want to have nighttime distributions,” Mr. De Domenico said. “You can’t move in a war zone after dark, when you cannot see where you are driving.”

Israeli officials facilitated 10 successful aid missions to the north — 16 percent of the planned total in January, according to the U.N. office — but even those faced challenges. Most barely reached a few miles past the checkpoints, let alone into the far north, before they were surrounded by large crowds of starving people, Mr. De Domenico said.

Palestinians in Gaza make up 80 percent of people facing famine or catastrophic hunger across the globe, according to U.N. experts.

A U.S. strike in Baghdad kills leaders of an Iran-backed militia blamed for attacks on American troops.

A U.S. Special Operations retaliatory drone strike in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday killed a senior leader of a militia that U.S. officials blame for recent attacks on American personnel, the Pentagon said, following up on President Biden’s promise that the response to a slew of attacks by Shiite militias would continue.

The Pentagon said the man was a leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, the militia that officials have said was responsible for the drone attack in Jordan last month that killed three American service members and injured more than 40.

A U.S. official said that the strike was a “dynamic” hit on the militia commander, whom American intelligence officials had been tracking for some time. A second official said the United States reserved the right to strike other Shiite militia leaders and commanders.

Videos from the scene showed the wreckage of a vehicle in a neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, and a nearby fire.

A senior Kata’ib Hezbollah official and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps both said that two commanders had been killed in the strike. Witnesses said identification cards found nearby identified them as Arkan al-Elayawi and Abu Baqir al-Saedi.

In response, crowds gathered in the streets of Baghdad, chanting “America is the devil.”

Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, a spokesman for Iraq’s security services, called the strike “an aggression,” and said it “violated Iraqi sovereignty and risked dangerous repercussions in the region.”

Wednesday’s strike came after three quieter days in the Mideast, following American salvos on Friday and Saturday that began what Mr. Biden and his aides have said will be a sustained campaign of retaliation.

On Monday, the Pentagon said that American warplanes had destroyed or severely damaged most of the Iranian and militia targets they had struck in Syria and Iraq on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said that “more than 80” of some 85 targets in Syria and Iraq had been destroyed or rendered inoperable. The targets, he said, included command hubs; intelligence centers; depots for rockets, missiles and attack drones; as well as logistics and ammunition bunkers.

Kata’ib Hezbollah, based in Iraq, is considered a proxy of Iran, and the United States considers the group a terrorist organization.

U.S. officials blame Iran and the militias aligned with it for what had become a near-daily barrage of rocket and drone attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since the war between Hamas and Israel began on Oct. 7. The Biden administration has sought to calibrate retaliatory airstrikes to deter such groups while avoiding a wider war.

But when a drone attack hit a remote base in Jordan on Jan. 28, killing three American service members, administration officials said that a red line had been crossed, and Mr. Biden promised a sustained campaign of retaliation.

After that strike, Kata’ib Hezbollah said it would halt attacks on American forces, at the behest of the governments of Iraq and Iran, reflecting Iran’s reluctance to directly confront the United States. But other groups involved in such attacks have not made similar commitments.

The back-and-forth attacks in Syria, Iraq and Jordan — not to mention the tit-for-tat strikes that the United States and its allies have exchanged with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen — have edged the region closer to a broader conflict, even as the administration insists it does not want war with Iran. Instead, U.S. officials say they are focused on whittling away the militias’ formidable arsenals and deterring additional attacks against U.S. troops as well as merchant ships in the Red Sea.

But by targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah commanders, the administration is sending a message to Iran and the militias that it backs that every American life taken will be met with a strong response, U.S. officials said.

In January the Pentagon said the U.S. had killed a leader of another Iraqi militia, Haraqat al Nujaba, who was involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel in Iraq and Syria.

National security experts and officials say privately that to truly degrade the capability of the Iran-backed militias, the United States would have to carry out a yearslong campaign similar to the six-year effort to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Even then, the officials say, the militias, with Iran’s backing, could probably survive longer than the Islamic State, which was pressured by the United States and Iran, and even Russia. The United States would also have to target many more senior leaders and commanders.

Falih Hassan contributed reporting from Baghdad.

Senate Democrats put salvaging an aid bill for Israel and Ukraine on hold for at least a day.

Senate Democrats, pressing to advance a stand-alone bill to send tens of billions of dollars to Israel and Ukraine after Republicans blocked a compromise that would have paired the aid with stringent border security measures, promised a Thursday vote on the alternative.

In a day of whiplash on Capitol Hill, Democrats on Wednesday pivoted to salvage the aid from becoming a casualty of former President Donald J. Trump’s political campaign. But after hours of stalemate, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, announced that senators needed more time to agree on how to move forward on that alternative, which Democrats and Republicans alike said they hoped would be successful.

Mr. Schumer had hoped for a quick vote on Wednesday on what he called his “Plan B” for reviving the aid package after the border deal failed. But by Wednesday evening, action had stalled, as Senate Republicans slow-walked business on the floor while they regrouped. They held open a procedural vote for hours as they sought assurances from Democrats that if they voted to allow the stripped-down aid bill to move forward, they would be allowed to propose changes.

After 7 p.m., Mr. Schumer said the Senate was recessing to “give our Republican colleagues the night to figure themselves out.”

Despite the delay, there were glimmers of hope that the package of aid for Ukraine and Israel would eventually move forward. A bipartisan vote to advance the aid package would represent a remarkable turnaround after months of stalemate and likely put the measure on track for passage in the Senate within days.

The measure would send $60.1 billion to Ukraine for its war against Russian aggression, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians of global crises, including Palestinians and Ukrainians.

The effort to get the legislation back on track came after Republicans blocked a bill that paired the foreign aid with stringent border security measures they had demanded. That plan, hashed out over four months of painstaking bipartisan negotiations, hemorrhaged Republican support after Mr. Trump vocally opposed it. It failed on a 50-to-49 vote, falling short of the 60 votes it would have needed to advance, as all but four Republicans voted to reject it.

Even if Democrats succeed in resurrecting the aid bill in the Senate, it still faces stiff headwinds in the Republican-led House, where right-wing lawmakers are opposed to sending additional assistance to Ukraine. Some have even threatened to oust Speaker Mike Johnson if he brings any bill to the floor that includes it.

Mr. Johnson would not say Wednesday morning whether the House would take up the stand-alone national security bill, if and when it passed the Senate. On Tuesday night, Republicans failed to push through a $17.6 billion bill to send military assistance only to Israel, a failure that Mr. Johnson tried to pin on Democrats.

Karoun Demirjian contributed reporting from the Capitol.

Zelensky Removes His Top General, in Major Shake-Up of Ukraine Military

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Thursday he had removed his top general in the most significant leadership shake-up since Russia invaded Ukraine almost two years ago.

While praising Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the commander who has led the nation’s war effort for two years, Mr. Zelensky said “urgent changes” were needed to ensure victory.

“Starting today, a new management team will take over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said in an evening address to the nation, adding the he had met with General Zaluzhny and thanked him for his service.

General Zaluzhny will be replaced by Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of Ukraine’s ground forces, the president said.

The upheaval comes at a precarious moment for Ukraine in the war, amid intensified Russian attacks, skepticism in the United States over providing aid to Kyiv and the tensions between Ukraine’s civilian and military leadership. It remained unclear whether General Zaluzhny, who is widely popular in Ukraine’s military and society, had resigned or been fired from the position.

Gen. Zaluzhny led Ukraine’s war effort from the initial, successful defense against Russia’s attack through the past year of bloody, inconclusive fighting along a front that has barely shifted but where Ukrainian soldiers once again find themselves outmanned and outgunned.

Rumors began circulating online in Ukraine last week that General Zaluzhny, 50, had been dismissed, prompting the president’s office to issue a denial. A Ukrainian member of Parliament said the two men met on Jan. 29 but the fate of the country’s top military commander was not decided.

Two Ukrainian officials said Mr. Zelensky’s government had been planning on dismissing the general all along, and only backed off briefly after the news was leaked and generated backlash from some Ukrainian political leaders and soldiers.

Friction between the president and general had simmered since early in the war in a rivalry mostly hidden from public view amid military successes. The schism deepened last fall, when General Zaluzhny published an essay declaring the fighting a deadlock, contradicting Mr. Zelensky’s continual, hopeful assertions of progress.

That breach followed a Ukrainian counteroffensive backed by billions of dollars in Western weapons donations that failed to achieve a breakthrough, despite costing thousands of Ukrainian casualties.

More recently, the two had publicly disagreed over a Ukrainian plan to draft as many as half a million men to replenish the army as a counter to Russia’s renewed ground attacks in the eastern Donbas region. Though Ukrainians still overwhelmingly support the fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion, the mobilization is expected to be unpopular. Many men who intended to volunteer already have.

Ukrainian forces have in recent weeks been on the defensive as Russia launches fierce assaults along the front line. Kyiv did receive a boost to its war effort last week when the European Union approved a $54 billion aid package that will help avert a near-term Ukrainian financial crisis.

But lawmakers in Washington this week have been unable to forge an agreement that would provide another $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, assistance that Ukrainian officials and military analysts deem as critical to Kyiv’s war effort. Republicans in the Senate blocked a measure on Wednesday that would have provided funding, leading Democrats to propose an alternate bill that was being debated Thursday.

As speculation about the military commander’s fate reached a fever pitch, General Zaluzhny maintained his usual low public profile. He paid tribute to a touchstone in Ukrainian military history, praising a small band of Ukrainian soldiers who repelled a much larger Russian invasion force marching on Kyiv, the capital, in 1918. The battle, he said, “became a symbol of heroism and self-sacrifice of the young generation in the fight against the aggressor.”

“We thank everyone who is currently defending the state, its independence and future,” he said. Throughout the past two weeks, he offered no public comments.

When the war with Russia began in 2014, General Zaluzhny, who was educated in a Soviet cadet school in Odesa but served most of his career in the Ukrainian army after independence, was appointed deputy commander of forces fighting along a violent section of frontline near the eastern cities of Debaltseve and Bakhmut, where he gained experience commanding troops in combat.

Mr. Zelensky appointed General Zaluzhny commander of the military’s general staff in 2021, before Russia’s invasion. Military analysts have credited the general with preparing the army in the weeks and days before the attack by flying jets to reserve airfields and moving troops from barracks that were subsequently bombed.

Mr. Zelensky’s frustration with his top general burst into the public eye in early November, after General Zaluzhny published his essay calling the war a “stalemate.” The Ukrainian president suggested the comment was helpful to the Russians, a striking rebuke.

Around the same time, the president’s office replaced one of General Zaluzhny’s deputies, the head of special operations forces, without providing any explanation. It also dismissed the head of Ukraine’s medical forces.

Criticism against General Zaluzhny reached a new level in late November, when Mariana Bezuhla, a lawmaker and former member of Mr. Zelensky’s political party, appeared to call for the commander’s departure, accusing him of failing to plan carefully for the next stage of the war.

“If the military leadership cannot provide any plan for 2024, and all their proposals for mobilization boil down to the fact that more people are needed,” Ms. Bezuhla wrote on Facebook, “then such leadership should leave.”

Opinion polls had consistently ranked the president and general as the most trusted figures in Ukraine during the war. Through the fall, Mr. Zelensky’s ratings had fallen while General Zaluzhny had retained consistently high levels of support.

General Zaluzhny’s high standing with the Ukrainian public led to speculation that he could be a prospective challenger to Mr. Zelensky in future elections, prompting some in the country to regard them as political rivals.

The military leader earned the nicknamed the “Iron General” for his decisive leadership of the army when Russian forces swept en masse across the border last year and toward Ukraine’s major cities. Under his command, Ukrainian troops stopped Russian forces at the door of the capital and drove them into retreat.

A few months later, Ukrainian troops crashed through Russian positions in a counteroffensive that retook thousands of square miles of northeastern territory, including dozens of towns.

But the general was also saddled with the failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south this summer — a push that many in Ukraine and the West had hoped could split Russian troops and show that Ukraine was making steady gains in the war. The operation has failed to break through formidable Russian defensive lines, with Ukrainian troops advancing by just a few miles at a bloody cost for both sides.

In his November essay, General Zaluzhny said that unless Ukraine received more advanced weapons and technology, the country would be mired in a long war in which Russia would have the upper hand.

Constant Méheut , Marc Santora and Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine.

Brazil Police Accuse Bolsonaro and Allies of Attempted Coup

Former President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil oversaw a broad conspiracy to hold on to power regardless of the results of the 2022 election, including personally editing a proposed order to arrest a Supreme Court justice and call new elections after he lost, according to new accusations by Brazilian federal police unveiled on Thursday.

Mr. Bolsonaro and dozens of top aides, ministers and military leaders coordinated to undermine the Brazilian public’s faith in the election and set the stage for a potential coup, the federal police said.

Their efforts included spreading disinformation about voter fraud, drafting legal arguments for new elections, recruiting military personnel to support a coup, surveilling judges and encouraging and guiding protesters who eventually raided government buildings, police said.

The explosive allegations were made in a 134-page court order that authorized a sweeping federal police operation on Thursday that targeted Mr. Bolsonaro and about two dozen of his political allies. The operation involved search warrants and the arrests of four people, including two Army officers and two of Mr. Bolsonaro’s former top aides.

Mr. Bolsonaro was ordered to hand over his passport, to remain in the country, and to have no contact with any other people under investigation.

Mr. Bolsonaro said on Thursday that he was the innocent victim of a politically motivated operation.

“I left the government more than a year ago and I continue to suffer relentless persecution,” the former president told Folha de São Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper. “Forget about me. There is already someone else running the country.”

For more than a year ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, Mr. Bolsonaro openly sowed doubts about the security of his nation’s election systems and warned that if he lost it would be the result of fraud.

When he, in fact, lost to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Mr. Bolsonaro declined to unequivocally concede and his supporters staged monthslong protests that culminated in a January 2023 riot at Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices.

Mr. Bolsonaro has already been ruled ineligible to run for office until 2030 over his attempts to undermine the voting systems. But the accusations unveiled on Thursday show that authorities believe the former president and his allies had carried out a far more organized plan to subvert Brazil’s young democracy.

Thursday’s operation also targeted Brazil’s former defense secretary, former intelligence chief, former justice minister and former head of the Navy, Mr. Bolsonaro’s running mate and the head of his political party.

This is a developing story.

Paulo Motoryn contributed reporting from Brasília and Julia Vargas Jones from New York.

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Russia Bars Antiwar Candidate in Election Putin Is All But Sure of Winning

Russian authorities on Thursday banned from the presidential race the only candidate who had openly contested President Vladimir V. Putin’s hold on power in Russia, and who made his opposition to the war in Ukraine central to his campaign.

The move by Russia’s Central Electoral Commission, the body that administers elections in Russia, was the latest predictable twist in a campaign that few doubt will result in Mr. Putin’s re-election in March.

Mr. Putin’s expected victory in the March 15-17 presidential election would secure him a fifth term in the Kremlin, cementing his rule as one of the longest and most consequential in Russian history.

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The Land of Ferrari and Lamborghini Has a New Speed Limit: 30 K.P.H.

When Bologna became the first major Italian city to impose a speed limit of 30 kilometers, or 20 miles, an hour, Luca Mazzoli, a local taxi driver, posted a sign in his cab warning passengers of the change.

He had to, he said grumpily the other day, “to explain why I am driving so slowly.”

Since the limit became enforceable in mid-January, it has taken longer for Mr. Mazzoli to get from Point A to Point B, he claimed, meaning that he has picked up fewer passengers and has found himself stuck in traffic more often.

“A city has to move,” he said.

Critics of the measure say that Bologna risks slowing to a standstill since it became the first major Italian city to join a growing group of municipalities, including Amsterdam; Bilbao, Spain; Brussels; and Lyon, France, that have lowered speed limits from 50 kilometers per hour, about 30 miles per hour, in the belief that the change will lead to safer, healthier and more livable cities.

Bologna’s mayor, Matteo Lepore, included the new speed limit among the campaign promises that helped to get him elected in 2021. Referring to the lower limit, he said, “Driving at 30 is part of a vision of a more democratic and more sustainable use of public space,” where neighborhoods put children and older people first, and investments favor bike paths and public transportation to work toward carbon neutrality.

What’s more, he added during an interview in his art-filled office in City Hall, Italian cities had been built over centuries and were unsuited for a glut of automobiles.

There is also the question of safety. Slower speeds made for fewer deaths, Mr. Lepore said, noting that there had been about 60 traffic-related fatalities in the greater Bologna area in 2022. “Given that, it’s hard to argue that the use of private cars should be without limits,” he said.

But persuading the locals has been a bumpy ride. Bologna is the capital of a region that is home to the makers of some of the fastest and most glamorous cars in the world, including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani.

There have been protests, both on the streets and on social media (memes and all), and a petition to hold a referendum on the new speed limit has accumulated just over 53,000 signatures.

The petition was begun by Guendalina Furini, a student at the University of Bologna who was concerned that her daily 25-mile commute into the city would increase substantially. She said that the new limit was “difficult to maintain” and would eventually deter people from visiting Bologna because the risk of getting a ticket was so high.

“The city risks losing out,” she said.

Other protesters said that the real safety risk was having to pay attention to the speed limit on the dashboard, which meant that eyes were not on the road.

“People are very angry,” said Giorgio Gorza, who heads a citizen’s group that has been organizing protests. To make things worse, he added, the enforcement of the speed limit has coincided with traffic delays from construction work on new tram lines around the city, as well as a detour downtown after one of Bologna’s distinctive towers had to be cordoned off.

A protest on Tuesday evening brought many dozens of cranky citizens and cabbies to the streets, where they drove at a snail’s pace in a makeshift parade, loudly honking horns and snarling traffic. The new speed limit “is impossible” to drive at, said Mr. Gorza, an organizer of the protest.

“It’s like standing still, and no one takes a car if you’re going to stay still, if it takes longer than walking,” he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “It’s illogical.”

The discontent has been a windfall for the city’s center-right opposition, which has jumped on the protests ahead of European Union elections in June, and on Monday called for a referendum on the limit.

The opposition’s jibes have been amplified by the Italian transport minister, Matteo Salvini, leader of the hard-right League party, who has called the Bologna limit “senseless.” Last week, Mr. Salvini signed a directive that challenged a city’s right to impose a blanket limit of 30 kilometers per hour, arguing, among other things, that restrictions should be decided on a street-by-street basis. Legal experts have been debating the weight that the directive could have on a city’s decisions, and the dispute could play out in the courts.

Bologna City Hall responded to the directive by noting in a statement that its speed limits were in line with existing national legislation. “Our priority is road safety and people’s quality of life,” the statement said.

Mr. Lepore noted during the interview that the new limit affected only 70 percent of the city, with the remaining roads retaining limits of 50 or 70 kilometers per hour. He said the city was open to “corrections” on the speed limit, but not before a period of monitoring.

During the first two weeks, only 25 speeding tickets had been issued, according to City Hall. In this phase, “We’re more about informing rather than giving fines,” Mr. Lepore said.

In 2021, Olbia, in Sardinia, became the first Italian city to set a broad limit of 30 kilometers an hour. There, too, the initial reactions were harsh, recalled the mayor, Settimo Nizzi.

“But it’s right for a mayor to think of the quality of life of his citizens,” Mr. Nizzi said. For months, officials worked alongside residents to extol the benefits of a more walkable, bike-friendly city, “to get them used to this new style of living,” he added.

Walking “is so much better for you,” Mr. Nizzi noted, and now people in Olbia “are happier.”

In Bologna, there are indications that the limit is already having an impact. According to the city, traffic accidents were down 21 percent in the first two weeks of the new limit’s coming into force, compared with the same period last year, which included a fatality. None of the accidents this year have been deadly, according to a city statement issued last week.

Mr. Lepore said he, too, was certain that the positive results of his measure would soon become apparent.

“It won’t take long for people to understand that it was the right choice,” he said.

Making Farming More Climate Friendly Is Hard. Just Ask Europe’s Politicians.

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The farmers’ protests in Europe are a harbinger of the next big political challenge in global climate action: How to grow food without further damaging Earth’s climate and biodiversity.

On Tuesday, after weeks of intense protests in several cities across the continent, came the most explicit sign of that difficulty. The European Union’s top official, Ursula von der Leyen, abandoned an ambitious bill to reduce the use of chemical pesticides and softened the European Commission’s next raft of recommendations on cutting agricultural pollution.

“We want to make sure that in this process, the farmers remain in the driving seat,” she said at the European Parliament. “Only if we achieve our climate and environmental goals together will farmers be able to continue to make a living.”

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Iceland Volcano Erupts Again, Cutting Off Hot Water to Thousands

A volcano system in southwestern Iceland erupted on Thursday for the third time since December, spewing out a stream of bright orange lava that cut off a source of heating and hot water for tens of thousands of residents amid freezing temperatures.

The eruption occurred at 6 a.m. on a mountain ridge on the Reykjanes Peninsula, according to the country’s Meteorological Office. By late morning, a stream of lava had flowed over a main road and was pouring over a key pipe that transports hot water from Svartsengi, the local power plant, to nearby towns.

Around noon, Vidir Reynisson, the director of Iceland’s civil defense agency, told reporters that the eruption was producing more lava than expected and that it was threatening infrastructure critical to the entire peninsula.

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Gold, Silver and … Iron? Olympic Medals Will Have Piece of Eiffel Tower

Athletes who win medals at the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Paris won’t just win gold, silver or bronze. Their medals will also include a piece of iron — wrought-iron, to be exact, from the Eiffel Tower itself.

Organizers of the Games said Thursday that each of the 5,084 medals created for the Paris events will be decorated on one side with a hexagon-shaped piece of iron recovered from the French capital’s iconic landmark.

“This exceptional object had to meet another very strong symbol of our country and our capital,” Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, said at an event to unveil the medals’ design in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris where several Olympic events will be held.

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Pakistan Election Highlights Military’s Sway Over Stormy Politics

Pakistanis have labeled it a “selection” — not an election. Human rights monitors have condemned it as neither free nor fair.

As voters headed to the polls on Thursday, the influence of Pakistan’s powerful military and the turbulent state of its politics were on full display. Few doubted which party would come out on top, a reflection of the generals’ ultimate hold on Pakistan’s troubled democracy.

But the military is facing new challenges to its authority from a discontented public, making this an especially fraught moment in the nation’s history.

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What to Know About Pakistan’s Election

Pakistan went to the polls on Thursday for an election that analysts say will be among the least credible in the country’s 76-year history, one that comes at a particularly turbulent moment for the nation.

For nearly half of Pakistan’s existence, the military has ruled directly. Even under civilian governments, military leaders have wielded enormous power, ushering in politicians they favored and pushing out those who stepped out of line.

This will be only the third democratic transition between civilian governments in Pakistan’s history. And it is the first national election since former Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from power after a vote of no confidence in 2022. Mr. Khan’s ouster — which he accused the military of orchestrating, though the powerful generals deny it — set off a political crisis that has embroiled the nuclear-armed nation for the past two years.

The vote on Thursday is the culmination of an especially contentious campaign season, in which analysts say the military has sought to gut Mr. Khan’s widespread support and pave the way to victory for the party of his rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Here’s what you need to know.

Over the past two years, Pakistanis have come out in droves to protest the behind-the-scenes role that they believe the military played in Mr. Khan’s ouster. The generals have responded in force, arresting Mr. Khan’s allies and supporters, and working to cripple his party ahead of the vote.

While the military has often meddled in elections to pave the way for its preferred candidates, analysts say this crackdown has been more visible and widespread than others.

That has also made this perhaps Pakistan’s most muted election in decades. Streets that would normally be filled with political rallies have remained empty. For weeks, many people were convinced that the election would not even take place on the scheduled date. A common refrain among Pakistanis is that this is a “selection” — not an election — as many feel it is clear that the military has predetermined the winner.

Roughly 128 million voters were eligible to cast ballots for a new Parliament, which will then choose a new prime minister after the election.

There are 266 seats to fill in the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, with an additional 70 seats reserved for women and minorities. If no party wins an outright majority — which is considered highly likely — then the one with the biggest share of assembly seats can form a coalition government.

Three main parties dominate politics in Pakistan: the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (P.M.L.N.), the Pakistan People’s Party (P.P.P.) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (P.T.I.).

Mr. Khan, the leader of P.T.I., has been notably absent from the campaign: He was arrested in August and has since been sentenced to multiple prison terms for a variety of offenses and barred from holding public office for a decade. Candidates from his party say they have been detained, forced to denounce the party and subjected to intimidation campaigns.

Most election observers expect a victory by the P.M.L.N., the party of Mr. Sharif. A three-time prime minister, Mr. Sharif built his political reputation on reviving economic growth. He has repeatedly fallen out with the military after pushing for more civilian control in government, only to find himself once more in its favor in this election.

The P.P.P. is led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. The party is expected to win some seats in the south, where it has a power base, and would most likely form part of a Sharif-led coalition government.

Pakistan’s next government will inherit a raft of problems. The economy is in shambles, terrorist attacks have resurged and relations with neighbors — particularly Afghanistan, ruled by the Taliban — are tense.

The cost of living has soared in Pakistan, where inflation last year hit a record high of nearly 40 percent. Meanwhile, gas outages and electricity blackouts are frequent occurrences for the country’s 240 million people. Pakistan has had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for bailouts to keep its economy afloat and prop up its foreign exchange reserves. It also has relied on financing from wealthy allies, like China and Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, extremist violence in Pakistan has surged since the Taliban swept back to power in Afghanistan in 2021. Much of it has been carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or T.T.P. — an ally and ideological twin of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

That has stoked tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, with Pakistani officials accusing the Taliban of offering the Pakistani Taliban safe haven on Afghan soil, a claim that Taliban officials deny. Those tensions appeared to boil over last year when Pakistan ordered all undocumented foreigners to leave the country by Nov. 1, a move that has primarily affected Afghans.

A day before the election, two separate explosions outside election offices in an insurgency-hit area of Pakistan killed at least 22 people. The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks on election-related activities, including the targeting of candidates, throughout the campaign season.

In light of such security threats, the authorities have designated half of Pakistan’s approximately 90,000 polling stations as “sensitive” or “most sensitive” and have deployed the military to secure them.

The polls officially closed at 5 p.m. Preliminary results are expected by late Thursday night, but it could take up to three days for all votes to be officially counted.

Once the count is finalized, members of Parliament will convene to form the government and choose the next prime minister. The selection of the prime minister is expected by the end of February.

Zia ur-Rehman contributed reporting.

Australia Introduces Workers’ ‘Right to Disconnect’

When it’s after hours, and the boss is on the line, Australian workers — already among the world’s best-rested and most personally fulfilled employees — can soon press “decline” in favor of the seductive call of the beach.

In yet another buttress against the scourge of overwork, Australia’s Senate on Thursday passed a bill giving workers the right to ignore calls and messages outside of working hours without fear of repercussion. It will now return to the House of Representatives for final approval.

The new bill, which is expected to pass in the House with ease, will let Australian workers refuse “unreasonable” professional communication outside of the workday. Workplaces that punish employees for not responding to such demands could be fined.

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UEFA Eases Term Limits but President Says He Won’t Test Them

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European soccer leaders on Thursday fell squarely in line behind their powerful president, Aleksander Ceferin, by approving a change to term-limit rules that would have allowed him to retain his post through 2031, years beyond the organization’s 12-year term limit.

The vote, though, may have been meaningless: About an hour after winning the right to pursue a new four-year term as president of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, Mr. Ceferin said he would not seek one.

“I’ve decided I am not planning to run in 2027,” a stony-faced Mr. Ceferin said as he read from prepared notes. He said he had made the decision six months ago, after growing tired of dealing with issues such as the effort to suppress a breakaway super league and managing European soccer through the pandemic and wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

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

Annie Correal and Federico Rios reported from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

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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.”

In early January, Guayaquil was hit by a wave of violence that could prove to be a turning point in the country’s long-running security crisis: Gangs attacked the city after the authorities moved to take charge of Ecuador’s prisons, which gangs largely controlled.

Police officers were kidnapped, explosives were detonated and in an episode broadcast live, a dozen armed men briefly seized a major television station.

The president, Daniel Noboa, declared an internal conflict, an extraordinary step taken when the state has come under attack by an armed group. He deployed troops against the gangs, which have overtaken much of Ecuador, battling to control cocaine-trafficking routes and transforming it from one of South America’s most peaceful countries into the deadliest.

Ecuador’s top military commander warned that every gang member was now “a military objective.”

Mr. Noboa’s aggressive response has reduced violence and brought a precarious sense of safety to places like Guayaquil, a city of 2.7 million and a key drug-trafficking port, pushing approval of the government to 76 percent in a recent national survey.

It has also raised alarms among human rights activists.

“We’re not seeing anything new or innovative,” said Fernando Bastias of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Guayaquil. “What we’re seeing is an increase in cases of grave human rights violations.”

Ecuador’s approach has drawn comparisons to El Salvador, whose young leader, Nayib Bukele, has largely dismantled its vicious gangs, earning him a landslide re-election victory and adulation across Latin America. But critics say he has also trampled human rights and the rule of law, ordering mass arrests that ensnared innocent people.

“Ecuador is an important case because it’s almost like a second laboratory for Bukele’s policies,” said Gustavo Flores-Macías, a government and public policy professor at Cornell University who specializes in Latin America. “People are so desperate that they buy into the need for these iron-fist policies to bring down crime.”

The policies can be effective, but, he added, “the cost in civil liberties is high.”

Like Mr. Bukele, Mr. Noboa, 36, wants to build mega-prisons and his social media posts feature pumping music and images of prisoners handcuffed and stripped to the waist. He proclaims it “The Noboa Way.”

Still, there are important differences, said Christopher Sabatini, a senior research fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, a research group in London. While Mr. Bukele disdains democracy, Mr. Noboa “has portrayed his government as a democracy under siege,’’ Mr. Sabatini said.

Mr. Noboa is also facing a different adversary, said Will Freeman, a fellow in Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“El Salvador was never important to drug trafficking,” he said. “It is just too small.” Ecuador, by contrast, is now central to the global cocaine trade, he said, with links to cartels from Mexico to Europe. As a result, its gangs have millions to arm themselves to fight the authorities.

But, he added, “we do see Noboa moving toward a strategy of mass arrests.”

Since the president declared war on the gangs, authorities in Ecuador have detained more than 6,000 people.

In Guayaquil, soldiers and police officers destroy camera systems installed by gangs to watch over entire neighborhoods, storm into areas once largely off-limits to the police and knock down doors to uncover caches of guns and explosives.

The crackdown has had some effect.

From December to January, the number of killings in Guayaquil dropped by 33 percent, from 187 to 125. Outside the city’s morgue, Cheyla Jurado, a street vendor who sells juice and pastries to families waiting to retrieve bodies, said the crowds had visibly thinned.

“Now, they’re car accidents, drownings,” she said.

At the city’s largest hospital, the number of patients arriving with gunshot wounds and other violence-related injuries is down from five a day to as few as one every three days, said Dr. Rodolfo Zevallos, an emergency doctor.

The reprieve from the bloodshed — while still in the early stages — has many rooting for the young president.

“We can sit outside in the evening,’’ said Janet Cisneros, who sells home-cooked meals in Guayaquil’s Suburbio neighborhood. “Before, we couldn’t — we were just completely stuck inside.”

Mr. Noboa, an heir to a banana fortune, was elected in November to finish his predecessor’s term, which was cut short when he dissolved parliament, triggering snap elections.

In January, as violence erupted, he traded his business suits and bashful smile for a grimace, buzz cut and black leather jacket, announcing that Ecuador would no longer take orders from “narcoterrorist groups.”

The hard-line message is meant for Ecuadoreans, who will vote for president again next year, said Mr. Flores-Macías, the political scientist, but is also intended to gain support from international leaders — particularly President Biden. Mr. Noboa, he said, “clearly sees he needs the support — the guidance, funding and aid — of the United States.”

So far, the Biden Administration has provided Ecuador with equipment and training along with roughly $93 million in military and humanitarian aid.

Ecuador’s officials have said the military is crucial to reclaiming neighborhoods from gangs that have become the de facto authorities, recruiting boys as young as 12 to shuttle drugs, kidnap and kill.

Mr. Noboa’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

In Guayaquil, police paint over murals depicting gang leaders. Soldiers conducting street raids lecture young men found with small bags of marijuana on the perils of drugs or a life of crime.

But videos have circulated online showing the authorities also using rougher tactics: men and boys rounded up on the streets are hit on the head or forced to kiss one another. In one widely-shared video, a teenager is made to scrub a tattoo until his chest is bloody.

In the prisons where the military was sent to seize control from gangs, similar abuses are taking place, according to advocates and inmates’ families.

“They have the prisoners beaten up worse than Jesus Christ,” said Fernanda Lindao, whose son is serving time for robbery in Guayaquil’s Litoral Penitentiary. “For inmates, there are no human rights.”

Still, arrest videos are enormously popular, with many Ecuadoreans praising soldiers and the president.

“The public applauds what’s happening,’’ said Mr. Álvarez, Guayaquil’s mayor, “and they don’t applaud it because they are bad people, but because they are tired of all the violence they have endured.”

To explain their support for Mr. Noboa’s tactics many describe how bad things had gotten.

“They killed here, they dumped bodies,” said Rosa Elena Guachicho, who lives in Durán, a suburb of Guayaquil with unpaved roads and no potable water. “A month ago they found one in a pillowcase, chopped into pieces.”

Dolores Garacoia said gangs had taken over Durán. Taxi drivers refused to enter, fearing they would be robbed or kidnapped, she said. Not even the police felt safe.

Gangs threatened the owners of tiny businesses like Ms. Garacoia, who said she shut down the shop she ran for years after getting a call demanding payment of thousands of dollars, known as a vacuna, or vaccine.

“I had to take down the sign and close immediately,” she said.

Just as the people of Guayaquil have changed to adapt to violence — staying indoors, getting pitbulls — so too has the city’s physical appearance. Houses have become cages, enmeshed in bars rising two or three floors.

Ángel Chávez, 14, sat behind wrought-iron bars of a community center in Monte Sinai, part of Guayaquil’s most dangerous district, where more than 500 people were killed last year.

He had mixed feelings about the military’s arrival.

“Maybe it will finally put an end to what we have been suffering,” he said.

But, he added, the way soldiers treated teenagers in some videos troubled him. “I don’t like it when they abuse them.’’

Still, for many in Guayaquil, their biggest fear is the military pulling out.

Ms. Cisneros, the cook who is finally able to serve meals outside, said, “They must not leave.”

Thalíe Ponce contributed reporting.

Who Created Butter Chicken? India’s Great Curry Clash.

In 1947, two men, both named Kundan, fled Peshawar during the bloody partition that carved Pakistan out of British India. They landed in Delhi and soon became partners in a restaurant called Moti Mahal serving food from the Punjab region.

On this much their descendants agree. Where they diverge is on the question of which of the men should go down in culinary history.

The two families both say that it was their own Kundan who invented butter chicken — the creamy, heavenly marriage of tandoori chicken and tomato gravy beloved everywhere north Indian food is served. And one of them has gone to court to try to prove it.

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Discontent and Defiance on the Road to Pakistan’s Election

Christina Goldbaum and

The reporters traveled along a famed highway in Pakistan’s most heated political battleground to understand how Pakistanis are feeling before a national election on Thursday.

The highway is the most politically charged slice of a politically turbulent country. It winds 180 miles from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, through the fertile plains of Punjab Province to Lahore, the nation’s cultural and political heart.

For centuries, it was known only as a sliver of the Grand Trunk Road, Asia’s longest and oldest thoroughfare, linking traders in Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. But in Pakistan, this stretch of the smog-drenched highway has become the stage for major rallies and protests led by nearly every famed civilian leader the country has had.

As Pakistan heads into national elections on Thursday, the road is buzzing. Politics dominates the chatter between its vendors and rickshaw drivers, their conversations seeped in a culture of conspiracy, cults of political personality and the problems of entrenched military control.


The map highlights the Grand Trunk Road from Islamabad to Lahore in Pakistan . The towns of Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Wazirabad and Gujranwala along the road are also located.

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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.

The area has long been a hub for backpackers and artists, who were lured by its cheap rents and idyllic old town, where ancient city gates and white-walled courtyard homes point to the history of the Bai ethnic minority, who have lived there for thousands of years.

But recently, Dali has filled with a different crop of wandering souls: young people from China’s megacities, fleeing the intense lifestyles that so many of them once aspired to. Worn out by the high cost of living, cutthroat competition, record youth unemployment and increasingly suffocating political environment, they have turned Dali into China’s destination of the moment.


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

“Young people who can’t fit into the mainstream can only look for a city on the margins,” said Zhou Xiaoming, 28, who moved from Shanghai three years ago.

Mr. Zhou, always a free spirit, had worked in Shanghai as a teacher at an alternative school. But he found life there too expensive and wanted to explore even more non-mainstream teaching methods. Dali had many to sample — an experimental kindergarten that taught students to hike, another focused on crafts, and many home-schoolers. Mr. Zhou now privately teaches one student, in a village nestled between tea fields on the outskirts of town.

“Dali is remote and pretty tolerant and very fluid, and it has all kinds of people. And most of those people are weird,” Mr. Zhou said.

Depending on your point of view, Dali, population 560,000, can feel like paradise or a parody.

On a recent Wednesday, a Chinese fire dancer gyrated to the drone of a didgeridoo, an Indigenous Australian instrument, in the courtyard of an Israeli musician’s home. A few miles away, throngs of young people lining the streets of the old town peddled cheap fortunetelling, as pulsing music poured out of nearby bars. At a 24-hour bookstore, a reading group scattered on floor cushions discussed Shen Congwen, a prominent 20th-century writer.

A seemingly inescapable buzzword in Dali is healing. Healing yoga, healing camping trips, even healing coffee shops. At a co-working space on a recent Tuesday, about two dozen people listened to a presentation on combating loneliness. At the bed-and-breakfast’s dance circle, participants were encouraged to rediscover their inner child.

The therapeutic atmosphere was especially thick at Veggie Ark, a sprawling complex north of the old town that houses the vegan canteen, yoga studios, gong lessons and a dye workshop. Eventually, it would also include a “self-sufficiency lab” that Tang Guanhua, 34, was building in the courtyard: a wooden dome, constructed by hand, that when completed would be powered by solar energy, and serve as an exhibition space for handicrafts made with local materials.

Mr. Tang wanted the lab to encourage visitors to try out more sustainable lifestyles. When he had pioneered back-to-nature living in China more than a decade ago, brewing homemade vinegar and generating his own electricity, many considered him strange. Now, eight people had paid to participate in building the dome.

“Before, everything was fine, everyone went to work. Now, so many things aren’t right,” he said over a dinner of vegan hot pot. “People are thinking about what to do with themselves.”

Some of the new arrivals say they want to stay forever; others acknowledge they are looking just to try on an alternative lifestyle before returning to the city grind.

Still, even the most cynical observer would admit that the city feels tangibly more open and relaxed than most other places in China.

“People here won’t deliberately try to assign you labels. You can just be yourself and be seen,” said Joey Chen, a 22-year-old freelance writer who had dropped out of college and moved to Dali a month earlier from Jiangxi Province.

Ms. Chen was lounging in the attic reading nook of a bookstore, perusing the Simone de Beauvoir novel “All Men Are Mortal.” Downstairs, the walls were decorated with photos of Kafka and Che Guevara.

The openness extends to potentially sensitive topics, too. At another coffee shop, a rainbow flag was tucked into the rafters. A different bookstore offered volumes on religious topics, such as American Indian shamanism, Christianity and the history of Tibet.

The question is how long Dali can remain such a haven.

Tourists and influencers have flocked to Dali, wielding selfie sticks and posing in hot pink cars that businesses rent out for photo shoots. Throughout the old town, kitschy souvenir shops have replaced handicraft stalls and bookstores. The lakeshore teems with slickly designed bed-and-breakfasts that wouldn’t be out of place in Shanghai or Beijing, often run by moneyed arrivals from those very places.

Rents have soared, driving longtime residents out of the old town, toward more remote villages.

And nowhere in China is truly immune to the tightening political climate — as Lucia Zhao, the owner of the bookstore where Ms. Chen was reading Beauvoir, recently learned.

Ms. Zhao, 33, moved to Dali from Chengdu in 2022 after being laid off from a tech company. She opened her bookstore, which focuses on art, feminism and philosophy, because she wanted to create a space where people could relearn to think critically, she said.

But in August, officials suddenly confiscated all her books, on the grounds that Ms. Zhao had applied for only a regular business license, not a license specifically for selling publications. She shut down for several months while applying for the license and rebuilding her inventory.

She was now more cautious in her book selection. Local officials dropped in occasionally to inspect the store and had recently scrutinized a display of antiwar books she had put out.

“You definitely have more latitude in Dali than in cities like Beijing and Chengdu,” Ms. Zhao said. “But compared to when I got here last year, the space is shrinking.”

Still, for many people in Dali, politics seems to be one of the last things on their mind. And that may be less out of fear than the fact that they came to Dali precisely to avoid those kinds of worldly headaches.

In the kitchen of a co-living space popular with coders and entrepreneurs, Li Bo, a 30-year-old programmer, recalled his own experience with the limits of Dali’s tolerance. He had moved to Dali in October after growing tired of his office job in Beijing and quickly befriended the other residents at the youth space. By day, they worked together on the rooftop patio; at night, they barhopped, laptops in tow.

Not long after arriving, on Halloween, he had dressed up as a Covid testing worker, the hazmat-suited figures who came to symbolize China’s three years of stringent restrictions. It was a lark, he insisted, not political, but he was detained briefly by the police.

But amid the bonfire parties, hikes and open mics the town had to offer, Mr. Li had better things to do than dwell on the negative. Like his latest project: developing an A.I. fortunetelling bot, which he planned to offer to fellow bargoers the next night for 70 cents per reading.

Li You and Siyi Zhao contributed research.

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.

Fresh meals are delivered three times a day, and there are facials, massages and child-care classes. Nurses watch over the babies around the clock.

New moms are summoned from their rooms only when it is time to breastfeed in the communal nursing room, where they are watched by the nurses. Women who choose not to breastfeed are free to spend their time focused on healing. (The babies are kept in the nursery throughout the day, though mothers can request their newborns be sent to their rooms at any time.)

Staying at a joriwon can cost from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the length of stay, which is often 21 days, the amount of time it takes for a woman’s body to heal after childbirth, according to Korean custom. But the centers weren’t always so luxurious, said Soohyun Sarah Kim, 46, the owner of St. Park.

“When I had my first child, there was no place to go,” she said. “Normally in Korea, the grandmother should take care of the new baby, but my mom didn’t have the skill, so we decided to go to a joriwon.”

In 2007, when Ms. Kim was pregnant with her first child, joriwons were not yet popular. The joriwon she toured was in an office building. The elevator was shared by workers returning from daily smoke breaks. The room was small and uncomfortable. “At that time, there was no nurse to take care of the baby,” Ms. Kim said.

She opened St. Park in 2008 with a mission of providing exceptional care for new mothers in a Bali-inspired retreat. It became one of the first high-end joriwons in Seoul. “It’s kind of like we are the transition between hospital and home,” Ms. Kim said. “We don’t want moms to run into trouble at home, that’s our approach.”

Throughout the hallways of St. Park, workers quietly collect dirty laundry and deliver food, including the requisite miyeok guk, or seaweed soup, a post-birth Korean staple.

In the lactation room, beads of sweat run down the forehead of a lactation specialist who squeezes drops of breast milk out of nipples — not always gently — to help with production. A limber Pilates instructor offers tips on body alignment and recovery during classes on the roof.

While Ms. Kim recommends guests stay for 21 days, she has mostly abandoned the folk customs that were still in style when she had her first child, like making sure a new mother’s hands are never put into cold water and avoiding air-conditioning, even in the summer.

“We have air-conditioning,” she said.

The new class of joriwon also hired nurses, nutritionists and pediatricians, and as the overall quality of care improved at the centers, more moms, especially first-time mothers, booked stays.

Now eight out of 10 South Korean mothers go to a joriwon after giving birth, and private centers like St. Park are known among Korean women as one of the best parts of childbirth recovery. Pregnant women clamor to get into their joriwon of choice, and the competition has become so stiff that some moms send in booking requests as soon as they see the double lines on their pregnancy test.

Chun Hye-rim, who is expecting her first child in March, said her husband had to use two phones to make a reservation at Heritage Cheongdam, one of the top joriwons in Seoul. Trinity Yongsan, another sought-after center, put her on the wait list. “They were like, ‘You called now?’” Ms. Chun said. She was just seven weeks pregnant at the time.

Part of the appeal of booking a joriwon is the chance to spend time with other first-time moms who have children of the same age. Anidar, a Seoul joriwon that opened in October, says its goal is to help moms stay connected even after they receive their postpartum care. “We bring together mothers with similar interests and personalities,” said Jeong Minyu, the chief executive officer of Anidar.

Ms. Chun pointed out that she chose Heritage because it was recommended to her by friends. “People try to make good friends at joriwon,” she said. “That culture continues throughout the child’s life.”

“You kind of want to get your children to get along with people in the same social class,” she added.

The issue of class, and cost, is highly sensitive in South Korea, where inequality is on the rise. Two weeks at St. Park — not including massages, facials and hair treatments — costs more than $6,000. Insurance does not cover the fees, but they can be subsidized by the government through a stipend meant to encourage more families to have babies.

As pricey as some joriwons can be, their cost is but a blip in the overall expense of raising a child in South Korea, a fact that may help explain the country’s birthrate.

“One of the reasons people don’t want to give birth is because all the postpartum care that’s so great here, it’s only for two weeks, and then there’s the life after that, which is forever,” Ms. Chun said.

Allison Kang, a Korean American living in Seoul, had her first child in March. She said being at a joriwon helped her recover from her complicated delivery. “I think why it works in Korea is because there is such an emphasis on recovery, and I really wish there was the same emphasis in the United States, or anywhere,” she said.

Some moms say newborns are too vulnerable to be left in the care of strangers in the joriwon system. But Ms. Kang said that her room was just steps away from her daughter in the nursery and that she never felt far away. “It’s incredibly important to allow ourselves to be able to be rested and not feel bad if we need to get better,” she said.

Standing in front of St. Park on a recent afternoon, Ms. Kim, the owner, said that even though her business was profit-driven, she still thinks “as a mom.”

“Every mom when they check out,” she added, “they always cry.”

Jin Yu Young contributed reporting from Seoul.

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

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.

“They’re all unloved bits of Camden,” said Simon Pitkeathley, the chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited, the business improvement district behind the initiative, of the areas that will one day provide the ground-level entrances to the Highline.

Strolling along the route of the planned park, which will sit some 25 feet above the streets, allows for a different view of London. Up here, the air feels fresher and the bustle below fades away as the view stretches over a patch of north London peppered with homes and office buildings.

The backers of the Camden Highline project, which carries an estimated price tag of 35 million pounds, or about $44.5 million, hope it will one day become a vibrant draw for both tourists and locals, bringing much-needed foot traffic to the area, much as its New York namesake has in the Chelsea neighborhood.

Rather than any attempt to disguise the inspiration, the London line will have intentional echoes of the hugely successful one in New York.

It, too, harnesses a railway that has sat empty for decades, around 30 years in the case of the Camden line.

During a recent walking tour of the planned route, Mr. Pitkeathley pointed to a brick archway that will eventually have a sleek staircase rising through it, bringing visitors to the elevated park. Design drawings show Londoners strolling leafy walkways, past wildflower gardens and viewing platforms where they can admire the streetscapes.

The Camden Highline’s planned width varies greatly along its route, expanding more than 65 feet in some areas that used to be full station platforms, while shrinking to under 10 feet in other sections.

The project’s design team was headed by James Corner Field Operations, the lead architecture firm for the New York High Line, working with other designers as well as London-based social enterprises that helped consult residents on their vision for the park.

So while the links to the original High Line are clear — and hopes for the same success are front of mind — the design is adapted to serve the neighborhood where it sits, Mr. Pitkeathley said.

There are a number of differences, first among them an active train line running directly beside where the park will one day unfold.

Much of the surrounding area it passes through is publicly owned land filled with affordable housing, so both affluent and lower-income Londoners will benefit from proximity to the new green space, Mr. Pitkeathley said.


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.

But it will still be some time before Londoners and visitors can enjoy the park.

Planning permission was given in January 2023 for the first section, running from Camden Gardens east to Royal College Street.

Construction will not begin until late 2025, with the first section of the Highline expected to open in early 2027, he added. Two additional sections are still years away.

Fund-raising is still underway, and Mr. Pitkeathley declined to say how much was left to raise.

But when the entire project is completed, it will wend its way for three-quarters of a mile east from Camden Town, already a popular destination, to King’s Cross, a transport hub and the site of another urban regeneration project.

The plan for the Camden Highline has already been applauded by lawmakers and conservation groups, including Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London; Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party; and the National Trust. But it is the opinions of those living locally that have been the focus of the planning team.

Lyn Walls, 57, lives in the Maiden Lane Estate, a residential complex with a mix of public and private housing, adjacent to where the easternmost section of the new park will eventually stand. For now, the only walkway that connects her home to the area directly to the west is a graffiti-riddled, badly lighted path.

The Camden Highline will eventually offer a walkable link to the neighborhoods to her west, she said. For now, Ms. Walls usually “takes the long way around” when walking there, she said, because of a secluded passageway that currently links the two areas.

“Going that way just isn’t appealing — it needs more lighting and just more people using it,” she said. The Highline, she added, “will make such a difference.”

On a recent winter afternoon, she was walking her dog with her two grandchildren and her daughter-in-law in an enclosed basketball court on the grounds of the complex. While there is a handful of green space dotting the area, Ms. Walls said the addition of the Highline would add much-needed park space.

At a cafe at the western end of the Highline’s route, Kiran Duggal, 25, and Barnaby Fishwick, 20, sipped coffee in the sun of a mild winter afternoon.

The friends, who work in a pub nearby, both said they were excited about the possibility of more green space and better walking routes.

“That will make life so much easier,” said Ms. Duggal, who lamented the lack of a good walkable route connecting the eastern and western parts of this area of London.

“Around north London, there are just so many dead sites,” Mr. Fishwick said, adding that he was eager to see the new park come to life. “I do just love a good stroll.”

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.

“In my growing up years, I was made to feel different from the rest in school. I was not allowed to laugh at jokes, and caste slurs were thrown at me,” Mr. Bezwada said in an interview on a recent evening in Delhi. “All I wanted to know then was why was my community different, and how could I make them equal to the others?”

By the time he was 18 or so, the young man of course knew what his community did to put food on the table, but his knowledge was still only theoretical. He wanted to experience the work for himself.

So he urged some manual scavengers to take him on the job. He watched them reach way down into a pit to scrape dried human waste from toilet floors, piling it into iron buckets and then transferring it into a trolley to be dumped on the mining township’s outskirts.

As he observed, one man’s bucket fell into the pit. The man rolled up his pants before dropping down into ankle-deep waste to to pull the bucket out.

“I shouted, cried and implored him to not do so. How could any human do that?” Mr. Bezwada recalled.

The night of that incident, furious about what he had witnessed, he spent hours sitting by a water tank, thinking about jumping in to end his life.

“The sound of the water was consistent. But what I could hear in my mind was a ‘no, don’t die. Live on and fight,’” Mr. Bezwada recalled.

And he has, for the last four decades.

Every morning, Mr. Bezwada, now 57, wakes up with a single-minded mission: to unshackle his community from the centuries-old scourge linked to their caste.

“My community did not realize that this is not what they were born to do,” Mr. Bezwada said, “but were made to do by society and government.”

The movement he founded in 1993, Safai Karmachari Andolan, or Campaign of the Cleanliness Workers, is now one of the largest organizations in India fighting against caste discrimination.

While such discrimination is illegal in India, almost all the country’s sanitation workers who deal with human excrement, including those who clean septic tanks and sewers, are from the lowest caste rung in their communities.

In addition to the social stigma, such work can be extremely dangerous: In enclosed spaces, human waste can create a mix of toxic gases, which can result in loss of consciousness and death for those forced to breathe in the foul air for extended periods.

Mr. Bezwada’s Campaign of the Cleanliness Workers movement has recorded over 1,300 sanitation worker deaths since the early 1990s.

After his own near-death experience at the water tank, Mr. Bezwada kept talking to community members at the Kolar Gold Fields in the state of Karnataka, where 114 dry latrine cleaners and about 1,000 sanitary workers overall were among the approximately 90,000 employees.

He discovered manual scavenging was not a local issue but an all-India problem. So he started writing letters, including to Karnataka’s chief minister and to the prime minister of India. He arranged for a camera through a friend and started documenting the situation at the mine, which was closed in 2001.

Communists were active at the camp, frequently staging demonstrations for higher wages, and Mr. Bezwada said he learned how to protest from them.

There were many days where he was the only one protesting, and his mother urged him to end his activism. “‘Forget it. We will move out,’” he said she told him.

His breakthrough moment came when a journalist contacted him for a story on the continued existence of dry toilets in the gold mining township, which officials claimed were no longer there. After the article ran, Mr. Bezwada found himself all over the news. Government officials wanted to inspect the situation themselves, and Mr. Bezwada was called on to show them around.

In an effort to raise awareness beyond the gold mine, Mr. Bezwada started visiting other cities and towns, traveling by bus at night, trying to mobilize the manual scavenger communities he encountered and talking to them about “how to come out of it,” he said.

A chance meeting with a retired bureaucrat in the early 1990s helped formalize his Campaign of the Cleanliness Workers movement, leading to both donations and volunteers.

Since the campaign started, and especially over the last decade, dry latrines have largely been eliminated in India, although Mr. Bezwada said they can still be found in rural and semi-urban parts of some states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. He said he won’t be satisfied until there isn’t a single person picking up waste by hand.

In addition to working to eradicate any remaining dry latrines and replace them with flush toilets, Mr. Bezwada’s movement also trains former manual scavengers in other lines of work, like tailoring, gardening and auto rickshaw driving, and it advocates safer working conditions for all waste workers.

In 2023, at least 90 sanitary workers in India died on the job, Mr. Bezwada said. From 2017 to 2022, 373 people are reported to have died cleaning hazardous sewers and septic tanks, according to government data.

Mr. Bezwada said his politics were shaped by the architect of India’s Constitution, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, who himself belonged to Mr. Bezwada’s Dalit caste. It was by reading Mr. Ambedkar, Mr. Bezwada said, that his anger shifted from his community for not resisting, toward society and the government for pushing his caste into inhumane jobs.

“They were doing it to protect the interests of the elite and upper castes,” Mr. Bezwada explained.

Even after nonprofits began supporting his work, Mr. Bezwada still traveled on the cheap, often sleeping at a bus station and covering himself with the newspapers he loved to read during the day for warmth at night.

He mobilized manual scavengers and presented letters to municipalities demanding they demolish the town’s dry toilets. If towns refused, sometimes Mr. Bezwada and his volunteers would take matters into their own hands.

“We would take crow bars and start breaking them,” he said.

In 1993, he and his volunteers started documenting the existence of dry latrines across India and recording each manual scavenger’s death on the job. In 2003, the organization filed a petition in India’s top court asking for strict enforcement of a law passed in the early 1990s that was meant to eradicate manual scavenging in India but was widely ignored.

It wasn’t until 2014 that the court finally acted: It ordered state governments to pay compensation to families of those who had died cleaning sewers and septic tanks; to take stringent measures to stop manual cleaning of dry latrines; and to retrain people engaged in manual scavenging with skills that would give them the means for a more dignified livelihood.

In 2016 he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, often called the Nobel Prize for Asia.

“I had no proper education. But loads of real-life wisdom,” Mr. Bezwada said, assessing the reasons for his success.

However agonizingly long the wait for the court’s decision, the time was put to good use.

“The community got organized in the process,” Mr. Bezwada said. “That’s the reward. Even if I go quiet, today there are thousands who are speaking up.”

One recent afternoon, a group of volunteers huddled in his Delhi office for a meeting.

Mr. Bezwada was coaching them on the fine art of full-throated sloganeering for the ongoing campaign against sewer worker deaths.

“Nobody can win without putting up a fight,” Mr. Bezwada told them. “Whatever victory has come in the world so far, it is all through the struggle and fight only. But every fight may not yield a result. What’s important is the fight.”

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.

The country, he said “is one of the places that has welcomed me most and been the most supportive of my music.” And so especially after the Russian invasion two years ago, he added, “I wanted to come now, to show my support in these hard times.”

Mr. Ramic, born in Bosnia, is a child of war himself. At 11, he lost his father in the shelling of his hometown, Mostar, and spent years as a refugee, moving from country to country with his mother as she struggled to find a way to survive.

They lived in Zagreb, Croatia; Tunis; and Prague, before moving to the United States, first to Arizona, and eventually Boston. There, he finished his education and began a career as a musician, forming an electronic band, Arms and Sleepers, with a college friend, Max Lewis.

Now a solo musician, he was back playing in Kyiv and two other cities in the fall, undeterred by the threat of missile strikes, giving free concerts in a personal commitment to stand alongside his Ukrainian fans.

“Arts and culture during war are one of the most important things that keeps people going because it gives them a sense of human dignity,” Mr. Ramic said. “They are also entitled to this in difficult times.”

Mr. Ramic has many Russian fans too — as well as Russian friends, including his promoter in Moscow, who left their home country in protest at the war in Ukraine. He said he has tried to imagine the dilemma in his own context, how he as a Bosnian would have felt toward a Serb who was against the war. But since the invasion, he said, he had decided not to play in Russia out of respect for Ukrainians.

“To go there, symbolically, at this moment, would not be right,” he said.

The one constant in his life has been music, and it has become his main tool in navigating his traumatic life experiences. In the interview, he spoke eloquently of his life as a refugee and an immigrant, of the loss of his father, and of his sense of alienation and not belonging anywhere.

“For me music is a way to deal with these difficult core memories,” he said. “At the root, it is that.”

His mother, Selma, a piano teacher, taught him classical piano throughout their odyssey as refugees, and hoped Mr. Ramic would become a concert pianist. But in his teens, he gave up the daily four hours of piano practice to focus on his studies, and turned to playing piano and keyboards in bands through high school and college instead.

He studied Eastern European history and politics at Bowdoin College, in Maine, and international relations in a masters’ program at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, driven by a desire to understand the geopolitics that is the backdrop to his life.

Yet he came to confront his own pain in the process. In “To Tell a Ghost,” a short documentary film he made several years ago, he described the shock he felt when the class discussion turned to the wars of the former Yugoslavia.

“I remember sitting in class, drinking my coffee — like everyone else — and suddenly freezing on the inside,” he related in the film. He couldn’t participate in the discussion, he said.

In between courses, he played in a rock band, and in 2006 he formed Arms and Sleepers with Mr. Lewis. It was a special partnership, he said, between Mr. Ramic, born a Muslim, and Mr. Lewis who is Jewish, and now teaching ethics at Yale University. The band’s name reflects Mr. Ramic’s view of the war in Bosnia, referring to the many who wielded weapons, and others, who did little to stop it. “The world was sleeping,” he said.

He was 9 when war broke out in Mostar as Serbian forces fought Croatian and Bosnian fighters for control of the city. His memories are visceral.

“Skies filled with rockets,” he said in the interview. “We had a tank that rolled into our street, by our house.” He remembers watching the tank from the kitchen window. “That was terror.”

As the fighting intensified, his father, Ibrica, a dentist, sent his wife and son out in a refugee convoy for women and children. He stayed in Mostar to look after their property and was killed the next year, in September 1993, when a mortar shell landed in the street outside their house.

Losing his father, with whom he was very close, remains a defining trauma for Mr. Ramic. It wrenched him away from his homeland, and he is still wrestling with a deep sadness and sometimes depression, he said.

It led him recently to advise a couple of Ukrainian friends against enlisting in the army. “You are going to be more useful to your country alive,” he told them. “And for the next generation of people, like your child, they are going to be in a much healthier and stronger state to make a difference, if you stay alive.”

If his father had survived, he would probably have gone back to Bosnia, Mr. Ramic said. His best friend from childhood survived the war in Bosnia and still lives in Mostar, working and raising a family, but Mr. Ramic, an American citizen, said he doubted he would return to live there.

“It’s too difficult emotionally,” he said. “I am sort of in between. I don’t really feel American, I don’t feel Bosnian.”

He and his mother have returned to Mostar for visits, including in September for the 30th anniversary of his father’s death. Much of the city still stands in ruins, he said, and they have never restored their family home. The roof was fixed with European assistance, but his father’s dentistry equipment and other possessions lie untouched, coated in dust, as it was the day he died.

Mr. Ramic moved to Berlin in 2020, and spends time in other European countries — composing in Latvia during the pandemic, and in Spain organizing help for Ukraine in February 2022 at the start of the invasion. Europe feels closer to his roots than America, he said.

“A lot of the music that I create — and perhaps that’s why it does resonate with people in places like Ukraine — is that it is kind of in-between,” he said. “It’s about belonging, or not belonging and figuring out who you are, and maybe coming to the realization that it’s just you and that’s it.”

His music is electronic, accompanied by cinematic videos that mix documentary film footage with kaleidoscopic, computer-generated electronic visuals, often with a strong political message. He frequently confronts the violence and tragedy around him — from his time working with at-risk youth on the South Side of Chicago, to the Black Lives Matter protests, to the war in Ukraine since its first beginnings in 2014 when separatists seized power in parts of the eastern region of the country.

With 13 albums produced, he has a dedicated following and has found a way to live off his music. He performed, dancing intensely over his keyboards, before a crowd of 200 people at the Mezzanine, a club set in an old Soviet textile factory in Kyiv. Some of the audience were followers of his on Facebook and knew his music, but others came along to see a rare American willing to play in wartime Ukraine.

His music is urgent and intense, but there are also calm, ambient-influenced tracks. One fan at the Kyiv concert, an I.T. engineer who only gave her first name, Yana, said she listened to his music when out walking to forget the stress of the war.

“It takes you to some moment where you are neither sad nor happy but just in balance,” she said.

Oleksandr Chubko contributed reporting from Kyiv.

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.

Ms. Kuroyanagi, who jokes that she wants to keep going until she turns 100, is known for her rapid-fire chatter and knack for drawing out guests on topics like dating, divorce and, now, increasingly, death. Even as she works to woo a younger generation — the Korean-Canadian actor and singer Ahn Hyo-seop, 28, appeared on the show this month — many of her guests these days speak about the ailments of aging and the demise of their industry peers.

Having survived World War II, she broke out as an early actor on Japanese television and then carved out a niche as a feel-good interviewer with a distinctive style that is still instantly recognized almost everywhere in Japan. By fashioning herself into a character, rather than simply being the person who interviewed the characters, she helped establish a genre of Japanese performers known as “tarento” — a Japanized version of the English word “talent” — who are ubiquitous on television today.

“In some ways she really is like the embodiment of TV history” in Japan, said Aaron Gerow, a professor of East Asian literature and film at Yale University.

Ms. Kuroyanagi is distinguished above all by her longevity, but she was also a trailblazing woman in an overwhelmingly male environment.

When she started as a variety show host in 1972, if she asked a question, “I was told I should just keep my mouth shut,” she recalled in a nearly two-hour interview in a hotel near the studio where she had taped three episodes earlier in the day.

“I do think Japan has changed from that era,” she said.

She has championed the deaf and is a good-will ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. Yet critics say that despite her pioneering career, she has done little to advance women’s causes. “She is an icon for prosperous, good-old” Japan, wrote Kaori Hayashi, a professor of media studies at the University of Tokyo, in an email message.

In the interview, Ms. Kuroyanagi did not dwell on the indignities of being the sole woman in many rooms. She said that in her 30s and 40s, men in the television industry asked her on dates or proposed marriage — offers that she implied were often unwelcome — and that she treated comments that might now be considered inappropriate as jokes.

In a society that she said retained “feudalist” elements in gender relations, she advised women to bootstrap their way through their careers.

“Don’t ever say you can’t do anything because you are a woman,” she said.

Although she said she entered television because she wanted to appear in children’s programming to prepare for motherhood, she never married or had children. “With a unique job, it’s better to stay single,” she said. “It’s more comfortable.”

Her first memoir, about her childhood attending an unusual progressive elementary school in Tokyo, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, published in 1981, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. Last fall, she published a sequel recounting the harsh conditions in Japan during World War II, when some days all she had to eat were 15 roasted beans, and she and her mother cowered in a dugout to shelter from air raids over Tokyo.

She said she was inspired to write the sequel in part by the images she saw coming out of Ukraine after the Russian invasion. Ms. Kuroyanagi plumbed her own memories of a wartime childhood, when her mother evacuated the family out of Tokyo to northern Japan.

“Even though I haven’t said war is bad,” she said, “I want people to understand what it was like for a child to experience the war.”

Ms. Kuroyanagi maintains a childlike quality herself. For the interview, she switched out of her signature onion hair bun, concealing her own hair under an ash-blond Shirley Temple-style curly bob wig, secured with an enormous black velvet bow.

It is all part of a nonthreatening persona she has cultivated over the decades. “She’s kind of adorable and cute,” said Kumiko Nemoto, a professor of management in the School of Business Administration at Senshu University in Tokyo, where she focuses on gender issues. “She doesn’t criticize anything or bring up anything political or say any negative things.”

That may be why, Gorbachev aside, Ms. Kuroyanagi has avoided interviews with politicians. “It’s too difficult for them to really tell the truth,” she said. “And I can’t make all of them all look good.”

Although sometimes compared to Barbara Walters, the groundbreaking American newswoman, Ms. Kuroyanagi does not push her interview subjects too hard. Producers ask guests in advance what topics they want to avoid or promote, and Ms. Kuroyanagi tends to oblige.

During the taping this week, her guest was Kankuro Nakamura VI, a sixth-generation Kabuki actor whose father and grandfather were also regular visitors on Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch. Mr. Nakamura seemed to anticipate some questions about his family before they scrolled on to the teleprompter.

“What I put the highest priority on is that I control the situation with guests so that the audience will not think the guest is a weird or bad person,” Ms. Kuroyanagi said. “If possible I want the audience to realize, ‘Oh, this person is quite nice.’”

When Mr. Gorbachev appeared on her show in 2001, Ms. Kuroyanagi avoided politics. “It would have been a big deal for him,” she said. Instead, she asked him about his favorite poets, and he recited “The Sail,” by the 19th-century romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov. “I said I wished that if I asked such a question of any Japanese politician, it would be great if there was even one politician who could do that,” she said.

As she has grown older, she has forthrightly faced the challenges of her own generation on the sound stage at TV Asahi, the home of her show for 49 years. Before his death in 2016, for example, Ms. Kuroyanagi interviewed Rokusuke Ei, the lyricist of the song “Sukiyaki.” He appeared in a wheelchair, clearly showing symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Kuroyanagi frankly discussed his illness with him.

“Old people are definitely encouraged by her presence,” said Takahiko Kageyama, a professor of media studies at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto.

With her speech noticeably slowed, Ms. Kuroyanagi said she was motivated to keep working to inspire older audiences. “To show that a person can appear on TV until I am 100 with a body that is OK and my mind still works,” she said, “if I can show that, I think that would be an interesting experiment.”

Hisako Ueno and Kiuko Notoya contributed reporting from Tokyo.

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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The Year in People: Our 12 Favorite Saturday Profiles of 2023

A teenager jailed in Egypt, determined to bear witness to the abuses he suffered during years of detention. A proponent of peace in Colombia, shadowed by death threats. A father in India, fighting his own patriarchal impulses to give his two daughters a better life.

With reports from six continents and 34 countries, the Saturday Profile in 2023 revealed people making a difference, mostly under the radar. Every week, our correspondents often sought out not the famous nor the powerful, but the unheralded with stories worth hearing.

A Muslim cleric in Ukraine, now a medic on the front lines of the war. An anticorruption whistle-blower in Bangkok, with (he’d be the first to admit) a disreputable past. A scientist and hair salon owner in Paris, dedicated to styling curly hair.

Some of our subjects spoke to top news trends, like Africa’s first heat officer; an ex-fisherman devoted to persuading fellow Senegalese not to migrate to Europe; and a rap producer in France, who lost his voice to A.L.S. and was experimenting with artificial intelligence to replace it.

All our subjects, from a teenage rapper in Chile to an 87-year-old climate scientist in Canada staring the “death zone” in the face, are leading lives of purpose. And whatever their passions — from protesting to sewage to lakes to batik to contemporary dance to legal marijuana — all our subjects are memorable characters.

Here are our 12 favorite Saturday Profiles of the year.

Using an ultralight aircraft, Johannes Fritz once taught endangered ibises a migration path over the Alps. Because of climate change, he decided he had to use the same innovative method to show them a much longer route to a winter’s refuge, or the birds, which had once died out entirely from the wild, would disappear a second time.

“Two or three years, and they’d be extinct again,” Mr. Fritz said.

— By Denise Hruby, photographs by Nina Riggio

Lisa LaFlamme was dismissed after a decades-long TV career, not long after she had stopped dyeing her hair, setting off debates across Canada about sexism, ageism and going gray.

“The most comments I ever received were not for months in Baghdad or Afghanistan, or any story, but when I let my hair grow gray — bar none,” Ms. LaFlamme said. “And I will say this, 98 percent positive, except a couple of men and a woman — it’s funny that I can actually remember that — but they were summarily destroyed on social media because women do support women.”

— By Norimitsu Onishi, photographs by Ian Willms

Standing onstage in a dark auditorium in front of 2,000 fans in central Tokyo, Shinjiro Atae, a J-pop idol, revealed something he has kept hidden for most of his life: He is gay.

“I don’t want people to struggle like me,” Mr. Atae said, making an announcement that is extremely unusual in conservative Japan.

— By Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida, photographs by Noriko Hayashi

After filming her part in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” María Mercedes Coroy returned to her life of farming and trading in a Guatemalan town at the base of a volcano.

“People ask me what I do after filming,” Ms. Coroy said. “I go back to normal.”

— By Julia Lieblich, photographs by Daniele Volpe

After 17 years in France, Tharshan Selvarajah has yet to apply for citizenship. But he has made bread for President Emmanuel Macron.

He said it’s his hands that make his bread special.

“My mother’s chicken curry and my wife’s chicken curry may use the same chicken but they do not taste the same,” he said. “God gave me the hands to make the best baguette in France! I am never angry with the flour as I knead the dough.”

— By Roger Cohen, photographs by Dmitry Kostyukov

Fighting for change has cost Narges Mohammadi her career, separated her from family and deprived her of liberty. But a jail cell has not succeeded in silencing her.

“I sit in front of the window every day, stare at the greenery and dream of a free Iran,” Ms. Mohammadi said in a rare and unauthorized telephone interview from inside Evin Prison in Tehran. “The more they punish me, the more they take away from me, the more determined I become to fight until we achieve democracy and freedom and nothing less.”

In October, four months after this profile was published, Ms. Narges won the Nobel Peace Prize.

— By Farnaz Fassihi

Moha Alshawamreh is among the few Palestinians working in Israel’s tech industry. His commute shows both the inequities of life in the West Bank and an exception to them.

“My message is that we should learn more about each other,” Mr. Alshawamreh said. “Break the walls, talk — and put ourselves in each other’s shoes and see each other as two traumatized peoples.”

(This profile was published in March, seven months before a Hamas-led attack on Israel led to a war in Gaza.)

— By Patrick Kingsley, photographs by Laura Boushnak

The South Korean writer Hwang In-suk feeds stray cats on late-night walks through Seoul. The routine informs her poems about loneliness and impermanence.

“I’ve found worlds that I wouldn’t have found if I had not been feeding cats at night,” she said on a recent nocturnal stroll.

— By Mike Ives, photographs by Jun Michael Park

Dan Carter was on the streets for 17 years. His experience informs his policy agenda as mayor of Oshawa, Ontario, a city of 175,000 struggling with overdoses and affordability.

“For 17 years, I was an absolutely horrible individual,” Mr. Carter said of his years as an addict. “Horrible individual. I lied, cheated, stole.”

— By Ian Austen, photos by Ian Willms

For his fellow exiles, Sadiq Fitrat Nashenas, an 88-year-old star singer from a golden era, evokes the Afghanistan they left behind, and one that could have been.

“I was just trying to hold on to my music, because music takes me to God, to the heavens,” he said before taking the stage for a recent concert, his first public performance in nearly 20 years. “Life without music is a mistake.”

— By Mujib Mashal, photographs by Jim Huylebroek

Nomcebo Zikode, the South African singer of the pandemic hit “Jerusalema” that inspired a global dance challenge, wrote the chorus while battling her own depression.

“As if there’s a voice that says you must kill yourself,” Ms. Zikode said, describing her depression at the time. “I remember talking to myself saying, ‘no, I can’t kill myself. I’ve got my kids to raise. I can’t, I can’t do that.’”

— By Lynsey Chutel, photographs by Alexia Webster

Being the leader of Kherson may feel more like a curse than an honor. But one woman isn’t giving up, even though the Russians are sitting just across the river and shelling her city nearly every hour.

“If I could disappear into the air and end this war, I would,” said Halyna Luhova, the mayor. “I’d easily sacrifice myself for ending this hell.”

— By Jeffrey Gettleman, photographs by Ivor Prickett

Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

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 start 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.

“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 the 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.

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.

The decision to allow Russia to earn a medal despite the presence of an athlete convicted of doping raised yet more questions about Russia’s influence over top sports bodies. It also highlighted the inability of global sports to enforce rules on doping and to punish athletes and countries in a timely manner.

Critics have for years accused the I.O.C. of taking a soft approach on Russia by issuing tough-sounding sanctions that still allowed Russian athletes and teams to take part in competitions like the Olympics. Others noted that Russia’s antidoping agency was itself banned when it conducted the initial investigation into Valieva’s positive test.

“It’s unimaginable that a young woman, Valieva, is thrown under the bus with a four-year sanction, but Russia is allowed to keep Olympic glory with the bronze,” Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said. “It reeks of political favoritism, and there is lots of explaining to do, as athletes deserve answers.”

Now, rather than a neat resolution to a scandal that has already dragged on for two years, figure skating — and the Olympic movement — faces the prospect of new questions about doping and its consequences, and new appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport that could take months, or even years, to resolve.

In revising the results on Tuesday, the skating union said that it had disqualified Valieva and dismissed all the points and results she had posted in competitions that took place after she had submitted a positive sample to drug testers on Christmas Day in 2021. The most high-profile of those was the Beijing Olympics weeks later, and the team event that took place early in the Games.

Her disqualification lifted the United States into first place, Japan into second and dropped Russia to third.

But in a curious bit of math, the I.S.U. adjusted only the final points totals for each team, and did not reallocate the 20 points Valieva relinquished to the other women’s competitors. Without the two extra points it believed it should have received from improved finishes in the women’s short and long programs, Canada was left in fourth place — a single point behind Russia’s adjusted total.

Canada’s skating federation said it was “extremely disappointed” and that it would “consider all options to appeal this decision.” It cited a provision buried deep in skating’s rules that says competitors “who initially placed lower than the disqualified Competitor(s) will move up accordingly in their placement(s).”

The Russian Olympic committee, meanwhile, said it was already preparing paperwork to appeal any reallocation of the team medals. In a previous statement on Monday, it had cast doubt on the “objectivity and impartiality” of the court that had banned Valieva, and like Canada pointed to skating’s rule book to fortify its position.

According to those rules, Russia said, “the results of team competitions at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games do not depend on the outcome of the consideration of the individual case of Kamila Valieva, and the awards won by our team in Beijing cannot be legally subject to review.”

Tuesday’s announcement also stripped Valieva of any results she achieved in the period in which she was ineligible, including not only the team event but also her fourth-place finish in the singles event in Beijing and her victory in the 2022 European championships.

Her four-year ban will end in December 2025, just in time to allow her to compete in the next Olympics, in February 2026 in Italy.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, on Monday ridiculed Valieva’s ban as a “politicized decision.” On Tuesday, he broadened his criticisms, suggesting that any result that took the gold away from Russia was unacceptable.

“We don’t agree with these decisions, neither by the court nor by the federation,” he said. “We don’t accept them.”

He added: “Upon their return from China, from the Olympics, these athletes were honored as Olympic champions. We are convinced that for us they will always remain Olympic champions. No matter what decisions were made in this regard, even unfair ones.”

The I.S.U., the skating governing body, said Tuesday that it would coordinate with the International Olympic Committee on the next steps in implementing its decision — essentially the long-delayed awarding of the medals from the team competition to the athletes who earned them.

The medals themselves remain in limbo. Unclear at the time about who had actually won what, the I.O.C. took the unprecedented step of retaining possession of the team golds, silvers and bronzes that were to be awarded in Beijing. It was the first time in Olympic history that medals were not awarded in a completed event.

United States Olympic officials said Tuesday that they would press to have its team’s gold medals awarded regardless of what is happening with Russia or Canada, or any appeals. “There’s no reason for any delay,” said Sarah Hirshland, the chief executive of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. “We are focused on getting those medals to Team USA.”

Ms. Hirshland said the U.S. skaters had hoped to receive their medals at the Paris Olympics this summer. “That would be a dream scenario,” said the ice dancer Madison Chock, a member of the American team in Beijing.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Juliet Macur contributed reporting.

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

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.

Emboldened by the vacated convictions, they are asking that their records be wiped clean and their money returned.

Their hopes are linked to the September cases, in which the two defendants benefited from two recent Supreme Court rulings that had rejected federal prosecutors’ application of the law at play in the soccer cases and offered rare guidance on what is known as honest services fraud. The defendants in the soccer trial had been found to have engaged in bribery that deprived organizations outside the U.S. of their employees’ honest services, which constituted fraud at the time. But the judge ruled that the court’s new guidance meant that those actions were no longer prohibited under American law.

That blow to the case, which federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are contesting, could turn the story of world soccer’s deep-seated corruption — detailed in a 236-page indictment, and proved through 31 guilty pleas and four trial convictions — into one equally about the long arm of American justice reaching too far.

“It’s quite significant,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and professor of law at Columbia University, “since the judge rejected the government’s basic theory.” He called the opinion “surprising but well reasoned.”

Prosecutors for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York are preparing to push back. “This office will vigorously defend the convictions,” a spokesman, John Marzulli, said on Thursday, “and will not remain on the sidelines if the wrongdoers seek to retake the millions of dollars of ill-gotten gains.”

In a court filing this month, prosecutors argued that the federal judge who presided over the FIFA cases, Pamela K. Chen, had misread the Supreme Court. The foreign defendants, they said, had “substantial U.S. ties and activities” and had shown they knew what they did was a crime.

The legal debate comes amid growing concern that global sports organizations like FIFA, the global soccer governing body headquartered in Switzerland, operate in a world of their own, untouchable to the authorities. The systemic corruption among global soccer’s top leaders was widely documented, but until the Justice Department built its complex case and filed indictments in 2015, no government had risked taking it on so ambitiously, with charges that touched three continents.

Once public, the FIFA investigation became one of the largest cross-border corruption cases in U.S. history. It required cooperation from the authorities abroad, who helped make arrests and extradite defendants to the United States, and revealed decades of bribery; accusations of secret contracts, cash drops and courtroom intimidation; and official confirmation that millions of dollars in cash had swung the votes to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

The case was a boon to white-collar lawyers and a shot across the bow of international sports. It boosted the profiles of American prosecutors, who were praised for creatively applying U.S. law on honest services wire fraud, which prohibits people from betraying their employers by engaging in bribery and kickback schemes that funnel money into their own pockets. The legal strategy was widely seen as a novel way to go after foreign commercial bribery.

The charges led to an overhaul of FIFA’s leadership, including the ouster of its longtime president Sepp Blatter, and made celebrities out of key players in the case. Loretta Lynch, the United States attorney general at the time, was nicknamed FIFA-Jägerin, or the FIFA hunter, by the German news media.

The case was far from the first time the Justice Department filed complicated charges with global angles. But its scope and outsize focus on other parts of the world drew questions of why federal prosecutors in Brooklyn had chosen to pour years of resources into the investigation. As justification, prosecutors pointed to the defendants’ use of U.S. banks and, more broadly, the “affront to international principles” that Ms. Lynch said their schemes represented.

Now, as American prosecutors prepare to defend their work before a federal appeals court, the idea that U.S. law could apply where others were unable, or unwilling, to act is in question. That has opened the door to a dramatic possibility: that prominent sports officials and businessmen who were found to have solicited or accepted bribes could see their convictions set aside and their fortunes returned.

In an interview this past week, the former Paraguayan soccer official Juan Ángel Napout said he had been convicted to set an example. “Why me?” he said. “They needed somebody, and it was me.”

Mr. Napout paid over $4 million to the United States government, which has so far forwarded more than $120 million in forfeited money to FIFA and pledged to release tens of millions more. Back home in Asunción since his release from prison last summer, Mr. Napout, 65, is asking the U.S. to vacate his conviction and return his money.

Mr. Napout was incarcerated for longer than anyone else implicated in the sprawling case, his once-luxurious lifestyle upended as he became a cook in a Florida prison. He said he had not considered an appeal until hearing of the acquittals in September, and is proceeding only at the behest of his family “so my record will go clean.”

Even as the government’s appeal of the recent acquittals is pending — an open question to be resolved before Mr. Napout’s request is addressed — he is not alone in seizing the chance to seek a clean slate.

In recent weeks, José Maria Marin, a former Brazilian soccer official who also served time in prison and paid millions in penalties, and Alfredo Hawit, a former top soccer official from Honduras who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government, have made similar requests.

In their legal filings, they are reprising some of the arguments made when they were first charged, when lawyers objected to what they called U.S. prosecutors’ overzealous use of a vague law. At the time, some emphasized that, in countries like Brazil, paying bribes in a private business transaction to secure a deal or contract is not uncommon — or illegal.

As the legal fight continues, prominent adversaries in the case have moved on. The soccer organizations implicated have new leaders. In 2019, four years after Ms. Lynch issued a stern warning to as-yet-unindicted figures in the case — “You will not wait us out” — she joined the American law firm Paul, Weiss and became a booster of the new FIFA. At least twice in recent years, she has addressed FIFA directly, praising the organization’s “renewed commitment to transparency and ethical behavior.”

Ms. Lynch did not respond to a request for comment.

But recently, FIFA has come under renewed scrutiny for bypassing standard processes, as when it effectively awarded the valuable hosting rights for the 2034 World Cup to Saudi Arabia without competitive bidding. FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, who ascended after Mr. Blatter’s ouster, has explored extending limits on his time in the top job.

The result of the new appeals, to be argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, could have implications not only for convicted defendants like Mr. Napout, but also for those who were charged but have remained at large, safely out of reach of United States authorities. They include the longtime FIFA power broker Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago; the Argentine television executives Hugo and Mariano Jinkis; and the former Brazilian soccer chiefs Marco Polo del Nero and Ricardo Teixeira.

At least $200 million paid by those convicted is also at stake; a portion of that has been pledged to FIFA, which was deemed a victim of the corruption in its own house, and earmarked for causes including soccer programs for women, youth and disabled people. FIFA said $50 million had been allocated to projects already.

Paul Tuchmann, a former prosecutor on the case now at the law firm Wiggin and Dana, called the decision acquitting two defendants “a hiccup,” but said that no matter what the appeals court decides, “you can’t go back in time and erase the impact.”

Still, Mr. Tuchmann added, undoing the government’s work would have broad consequences — within global sports and beyond it.

“For people with a certain amount of wiliness, they’ll understand the U.S. criminal justice system isn’t going to touch them,” he said. “And I think it’s unfortunate.”

Ken Bensinger contributed reporting.

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.”

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.

Unless she is willing to suppress her testosterone levels through medication — which she is not — or she prevails in an appeal she has filed challenging the new regulations, she and other intersex athletes will be barred from competing in all running, jumping and throwing events under the increasingly restrictive and contentious rules that govern women’s track and field.

The legality of those rules has been disputed as they have evolved, and as sports governing bodies attempt to balance fair play in women’s sports with the complicated issues of biological sex and gender identity. But the application of the regulations continues to cause confusion for those affected: rule changes sometimes made with little or no warning; careers forcibly switched abruptly or ended at their peak; and embarrassment, humiliation and fears about personal safety.

“They are destroying our talent, and our dignity,” Ms. Imali said in a recent video interview about her appeal. She said she should not be punished for the way she was born because she had done nothing wrong.

“I was given this talent by God,” she added, “and I’m using it the way it is.”

The precise impact of muscle-building testosterone on elite athletic performance remains unsettled. World Athletics, track and field’s governing body, has argued that intersex athletes exist in elite sports at a level exponentially higher than they do in the general female population. But the organization’s top medical officials acknowledged in 2021 that they can show an associated but not a causal relationship between testosterone levels and athletic performance in top female athletes.

Despite uncertainty, track and field has imposed increasingly rigid restrictions that have interrupted or altered the careers of not only Ms. Imali but also bigger stars such as Caster Semenya of South Africa, a two-time Olympic champion, and Francine Niyonsaba, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Burundi.

To continue her elite career, Ms. Imali could modify her body through medication or attempt to compete against men — another prospect she flatly refuses. (“I am a woman,” she said.) Instead, she is appealing to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, the final arbiter on global sports disputes. A hearing is scheduled for the spring, her lawyers said.

Ms. Imali has received legal aid from the court to help defray the costs of arbitration, and her lawyers are working pro bono. But the appeals process still figures to cost tens of thousands of dollars — money that she says she does not have, which is why she is seeking to crowd-fund her challenge.

“Access to justice is a serious concern,” said James Bunting, one of Ms. Imali’s Toronto-based lawyers.

Without a ruling in her favor, Ms. Imali is not eligible to compete in national or international events, which might yield prize money or sponsorship contracts. At the same time, she and her partner are struggling to provide for their 4-year-old son, care for her grandmother and pay the rent and the school fees for her two younger sisters.

The case involves athletes born with a genetic condition known as 46, XY DSD. Athletes with the 46, XY DSD trait have genitalia that is not typically male or female; an X and a Y chromosome in each cell, the typical male pattern; and levels of testosterone in the male range.

Ms. Imali grew up in the village of Moiben, Kenya, raised in a family — mother, grandmother, two sisters and a cousin she considered a brother — that sometimes could not provide enough food for everyone every day. She said running was her opportunity for hope.

In 2014, at 18, she qualified for the 800 meters at the world junior athletics championships. She strained a hamstring during the final and withdrew, but was encouraged by the fact that she was among the world’s fastest runners in her age group.

Several months later, though, her optimism was shattered. Ms. Imali said that doctors and officials affiliated with Athletics Kenya, the governing body for track and field in her country, told her that she was ineligible to keep competing. At a hospital in Nairobi, the capital, she said, she had to remove her clothes and undergo an examination — a familiar story among intersex athletes — and then was told by a doctor that she could pay to have surgery to make her a “pure girl.”

Ms. Imali said that she had been confused. She said that she had never received any documents or test results and that, in the hospital, she had been told only that she had high levels of testosterone. Her mother assured her that she was a girl, and until then no one, including her, had ever questioned that. She declined the surgery.

“I cannot just destroy my body,” she said.

In 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended track and field’s restrictions at the time regarding female competitors with naturally high levels of testosterone, a condition known as hyperandrogenism. The court, in a case involving an Indian sprinter, found insufficient evidence that hyperandrogenic athletes gained a performance advantage so great that they should be banned from competing against women.

The ruling meant Ms. Imali was free to run again, but she soon encountered a personal hurdle: She gave up the sport for a period to care for her mother, who had become sick and later died in August 2016. The cause was a brain tumor, Ms. Imali said, but she blamed herself for causing her mother so much stress.

In 2017, she resumed her career and qualified for the World Athletics Championships in the 400 meters. But her career lurched to a halt again in 2019 after track and field sought to impose new eligibility restrictions, and Ms. Semenya lost a landmark decision in her own case.

In that case, the arbitration court, by a 2-to-1 vote, upheld a ban on intersex athletes in events from 400 meters to the mile — where their advantage in strength, muscle mass and oxygen-carrying capacity was considered most pronounced — unless they lowered their testosterone levels to the female range. The decision kept Ms. Semenya from defending her 800-meter title at the Tokyo Olympics.

The court acknowledged at the time that the ruling was discriminatory but said that it was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to ensure a “level playing field” in women’s events.

Blocked from her most familiar events, Ms. Imali switched to shorter races. In 2022, she set Kenyan records at 100 meters and 200 meters and won a silver medal in the 200 at the African championships. In March 2023, however, her career was halted again, perhaps permanently.

Expanding its existing restrictions, World Athletics announced that intersex athletes were ineligible to compete in all women’s events unless they lowered their testosterone levels to 2.5 nanomoles per liter, half as much as previously allowed.

The tighter constraints came after two intersex athletes performed impressively in previously unrestricted events at the 2021 Tokyo Games: Christine Mboma of Namibia, who won a silver medal in the 200 meters at age 18, and Ms. Niyonsaba, who finished fifth in the 10,000.

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said that no single athlete had prompted the stiffer eligibility rules. But without them, he said, “no woman’s ever going to win another sporting event.”

Ms. Imali said that the rule change had left her shocked but also feeling unsafe. People taunt her, call her a man, she said. She fears losing her job in the Kenyan police service, a perk of her running career that, without athletics, is her only means of supporting herself and her family.

“They are not destroying me alone,” she said. “They are destroying the people who are depending on me.”

In her appeal, her attorneys are expected to argue that insufficient evidence exists to show that intersex athletes have an unfair advantage in every track and field event. Until then, Ms. Imali and other affected athletes face what they say is an impossible choice: undergo treatments to sustain lower testosterone levels, which they contend are unnecessary and potentially harmful, or give up their livelihoods.

“They need to understand that we are human,” Ms. Imali said, “and they need to respect human rights.”

Ecuador adopta el ‘noboísmo’ como respuesta a la violencia

Annie Correal y Federico Rios reportaron desde Guayaquil, Ecuador.

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Luego de que el mes pasado el presidente de Ecuador declarara la guerra a las bandas criminales, soldados con rifles de asalto han inundado las calles de Guayaquil, una ciudad de la costa Pacífico que ha estado en el epicentro de la espiral de violencia del país, un fenómeno que ya lleva algunos años.

De los buses y los autos hacen bajar a los hombres, en busca de drogas, armas y tatuajes de pandillas. Patrullan las calles para hacer cumplir un toque de queda nocturno. La ciudad está ansiosa, sus hombres y jóvenes son posibles objetivos de soldados y oficiales de policía que tienen la orden de derribar a las poderosas bandas que se han aliado con los carteles internacionales para convertir a Ecuador en un centro del comercio mundial de drogas.

No obstante, cuando los soldados pasan, mucha gente aplaude o les muestra el dedo pulgar en señal de aprobación. “La mano dura la aplaudimos, la celebramos”, dijo Aquiles Alvarez, alcalde de Guayaquil. “Ha ayudado a tener paz en las calles”.

A principios de enero, Guayaquil fue azotada por una ola de violencia que podría ser un punto decisivo en la prolongada crisis de seguridad del país: las bandas atacaron la ciudad luego de que las autoridades tomaron medidas para recuperar las cárceles ecuatorianas, que estaban en su mayoría bajo el control de los grupos delictivos.

Hubo secuestro de policías, detonación de explosivos y, en un episodio emitido en vivo, una decena de hombres armados tomaron una televisora importante.

El presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, declaró la existencia de un conflicto armado interno, una medida extraordinaria para cuando el Estado es atacado por un grupo armado. Desplegó tropas contra las bandas que han tomado gran parte de Ecuador en su lucha por controlar las rutas de tráfico de cocaína y han transformado uno de los países más pacíficos de Sudamérica en uno de los más mortíferos.

El alto mando militar de Ecuador advirtió que todo integrante de un grupo delictivo se había convertido en un “objetivo militar”.

La agresiva respuesta de Noboa ha reducido la violencia y brindado un sentido precario de seguridad a lugares como Guayaquil, una ciudad de 2,7 millones de habitantes y puerto clave para el narcotráfico, impulsando la aprobación del gobierno a 76 por ciento en una encuesta reciente.

También ha alarmado a algunos activistas de los derechos humanos.

“Esto no es algo nuevo, innovador”, dijo Fernando Bastias, del Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Guayaquil. “Y más bien lo que está incrementando son casos de graves violaciones a derechos humanos”.

El enfoque de Ecuador ha suscitado comparaciones con El Salvador, en donde su joven líder, Nayib Bukele, en buena medida ha desmantelado las sanguinarias pandillas, lo que le ayudó a conseguir una arrolladora victoria de reelección y elogios por toda América Latina. Pero los críticos aseguran que también ha pisoteado los derechos humanos y el Estado de derecho al ordenar detenciones masivas en las que personas inocentes han sido capturadas.

“Ecuador es un caso importante porque es casi un segundo laboratorio para las políticas de Bukele”, dijo Gustavo Flores-Macías, profesor de gobierno y políticas públicas en la Universidad de Cornell que se especializa en América Latina. “La gente está tan desesperada que se compra la necesidad de estas políticas de mano dura para bajar la delincuencia”.

Dichas políticas pueden ser efectivas, pero, agregó, “el costo en libertades civiles es alto”.

Al igual que Bukele, Noboa, de 36 años, desea construir megaprisiones, y sus publicaciones en las redes sociales muestran música animada con imágenes de prisioneros esposados y desnudos hasta la cintura. Lo llama “The Noboa Way”.

No obstante, las diferencias son importantes, a decir de Christopher Sabatini, un investigador sénior para América Latina en Chatham House, un grupo de investigación en Londres. Si bien Bukele desdeña la democracia, Noboa “ha presentado a su gobierno como una democracia asediada”, dijo Sabatini.

Noboa también enfrenta un tipo distinto de adversario, dijo Will Freeman, del Council on Foreign Relations.

“El Salvador nunca fue importante para el narcotráfico”, dijo. “Sencillamente es demasiado pequeño”. Ecuador, en contraste, ahora es clave para el comercio mundial de la cocaína, dijo, con vínculos entre los cárteles mexicanos y Europa. Como consecuencia, sus bandas criminales disponen de millones de dólares para armarse y combatir a las autoridades.

Las autoridades de Ecuador han llevado a cabo más de 6000 detenciones después de que el presidente declaró la guerra a las bandas.

En Guayaquil, efectivos militares y agentes de policía destruyen sistemas de cámaras instalados por las bandas para vigilar barrios enteros, invaden zonas que solían estar fuera del alcance de la policía y derriban puertas para descubrir depósitos de armas y explosivos.

Las medidas han tenido algunos resultados.

De diciembre a enero, la cantidad de homicidios en Guayaquil cayó en un 33 por ciento, de 187 a 125. Fuera de la morgue municipal, Cheyla Jurado, una vendedora ambulante de 27 años que vende jugo y pan dulce a las personas que esperan para recuperar los cuerpos, dijo que era evidente que la cantidad de gente había bajado.

“Ahora son accidentes de tránsito, ahogados”, dijo.

En el mayor hospital de la ciudad, la cantidad de pacientes que llegaban con heridas de bala y otras lesiones relacionadas con la violencia ha caído de cinco al día a incluso una cada tres días, dijo Rodolfo Zevallos, médico de urgencias.

El alivio temporal de las matanzas —si bien en sus primeras fases— ha hecho que muchos animen al presidente.

“Nos sentamos afuera de noche”, dijo Janet Cisneros, quien vende comidas preparadas en la zona Suburbio de Guayaquil. “Antes no, estábamos completamente encerrados”.

Noboa, heredero de una fortuna del banano, fue electo en noviembre para concluir el mandato de su predecesor, que terminó prematuramente cuando disolvió la Asamblea Nacional y convocó a nuevas elecciones.

En enero, al estallar la violencia, cambió sus trajes y sonrisa tímida por un mohín, corte al ras y una casaca negra de cuero al anunciar que Ecuador ya no recibiría órdenes de “grupos narcoterroristas”.

El mensaje severo iba dirigido a los ecuatorianos, que volverán a votar en elecciones presidenciales el próximo año, dijo Flores-Macías, el politólogo experto, pero también para granjearse el apoyo de líderes internacionales, en especial del presidente Joe Biden. “Lo que vemos con Noboa es que claramente necesita el apoyo, la asesoría, financiamiento y ayuda de Estados Unidos”.

Hasta el momento, el gobierno de Biden ha brindado a Ecuador equipamiento y capacitación con alrededor de 93 millones de dólares en asistencia militar y humanitaria.

Las autoridades de Ecuador han dicho que el ejército es clave para recuperar los barrios de las bandas que se han convertido en la autoridad fáctica y reclutan a niños de hasta 12 años para mover drogas, secuestrar y matar.

El despacho de Noboa no respondió a las solicitudes de comentarios.

En Guayaquil, la policía cubre los murales que muestran a líderes delictivos y los soldados hacen redadas callejeras en las que sermonean a los jóvenes que son sorprendidos con pequeñas bolsas de marihuana sobre los peligros de las drogas o la vida criminal.

Pero en las redes sociales han circulado videos que muestran a las autoridades empleando tácticas más severas: hombres y chicos agrupados en las calles que reciben golpes en la cabeza o son obligados a besarse entre ellos. En un video muy compartido se ve a un adolescente obligado a restregarse un tatuaje del cuerpo hasta que le sangra el pecho.

En las prisiones a las que el ejército fue enviado para desmantelar el control de las bandas, se llevan a cabo abusos similares, según defensores de las familias de los reclusos.

“A los presos los tienes flagelados peor que a Jesucristo”, dijo Fernanda Lindao, cuyo hijo está cumpliendo condena por hurto en la penitenciaría del Litoral de Guayaquil. “Para los PPL”, dijo refiriéndose por sus siglas a las personas privadas de la libertad, “no hay derechos humanos”.

No obstante, los videos de las detenciones son inmensamente populares y muchos ecuatorianos reconocen a los soldados y al presidente.

“La gente aplaude todo lo que pasa”, dijo Alvarez, el alcalde de Guayaquil, “y no lo aplaude por ser mala persona sino porque está cansada de toda la violencia que ha vivido”.

Para explicar su respaldo a las tácticas de Noboa muchos describen lo mal que estuvo la situación.

“Aquí mataban, aquí dejaban cuerpos botados”, dijo Rosa Elena Guachicho, quien vive en Durán, una zona de Guayaquil sin agua potable ni calles pavimentadas. “Hace un mes encontraron uno en una funda, hecho pedazos”.

Dolores Garacoia dijo que las bandas se habían adueñado de Durán. Los taxistas se negaban a entrar, por miedo de que los robaran o secuestraran, dijo. Ni la policía se sentía segura.

A los dueños de pequeños negocios, como Garacoia, los extorsionaban las bandas. Contó que cerró la tienda que tuvo durante años luego de que la llamaran para pedirle un pago de miles de dólares conocido como vacuna.

“Tuve que cerrar y bajar el letrero, de una”, dijo.

De la misma manera que los guayaquileños se han adaptado la violencia —quedándose en casa, comprando pitbulls— la apariencia exterior de la ciudad también ha cambiado. Las casas se han convertido en jaulas cerradas, rodeadas de barrotes que se alzan dos y tres pisos.

Ángel Chávez, de 14 años, estaba sentado detrás de las barras de metal de un centro comunitario en Monte Sinaí, parte del distrito más peligroso de Guayaquil, en donde se registraron más de 500 homicidios el año pasado.

La llegada de los militares le causaba sentimientos encontrados.

“Eso me parece bien para ver si por fin se acaba esto que estamos sufriendo”, dijo.

Pero añadió que le inquietaba la forma en que los soldados trataban a algunos adolescentes en los videos. “No me gusta cuando los maltratan”, dijo.

No obstante, para muchos en Guayaquil, el miedo es que el ejército se retire.

Cisneros, la cocinera que al fin puede servir comidas afuera dijo: “Que no se vayan, por favor”.

Thalíe Ponce colaboró con la reportería.

Annie Correal reporta desde Estados Unidos y América Latina para el Times. Más de Annie Correal


Sebastián Piñera, expresidente de Chile, muere en un accidente de helicóptero

Sebastián Piñera, un expresidente de Chile que ayudó a fortalecer la joven democracia del país después de convertirse en su primer líder conservador tras la dictadura militar, murió en un accidente de helicóptero el martes, informó el gobierno. Tenía 74 años.

El helicóptero, que transportaba a cuatro personas, se estrelló en el lago Ranco localizado en la región Los Ríos, en el sur de Chile, cerca de las 3:30 p. m. del martes, poco después de despegar, según informó el gobierno. Tres personas sobrevivieron y nadaron hasta la costa, y la Armada de Chile recuperó el cuerpo de Piñera. No está claro quién piloteaba la aeronave, pero Piñera era conocido por pilotear su propio helicóptero.

Piñera era un empresario multimillonario e inversionista que fungió como presidente de Chile en dos periodos, de 2010 a 2014 y de 2018 a 2022.

Piñera, de tendencia conservadora, implementó políticas favorables al empresariado que ayudaron a impulsar el crecimiento y, según sus propias palabras, convirtieron al país de 19 millones de habitantes en un “verdadero oasis” en América Latina.

Pero también enfrentó protestas masivas de chilenos que aseguraban que su gobierno no atendía a los pobres —Chile es uno de los países con mayor desigualdad económica del mundo— y dejó el cargo en ambas ocasiones con bajos niveles de aprobación.

“El presidente Piñera contribuyó, desde su visión, a construir grandes acuerdos por el bien de la patria”, dijo Gabriel Boric, presidente de Chile, en un discurso televisado. “Fue un demócrata desde la primera hora y buscó genuinamente lo que él creía que era lo mejor para el país”. Boric anunció tres días de duelo nacional.

Tal vez su principal legado haya sido ayudar al movimiento conservador chileno a ganar el poder por primera vez después del fin de la cruel dictadura militar del general Augusto Pinochet en 1990.

Tras dos décadas de gobiernos de izquierda después del fin de la dictadura, sus primeras elecciones, en 2010, mostraron que la democracia de Chile gozaba de solidez y salud, dijo Robert Funk, profesor de ciencia política de la Universidad de Chile.

“Eso lo hizo prácticamente solo”, dijo Funk. “Impulsó a los partidos de la derecha a participar y a aceptar las reglas del juego en un momento en que no estaban tan convencidos”.

A Piñera le sobreviven su esposa, Cecilia Morel, con quien se casó en 1973, y sus cuatro hijos.

A principios de la década de 1980, Piñera hizo su primera fortuna introduciendo las tarjetas de crédito en Chile durante la dictadura. Luego utilizó esos fondos para invertir en una amplia gama de empresas, entre ellas inmobiliarias, bancarias, energéticas y mineras. Fue propietario de una cadena de televisión, de importantes acciones de una aerolínea y de un club de fútbol profesional.

Luego utilizó su riqueza para entrar en política, primero como senador y más tarde como presidente.

Piñera dirigió Chile en algunos de sus momentos más difíciles de los últimos tiempos. Semanas después de su elección en 2010, un fuerte terremoto y un tsunami causaron la muerte de 525 personas y 1,5 millones de desplazados.

Ese mismo año, Piñera utilizó todos los recursos de su presidencia para comprometerse con el rescate de 33 mineros atrapados a casi 800 metros bajo tierra. El elaborado plan de su gobierno —perforar un estrecho agujero y descender una cápsula hecha a medida— tuvo éxito, y Piñera celebró con los mineros su liberación tras pasar 68 días bajo tierra.

En su segundo mandato, Piñera supervisó la ampliamente elogiada respuesta de su gobierno a la pandemia porque consiguió una gran cantidad de vacunas de China e inició un eficiente programa de vacunación.

Su gobierno también se enfrentó a protestas masivas en 2019 que comenzaron por un pequeño aumento en las tarifas del metro, pero finalmente se convirtieron en quejas generalizadas sobre la desigualdad del país.

Piñera desplegó a los militares para sofocar las protestas, y los enfrentamientos posteriores entre la policía y los manifestantes dejaron más de 30 civiles muertos y otros 460 ciegos o con graves traumatismos oculares por las balas de goma.

Finalmente, Piñera accedió a la petición de celebrar un referéndum nacional para derogar la Constitución chilena, que tiene sus raíces en la dictadura. Los chilenos votaron abrumadoramente a favor de redactar una nueva carta magna, pero en diciembre pasado, tras cuatro años y dos plebiscitos constitucionales fallidos, la nación optó por vivir, de momento, con el texto actual.

Funk dijo que Piñera fue un gestor eficiente y hábil que en general supervisó una amplia mejora de la calidad de vida de los chilenos, pero también falló a menudo como político y comunicador, sobre todo al momento de comprender los problemas de los más pobres.

“Gobernaba a través de una hoja de cálculo de Excel”, dijo Funk. “Decía que vamos bien en esta casilla, y en esta otra. Pero su fracaso consistía en que no tenía un sentido de la política, de la frustración de las personas, de cómo sus gobiernos podían molestar a la gente”.

Piñera también se enfrentó a escándalos. En la década de 1980, pasó un breve periodo en la clandestinidad cuando las autoridades trataron de detenerlo en el marco de una investigación por fraude en un banco que ayudó a dirigir. Nunca fue condenado.

Cuando hizo la transición del mundo de los negocios a la política, fue criticado por los conflictos de intereses entre sus inversiones y sus cargos públicos.

Como presidente, se vio obligado a gestionar sus activos mediante fideicomisos ciegos. Sin embargo, más tarde se reveló que había trasladado gran parte de su riqueza a paraísos fiscales en Luxemburgo y las Islas Vírgenes Británicas, dijo Sergio Jara, autor de un libro sobre los líderes empresariales chilenos en el que incluyó a Piñera.

“Fue un inversionista voraz y diverso, con acciones minoritarias en más de cien empresas”, dijo Jara. “Esto le permitió ser una de las primeras fortunas de Chile”.

John Bartlett colaboró con reportería desde Valdivia, Chile.

Jack Nicas es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Brasil, que abarca Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay. Anteriormente reportó de tecnología desde San Francisco y, antes de integrarse al Times en 2018, trabajó siete años en The Wall Street Journal. Más de Jack Nicas


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

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

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

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

Burning in the last day
Previously burned

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Source: NASA Notes: Data is as of 2:31 p.m. Chile Summer Time on Feb. 8. 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.