The New York Times 2024-02-12 06:29:49

Lost Images Reveal the History of Rio’s Carnival

Rafael Cosme was at a Rio de Janeiro antique fair six years ago when he found a pile of film negatives on the ground. No one wanted them, the vendor said. They were $2.

“I carried home two bags of negatives thinking: What am I doing with my life?” he recalled.

So began Mr. Cosme’s obsession with the lost and discarded photos of his city’s past. Since that morning in 2018, he has collected more than 150,000 film photos and negatives, nearly all shot by amateurs, that tell the story of Rio de Janeiro from the 1890s to the 1980s, one flash in time at a time.

In his work, he has noticed that one theme keeps popping up more than any other.


It is Rio’s annual collective exhalation — a four-day eruption of art and music, costumes and joy — that began again on Saturday.

The celebration has come to define Rio around the world, while also becoming an influential driver of the city’s culture.

“There is no researching this city without going through Carnival,” Mr. Cosme said.

But through the photos, taken over decades by photographers whose names are lost to history, he could see how Carnival had changed with the city, and vice versa.

From 100-year-old prints with a sepia tint to 60-year-old saturated Kodachrome slides, the images revealed changing trends in society, humor, fashion, drug use and sexual liberalization.

Taken by amateurs with the cameras of their day, the photos often have a ragged beauty to them, compared with today’s digital perfection, and also a special intimacy.

“I realized there are endless stories I could tell about this city,” Mr. Cosme said about his discovery of Rio’s lost photos. “Because inside every house, inside every closet, there is a box with revelations.”

Carnival, a days-long celebration ahead of the Christian observance of Lent, arrived in Brazil with the Portuguese colonizers, and for centuries retained traditions from Europe. It was a costume party of sorts, where revelers would hide their identities to play pranks on neighbors.

By the middle of the 19th century, Brazilians began adding music, dancing and revelry in the street. By the turn of the 20th century, it was a full-fledged party.

Around that time, Rio’s rich elites began parading around the city during Carnival in open cars, according to Maria Clementina Pereira Cunha, a historian who has written books about Rio’s Carnival.

It was partly a way to show off their wealth, she said. But when suburbanites began pooling money to rent cars to parade around, too, the trend fell out of fashion with elites and died in the 1930s.

Even with its constant evolution, Carnival remained a costume party. The photos show that many people, particularly among Brazil’s poor, crafted creative outfits at home using what they could find.

“Mothers sewed and embroidered so their children would look well presented at Carnival,” Ms. Pereira Cunha said. “That’s why they wanted their photograph taken.”

Costumes also were satirical and playful, sometimes referring to pop culture and current events — references that are not always so clear today.

One of the most popular costumes was men dressing as women. They were designed to be a joke, often playing up sexist tropes, and the costumes fell out of favor over time.

Clown costumes were long popular, but over the decades they grew more sinister. People who wore them often tried to scare other revelers.

Eventually, men from Rio’s suburbs created a style called “bate bola,” or roughly “slam ball,” a costume that involved menacing clowns who slammed balls tied to ropes against the street. This type of costume, seen in the fifth image below, became renowned for frightening children and is still common today.

By the 1910s, people began carrying glass bottles of a scented ether-based liquid that provided a brief euphoric high. Later the bottles gave way to pressurized cans. They were called “lança perfume,” or “perfume throwers.”

Revelers would spray the concoction into crowds or at strangers, often to flirt, said Felipe Ferreira, a Carnival historian at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

The government banned the sprays in 1961, but a stronger version is still used illegally today.

Look closely at these photos to see people carrying the bottles and cans.

The 20th century also brought “blocos,” or street bands, which became an integral part of Brazilian Carnival, and still are today. They are each a social club of sorts that play music on the street, with drums, horns and often matching outfits.

They frequently marched through the city, fueling impromptu parties, with different blocos offering differing styles of music, costumes and themes.

By the late 1920s, the so-called samba schools arrived. These were formal groups of samba musicians and dancers who performed increasingly elaborate shows that told stories through costumes, lyrics and dance.

They were made up of largely Black residents of poorer neighborhoods, and they focused on celebrating their Afro-Brazilian heritage.

As they became Rio’s most popular Carnival attraction, the city shut down a main avenue for the schools’ parades, adding large decorations and bleachers, as seen in the photos below. The schools, meanwhile, adopted even more extravagant costumes and floats.

Today the parade remains the centerpiece of Rio’s Carnival, held in a dedicated stadium built in 1984.

Produced by Craig Allen, Gray Beltran and Diego Ribadeneira.

Lis Moriconi contributed reporting.

‘Feel a Bit Like Gulliver’: Peek Inside a 100-Year-Old Royal Dolls’ House

The silver crown is set with diamonds. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds and seed pearls are peppered through the design. And the red velvet cap inside would be fit to cushion the head of a monarch.

Except that the whole thing is only an inch tall.

The jeweled miniature, a copy of Britain’s Imperial State Crown, is part of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, on display at Windsor Castle outside London, where the everyday objects, luxuries and curiosities of royal life in the early 20th century are reproduced at one-twelfth scale.

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Finland Elects Alexander Stubb President as It Ushers in NATO Era

Finns elected the center-right politician Alexander Stubb as their new president on Sunday, in the first national election since the country joined NATO, filling a post that will be critical to shaping Finland’s role in the alliance at a time of increasingly fraught relations with Russia.

The election might typically have gained little notice beyond the borders of the northern European country of 5.6 million people. But Finland, the newest member of NATO, shares the longest border with Russia — some 830 miles — and its politics have taken on special interest to its European and American allies as the geopolitical order shifts.

U.S. power is being challenged by Moscow and Beijing, and Europe is grappling with its largest land war since World War II. At the same time, the American commitment to aiding Ukraine looks increasingly in doubt, and an unpredictable American presidential election looms.

Finland has a parliamentary system of government, but its presidency is not a ceremonial role. The president is responsible for foreign policy, and the winner will play a pivotal role in steering the country through a changing world.

“What kind of a NATO country Finland is going to become is an open question at the moment,” said Jenni Karimaki, a political analyst at the University of Helsinki. “The new president is going to have a lot of say on that matter.”

Finland’s decision to join NATO was a sharp break from its decades of nonalignment, and the risks and responsibilities of the country’s new place in the world had dominated the campaign over who should succeed the popular Sauli Niinisto, whose second six-year term expires next month.

Mr. Stubb, of the National Coalition Party, went into the runoff election on Sunday against Pekka Haavisto of the center-left Green League.

Mr. Stubb won with 51.6 percent of the vote, while Mr. Haavisto had 48.4 percent.

“We’re in a new situation in international policy, where rules are challenged, institutions are challenged, we have war near us, and Russia behaves aggressively,” the president-elect said after the vote was called. “But we’re also facing a new era — because we’re militarily aligned, and we’re a NATO member.”

The two candidates expressed very similar views on the issues most on the minds of voters — they have both strongly supported joining NATO and take a tough line on Russia. The differences between them are largely stylistic.

During his campaign, Mr. Stubb, a former prime minister who went to college in South Carolina, emphasized his desire to bolster trans-Atlantic relations on the campaign trail and regularly played up his hard-line stance.

“I’m as hawkish as the best of them, there’s no question about that,” he told The New York Times in an interview before the vote.

He said countering Russia had become more difficult in an era of hybrid warfare.

A section of the Balticconnector, a gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, was damaged by a Chinese ship as it traveled between two Russian ports. Though an investigation into the episode is still underway, many security experts suspect sabotage. There also has been a surge in cyberattacks, some of which Russia has claimed responsibility for.

One issue particularly concerning to voters has been a sudden sharp increase in asylum seekers crossing into Finland over the Russian border, which many in Finland view as a signal from Russia in response to its NATO membership. Moscow had warned there would be “countermeasures” for Finland joining NATO.

“The line between war and peace has been blurred,” Mr. Stubb said.

Mr. Haavisto, who was foreign minister from 2019 to 2023, used his credentials as one of the main negotiators for Finland’s entry into NATO to show that his stance on Russia is equally tough. But the former United Nations peace negotiator shied away from more hawkish positions.

Mr. Stubb showed himself keen to push a more robust Finnish military role within NATO than Mr. Haavisto. Mr. Stubb raised the idea of permanently hosting a small number of NATO officers in the country.

He also said he would support letting the alliance transport its nuclear weapons on Finnish territory — but that possibility remains a hypothetical, as current Finnish law prohibits nuclear weapons on Finnish territory, and the president cannot legislate.

Mr. Stubb’s party, however, now holds nearly complete control on foreign policy matters for the country. In addition to the presidency, the National Coalition Party also holds the role of prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister in the government.

Voter turnout for the runoff election was around 71 percent of the electorate, and around the capital blue and white Finnish flags were hoisted on buildings to honor the day. The custom in Finland is to have coffee and cake after voting, and lots of families turned out to polling stations on Sunday with their children, who could share in the treats with their parents afterward.

Beyond their border with Russia, however, there is another concern for Finnish voters across the Atlantic: What is in store for Finland’s NATO membership should former President Donald J. Trump, an outspoken critic of the alliance who has even suggested the United States might leave it, win the presidential election in November?

“The whole decision of joining NATO banked on the idea that the U.S., the Americans, are here to stay and that U.S. commitment is long lasting,” said Matti Pesu of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “If the U.S. decided to weaken its commitment, it would be a huge irony, and it would weaken the deterrence value of Finland’s NATO membership.”

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King Charles Appears in Public for First Time Since Cancer Announcement

King Charles III on Sunday was seen publicly for the first time since Buckingham Palace announced last week that he was being treated for cancer, strolling into a church on the royal Sandringham estate where he has his residence.

Charles, 75, waved and smiled at well-wishers who had gathered nearby to capture a glimpse of the monarch as news cameras flashed. He walked alongside his wife, Queen Camilla, before heading into the 11 a.m. service at St. Mary Magdalene Church.

Later, both the king and queen smiled and waved for the cameras as they headed back to their home at Sandringham House.

In a message released by Buckingham Palace on Saturday, King Charles thanked the public for supporting him since the news of his cancer diagnosis was announced.

“As all those who have been affected by cancer will know, such kind thoughts are the greatest comfort and encouragement,” he said.

The king added that it was “equally heartening to hear how sharing my own diagnosis has helped promote public understanding and shine a light on the work of all those organizations which support cancer patients and their families across the U.K. and wider world.”

Last month, Charles was admitted to a hospital for a routine operation to treat an enlarged prostate. But on Monday, the palace announced that during the course of that treatment, an unspecified form of cancer had been discovered. He has begun treatment for cancer and paused his public engagements during that time.

The king is currently staying at Sandringham, about 100 miles northeast of London.

The decision by the palace to disclose to the public that the king, Britain’s head of state, was being treated for cancer provided a rare candid insight into the health of a monarch.

But it has also left many questions in its wake, with little clarity on the seriousness of his illness or how long he will be receiving treatment.

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‘This Is Where I Want to Be’

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When Ayelet Khon moved back to the Kfar Azza kibbutz with her husband two months after the brutal Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, the first thing she did was hang a string of rainbow-colored lights up on the front patio.

At night, when darkness drenches this community, the twinkling colors are the only lights visible.

“We are going to keep these lights on and never turn them off — even if we’re out for the evening — they are lights of hope,” Ms. Khon said she told her husband, Shar Shnurman.

Eight hundred people used to live here, including families with children who scampered about in the evenings. Everyone who survived the attack was evacuated on Oct. 8. Since then, their homes have been dark. Even the streetlamps are gone, mowed down when tanks plowed through the narrow lanes as the Israeli Army arrived to defend against the attackers.

Ms. Khon, 56, and Mr. Shnurman, 62, are the only residents who have returned so far. At night, the silence is eerie, punctured episodically by the thunderous sound of bombs exploding in Gaza.

Some people may think they’re crazy, coming back here, just the two of them, Mr. Shnurman said. But to him, coming home was natural.

“We came back for the most basic reason: This is our home,” said Mr. Shnurman, a gregarious giant of a man. “This is where I want to be. It’s the most logical thing, to want to be home.”

He still thinks of this spot, a stone’s throw from Gaza, as a piece of paradise, or, as the locals who lived under the threat of missiles for years put it, “99 percent heaven, 1 percent hell.” Half of the homes were damaged in the attack, but nature has continued on its merry way. The swordlike leaves on the squat palm trees wear the bright green sheen of the desert winter, and thick bougainvillea vines that cling to houses spill purple flowers all about.

It is a communal settlement with no community. The dining hall that served hot lunch every day is closed, and the general store is shuttered. There is no mail, and there are no online deliveries. To buy groceries, you need to leave the kibbutz. Ms. Khon, an acupuncturist and massage therapist, can’t work; her client base was the kibbutz, and no one is around.

About 200,000 Israelis were evacuated after Oct. 7 from towns and farming communities like Kfar Azza that abut the Gaza Strip and were hit hard during the attack, and from villages near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where shelling by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah intensified at the same time.

The government has put displaced residents up in hotels and is footing the bill for their meals. But prolonged evacuations of this scale have never happened before in Israel, and with the war now entering its fifth month, the unspoken question on everyone’s mind is whether anyone who lived near Gaza will ever feel it is safe enough to return.

Some displaced residents from Kfar Azza said it was premature to even consider returning before the government approved resettlement in towns within 2.5 miles of the border with Gaza, where the Israeli Army has been waging a war to destroy Hamas. Mr. Shnurman and Ms. Khon did not ask for permission to return, although the army’s regional Gaza division has said that residents interested in returning have the option of doing so, according to a military spokesman.

More than 60 Kfar Azza residents were among the roughly 1,200 people in Israel who were murdered on Oct. 7, and some 18 men, women and children from the kibbutz were among the roughly 240 who were kidnapped. Hamas is still holding five hostages from the kibbutz.

“We are not going home until the hostages are back home,” said Ronit Ifergen, 49, a mother of three from Kfar Azza.

So Ms. Khon and Mr. Shnurman, who hasn’t resumed his factory job yet, spend their days participating in what has become a popular pastime in Israel: cooking for troops in the area who have heard about his barbecue and her banana bread by word of mouth.

They are never entirely alone. Kibbutz members who do their military reserve duty on-site stop in for hot goulash, and journalists and others regularly come to see the devastation with their own eyes: the charred row of houses where the young adults lived, the bullet holes in kitchen cabinets, the upended mattress under which Doron Steinbrecher was hiding when she was kidnapped.

Photographs show Ms. Steinbrecher with her long blonde hair pulled back, smiling for the camera, wearing a sparkly dress for a night on the town. She is still being held hostage in Gaza and looked gaunt and fearful in a video released on Jan. 26 by her Hamas captors.

Ms. Khon was having her morning coffee on the patio on Oct. 7 when she heard a barrage of missiles that turned the sky overhead a chalky white. The noise was so loud that Mr. Shnurman thought a helicopter had landed on their house.

They checked on their next-door neighbor, whose husband was away, and then hunkered down in their bedroom that doubles as a safe room. Twenty minutes later, the neighbor’s husband called and said he couldn’t reach her. Could they check in on her again?

“Shar went over, and when he got back, he told me, ‘They murdered Mira,’” Ms. Khon said. “I said, ‘That’s not funny.’ And he said, ‘I’m not joking.’”

The couple think the only reason they survived is because their unit and the neighbor’s unit are attached, and the terrorists must not have known there was another family in the complex.

“I realized then, we’re in a fight for our lives here,” Mr. Shnurman said. “There was a war going on outside our window. And where was the army?”

It took 30 hours until Israeli soldiers rescued them from their safe room, where they had no food, water or electricity. They kept their voices down while hearing the sounds of gunfire and shouting in Arabic outside. When they emerged, they saw bodies and bullet casings all over the kibbutz, and the air was filled with the stench of blood and burned homes.

Like everyone else, the couple were evacuated to a hotel north of Tel Aviv. But they didn’t know what to do with themselves there. They love cooking and feeding people, and they didn’t even have a refrigerator. So on Dec. 10, the fourth night of Hanukkah, they moved back to their snippet of paradise.

Mr. Shnurman goes for a walk every morning. “Every day I pass the houses of the dead, and every morning, I cry all over again,” he said. “And then I come home, and I know: This is the right place to be.”

Other residents cannot bear the thought of returning. “My mother visited just once, and she hugged me and burst out crying, and said, ‘I’m scared to death just being here,’” Ms Khon recalled. “For me, it was the opposite. The desire to go home was greater than the fear.”

Coming back to the kibbutz meant that life won, Mr. Shnurman said. “We beat the death that knocked on our door,” he said.

“Our strength as Jews is that after the Holocaust, we didn’t say, ‘No fair.’ We pulled ourselves up and built a country,” Ms. Khon said. “We beat Hamas by coming back here. They came and said, ‘We’ll uproot you,’ but they failed. We came back to our home. Our victory is that we’re staying here.”

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Election Shocker in Pakistan: Where the Country Goes From Here

Imran Khan’s stunning performance in Pakistan’s national election has upended most traditional political forecasts in a country where leaders who run afoul of the powerful military rarely find electoral success.

Supporters of Mr. Khan, the jailed former prime minister, are both electrified by the showing of candidates aligned with his party, who won the most seats in last week’s vote, and enraged by what they call blatant rigging and the possibility that other parties will ultimately lead the government.

Here’s what to know about the uncertainty now hanging over Pakistan’s political system.

Mr. Khan’s supporters are challenging the results of dozens of races in the country’s courts, and pressure is growing on Pakistan’s Election Commission to acknowledge the widely reported irregularities in the vote counting.

Backers of Mr. Khan say they will hold peaceful protests outside election commission offices in constituencies where they contend the rigging took place. Protests have already erupted in several parts of the country, especially in the restive southwestern Baluchistan Province.

As of midday Sunday, the Election Commission had not finalized the results from Thursday’s vote. Preliminary counts showed victories for 92 independents (primarily supporters of Mr. Khan, whose party was barred from running), with 77 seats going to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and 54 going to the third major party, the Pakistan People’s Party.

To form a majority government, a party must have at least 169 seats in the 336-seat National Assembly. The Pakistani Constitution mandates that the National Assembly, or lower house of Parliament, convene within 21 days of an election to elect its leadership and subsequently the prime minister.

With candidates associated with Mr. Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, short of a majority in the preliminary count, intense jockeying is underway to form a government.

Mr. Sharif’s party, P.M.L.N., is exploring an option to take control through a coalition with the Pakistan People’s Party and a smaller party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which secured 17 seats. In another possible path to a government led by his conservative party, Mr. Sharif is seeking to attract enough independent candidates so it would not need to align with the P.P.P., which leans left.

Although Mr. Sharif, a three-time prime minister, is heading his party’s negotiations, it is not certain who would lead any coalition opposing the populist Mr. Khan, who was prohibited from running in the election.

Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shehbaz Sharif, is a probable candidate for prime minister, having led a similar coalition after Mr. Khan’s ouster in April 2022. Shehbaz Sharif is seen as more deferential to the military than is Nawaz, who clashed with the generals during his time in office. Nawaz Sharif won a seat in Thursday’s vote, but the result has been challenged by Khan backers over rigging allegations.

Mr. Khan’s supporters might also seek to form a coalition government, though they face potential opposition from the military, which is widely believed to favor a P.M.L.N.-P.P.P. coalition. With Mr. Khan’s party banned, his backers who won seats would have to join another party that has extended support.

And his supporters are certain to form a government in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, where he is immensely popular and won an absolute majority.

The popular wave of discontent with the military’s meddling in politics is bound to put pressure on the country’s army chief, Gen. Syed Asim Munir.

General Munir must now decide whether to have some sort of reconciliation with Mr. Khan or barrel ahead and force a coalition of anti-Khan politicians, one that many analysts believe would be weak and unsustainable. In a public statement on Saturday, General Munir called for unity and healing, a sign some read as a willingness to engage with Mr. Khan.

Whichever path the general chooses, said Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute, “the influential military could potentially lose public support.”

Continuing to keep Mr. Khan locked up will be a tough task for the military establishment. With his political victories, pressure will grow to let him out on bail, especially for the cases in which courts rushed to convict him in the days before the election.

On Saturday, Mr. Khan was granted bail in one of the many cases against him, this one involving violence by supporters who ransacked military installations in May. But he still faces decades in prison for his other convictions.

Some analysts pointed to similarities between today and 1988, when Benazir Bhutto won the election despite the opposition of the army and the intelligence service.

The generals grudgingly handed Ms. Bhutto the government under American pressure but did not allow her complete power, giving her no say in the country’s foreign policy or its nuclear weapons policy.

Ultimately, she did not complete her term, with her government ousted in 1990 over corruption and mismanagement charges.

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‘It Is Suffocating’: A Top Liberal University Is Under Attack in India

Jawaharlal Nehru University, named for India’s first prime minister, is one of the country’s premier liberal institutions, a hothouse of strong opinions and left-leaning values whose graduates populate the upper echelons of academia and government.

But to the Hindu nationalists who hold power in India, the university and others like it are dangerous dens of “anti-India” ideas. And they are working to silence them.

Masked men have stormed the J.N.U. campus and attacked students, shouting slogans associated with a far-right Hindu group. Vocal supporters of the right-wing governing party who have been installed as administrators have suspended students for participating in protests and, in December, imposed new restrictions on demonstrations. Professors have been denied promotions for questioning government policies.

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Russian Drone Strike Ignites a Fuel Depot, Setting a Neighborhood Ablaze in Ukraine

Firefighters were digging through the burned remains of a house Saturday morning searching for the body of a child, the last member of a family killed in a catastrophic fire caused by a Russian drone attack.

Four bodies already lay in bags in the yard. Investigators had found the charred remains of the father in a corridor and the mother and two children in the bathroom.

Seven people in total died when Russian drones struck a fuel depot late Friday night in one of the most calamitous attacks yet on Kharkiv, the northeastern city that has suffered a series of missile strikes in recent weeks. Burning fuel poured down the street from the destroyed depot, setting a line of houses ablaze so quickly that two families were burned alive in their homes.

“The family was held hostage by the fire inside their own house,” Serhii Bolvinov, chief police investigator of Kharkiv, said after firemen and investigators dug for hours through the smoldering debris. “All of them were very badly burned, and DNA examination will be needed for the final conclusions.”

Oleksandr Kobylev, head of the Kharkiv regional police war-crimes department, said the Russians attacked with Iranian-supplied Shahed drones that struck shortly before 11 p.m.

“The burning fuel was flowing to the yards,” he said. “People were doomed.”

Fifteen houses burned in the conflagration. In addition to the seven deaths, three people were injured in the fire, but more than 50 others managed to escape unhurt.

“It was hot to stand 150 meters from the fire,” Mr. Kobylev said. “Fences, cars, houses were catching fire.”

On Saturday, the street was covered in black sticky mud, mixed with residue from the charred fuel. A small fire still burned in the depot up a hill but the worst damage was down the slope, where houses were gutted skeletons.

“We heard Shaheds flying,” said Olena, 36, who lives in a house on the top of the hill, closest to the oil depot. “It was a hum, like from a low-flying plane. Then a bang and a flash. Three explosions.”

Like several other survivors interviewed, she asked that only her first name be published for security reasons.

“I called emergency at 22:46,” she said. “When we saw burning fuel flowing into our yard, I grabbed my 1-year-old twins and ran away through the backyards.”

Survivors described a river of fire flowing into their yards just five minutes after the explosions of the drone strikes.

“I could smell diesel. It looked like lava from a volcano,” said Mykhaylo, 49, who escaped with his brother Oleksandr, 35, his brother’s girlfriend and their dog; they even managed to drive their cars away. “In 10 minutes the whole house was on fire,” he said.

But two families did not escape.

Olha and Hryhory Putiatin died along with their three children, Lyosha, 7, Misha, 4, and Pasha, 10 months old. After hours of searching, the firefighters found Misha separated from his parents under a pile of rubble in the kitchen.

Volodymyr, a relative, said the family usually hid in the garden cellar when there were air raids. “I was worried they would choke from the smoke,” he said. “But this time they probably ran out and saw that yard is burning, so they hid in the bathroom,” he said.

An emergency worker embraced the children’s grandmother, Tetyana, to prevent her from seeing the bodies. “I’m a mother. I want to see!” she shouted.

“How can I bury my children and grandchildren?” she wailed.

Several houses down the street, a resident, Vadym, was standing over the covered bodies of his parents, Anatoly, 70, and Svitlana, 65. His father was bedridden after a stroke, and his mother had been caring for him, said Vadym, who lives nearby with his wife, Nataliya.

“Mum called screaming, ‘The house is on fire!’” he recounted. “We arrived in 10 minutes, but the fire was already raging inside the house. The whole street was burning. Houses were burning like match boxes.”

His parents had never left Kharkiv during two years of war, but the fire overwhelmed them, he said. “They couldn’t escape. It was a river of burning diesel.”

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Hungary’s President Resigns Amid Outcry Over Sex Abuse Case Pardon

The president of Hungary, a loyal and largely powerless ally of the country’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, resigned on Saturday amid a public outcry over her pardoning of a man implicated in a sex abuse scandal at a children’s home.

President Katalin Novak, an outspoken champion of traditional values and Hungary’s former minister of family affairs, announced her resignation on television, the latest in a series of prominent figures in Mr. Orban’s conservative governing Fidesz party felled by sex scandals.

She quit as president, a mostly ceremonial office she has held since 2022, in response to widespread outrage, including within Fidesz, over recent revelations that a man she pardoned last year had been convicted of covering up sexual abuse at a state-run children’s home.

The man was among more than 20 people pardoned by Ms. Novak last April before a visit to Hungary by Pope Francis.

“I issued a pardon that caused bewilderment and unrest among many people,” Ms. Novak said on Saturday, insisting that she had believed “that the convict did not abuse the vulnerability of children.” That, she said, was “a mistake.”

Her departure is unlikely to dent Mr. Orban’s tight grip on power, but it delivers a blow to Fidesz’s image — carefully nurtured by state and private media outlets controlled by the governing party — as a stalwart defender of Christian values and an enemy of pedophilia, which the government has often linked to efforts by the European Union to protect L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Pledges to defend children against predators have become an increasingly important part of domestic political messaging by Mr. Orban, who has won four general elections in a row and who regularly denounces his critics at home and abroad as “woke globalists” bent on undermining the traditional family.

A number of Fidesz politicians, including a powerful mayor captured on video taking part in an orgy with prostitutes on a yacht, have been embroiled in sex scandals in recent years. The most prominent of these was Jozsef Szajer, a Fidesz member of the European Parliament who helped rewrite Hungary’s Constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage. He resigned in 2020 after being arrested by Belgian police officers for violating Covid restrictions by attending an all-male orgy in Brussels and then trying to flee down a drainpipe.

On the defensive over Ms. Novak’s pardon of an accomplice in a child sex abuse case, Fidesz on Thursday proposed amending Hungary’s Constitution to prevent future pardons from being granted to anyone convicted in connection with crimes against children.

“For pedophile offenders, there is no mercy!” Mr. Orban said.

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The Year of the Dragon Roars In

The Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in many Asian countries, began on Saturday. Here’s a look at celebrations around the world →

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U.N. Agency in Gaza Fought Hamas Infiltration; Not Hard Enough, Israel Says

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When the United Nations launched an investigation a decade ago into whether a handful of its employees in Gaza were members of Hamas, it was not long before a senior U.N. legal officer in the territory started receiving death threats.

First there were emails, sent from anonymous accounts, according to three senior U.N. officials based in Gaza at that time.

Then came a funeral bouquet, delivered to the main U.N. compound, labeled with the legal officer’s name.

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Egypt Warily Eyes Gaza as War Builds Pressure on Its Border

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The pressure on Egypt is building.

More than half of Gaza’s population is squeezed into miserable tent cities in Rafah, a small city along Egypt’s border, left with nowhere else to go by Israel’s military campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has threatened to overrun the area, and on Friday, he directed his forces to plan the evacuation of civilians from Rafah to clear the way for a new offensive against Hamas.

The map of the Gaza Strip shows the Philadelphi Corridor, its border with Egypt, and highlights Rafah.

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Terrified Gazans Await an Israeli Advance in the City They Fled To

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Petrified Gazans in the cramped southern border city of Rafah scrambled to evade bombardment on Saturday as they prepared to flee an expected Israeli ground offensive, dreading the prospect of again searching for safety in a place with few, if any, options to escape the war.

Israeli officials have declared that the next phase in their effort to destroy Hamas will be in Rafah, and on Friday, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that “any forceful action in Rafah would require the evacuation of the civilian population from combat zones.”

The Israeli government has not specified where the civilians would be expected to go. Rafah sits along the border with Egypt, which has so far refused to take in Palestinian refugees, fearful over its own security and worried that the displacement could become permanent and undermine Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

On Saturday, Germany, Britain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia joined an international chorus condemning Israel’s stated intention of expanding its ground invasion into the city. Aid groups, the secretary general of the United Nations and officials from the Biden administration have warned that an Israeli attack on Rafah would be disastrous.

“An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe,” Annalena Baerbock, the foreign minister of Germany, said in a statement on social media. “The people in #Gaza cannot disappear into thin air.”

Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, said on social media that he was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in the Israel-occupied West Bank, on Saturday called on the United States to pressure Israel to stop what he called “the genocidal massacres” of Palestinian civilians. Israel denies it has committed genocide or purposely targeted civilians. The United States has been strongly supportive of Israel since it launched the war in Gaza on Oct. 7, after a Hamas-led attack in southern Gaza. Washington sends billions in weapons and other military aid to the Israeli military.

Mr. Netanyahu on Saturday sought to soothe public concern after Moody’s, citing the prolonged war with Hamas and the effect it was having on Israel’s finances, downgraded Israel’s credit score for the first time in years. Calling the Israeli economy “robust,” he said in a statement that the damage would be reversed after the war with Hamas ends.

The concerns — about a devastating loss of life, a disruption of humanitarian assistance and a further depletion of essential services — came as Israeli forces bombarded Rafah and other parts of southern Gaza with airstrikes, Palestinian news media reported. Multiple people were killed when Israeli airstrikes struck a vehicle and homes where displaced people were sheltering.

The continued airstrikes have terrified the more than half of Gaza’s 2.2 million people who have taken shelter in Rafah during four months of Israeli bombardment and warnings by the Israeli military to flee south. They have fled fighting and destruction elsewhere to pack themselves into a city where finding enough food, water and medicine has become a daily struggle.

Rents have skyrocketed, and multiple families share small apartments. Tent camps have taken over most open areas. Food and fuel have become so scarce that some people have taken to burning old clothes and pages from books to heat canned beans and bake flatbread.

Already, the overcrowding has taxed the area’s resources, and newly displaced Gazans continue to arrive as fighting rages on in the city of Khan Younis to the north.

“It is very bad; the hygiene level is very low,” said Fathi Abu Snema, 45, who has been sheltering with his family in a U.N. school in Rafah since early in the war. “Here we eat only canned food, which is anything but healthy. Everything else is very expensive.”

He feared that many would die if Israel invaded Rafah. “I prefer to die here,” he said. “There is not one safe place to go in Gaza. You could get killed anywhere, even in street.”

Sana al-Kabariti, a pharmacist and skin-care expert, fled to Rafah from Gaza City, where both her home and her clinic have since been destroyed, she said.

Even if the war were to stop soon, she expects there would be little interest in her skin-care services because people would be focused on trying to rebuild their homes and lives, she said.

“I am worried about my future in Gaza,” said Ms. al-Kabariti, 33. “I really need to leave the strip.”

More than 27,000 people have been killed by Israel in Gaza during the four-month war, health authorities there say. The Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7 killed about 1,200 people and led to the abduction of more than 250 others, Israeli officials say.

Mr. Netanyahu signaled this week that Israel intended to push farther south, into what he described as the enclave’s last Hamas stronghold. His office said in a statement that it would be impossible to fulfill Israel’s stated objective of crushing Hamas’s rule in Gaza without destroying what it said were the group’s four battalions in Rafah. The military’s “combined plan” would have to both “evacuate the civilian population and topple the battalions,” the statement said.

The crisis in Rafah reflects the dire circumstances across the enclave. The World Food Program warned last month that the territory’s entire population of Gaza was suffering crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. In late December, the agency said that nine out of 10 people were eating less than one meal a day, and the situation has worsened as aid groups struggle to deliver the little aid that is entering Gaza.

Um Mohammad Abu Awwad, a 35-year-old mother, said that her family sheltering in the north of the territory had not been able to find any flour to buy for weeks. Even when flour was available, she said, a bag would cost around $200 — an impossible sum for their family, which has no income amid the war.

Ms. Abu Awwad said that she has had to resort to grinding hay and animal fodder as a substitute for flour. But even animal feed was becoming more expensive now, she said.

“We want food and water to keep our children alive,” Ms. Abu Awwad said in a voice message this past week. “The adults can survive, but the children are dying of hunger.”

Iyad Abuheweila, Abu Bakr Bashir and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

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Manhattan or Pulau Rhun? In 1667, Nutmeg Made the Choice a No-Brainer.

Richard C. Paddock and

Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono, along with the photographer Nyimas Laula, spent three days on Pulau Rhun to document life on the remote island.

The isles of Manhattan and Pulau Rhun could hardly be farther apart, not just in geography, but also in culture, economy and global prominence.

Rhun, in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, has no cars or roads and only about 20 motorbikes. Most people get around by walking along its paved footpaths or up steep stairways, often toting plastic jugs of water from the numerous village wells or sometimes lugging a freshly caught tuna.

But in the 17th century, in what might now seem one of the most lopsided trades in history, the Netherlands believed it got the better part of a bargain with the British when it swapped Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, for this tiny speck of land.

Map locates the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia. It also locates Pulau Rhan, an island in the Banda Island group, which is part of the Maluku Islands.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Friar Who Became the Vatican’s Go-To Guy on A.I.

Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery, admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflected on a world in flux.

“It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe. “And outside too.”

There is a lot is going on for Father Benanti, who, as both the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s go-to artificial intelligence ethicist, spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines.

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

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

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

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

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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

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

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

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Bolsonaro y sus aliados planearon un golpe de Estado, según la policía de Brasil

Jair Bolsonaro, expresidente de Brasil, supervisó una amplia conspiración para aferrarse al poder al margen de los resultados de las elecciones de 2022, incluida editar personalmente una orden propuesta para arrestar a un juez del Supremo Tribunal Federal, según nuevas acusaciones de la policía federal brasileña reveladas el jueves.

Bolsonaro y decenas de altos asesores, ministros y líderes militares trabajaron juntos para socavar la confianza de los brasileños en las elecciones y preparar el escenario para un posible golpe, aseguró la policía federal.

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Sus esfuerzos incluyeron la difusión de desinformación sobre el fraude electoral, la redacción de argumentos legales para nuevas elecciones, el reclutamiento de personal militar para apoyar un golpe, la vigilancia de los jueces y alentar y guiar a los manifestantes que finalmente asaltaron edificios del gobierno, dijo la policía.

Las escandalosas acusaciones se hicieron en una orden judicial de 134 páginas que autorizó una amplia operación policial federal el jueves que apuntaba a Bolsonaro y alrededor de una veintena de sus aliados políticos, entre ellos el exministro de Defensa, el exasesor de Seguridad Nacional, el exministro de Justicia y el excomandante general de la Marina de Brasil.

La operación incluyó órdenes de registro y la detención de cuatro personas, entre ellas dos oficiales del ejército y dos de los exasesores principales de Bolsonaro.

Al expresidente se le ordenó entregar su pasaporte, permanecer en el país y no tener contacto con ninguna otra persona investigada.

Bolsonaro dijo el jueves que era la víctima inocente de una operación motivada políticamente.

“Salí del gobierno hace más de un año y sigo sufriendo una persecución implacable”, declaró el expresidente al diario brasileño Folha de São Paulo. “Olvídense de mí. Ya hay otro gobernando el país”.

Durante más de un año antes de las elecciones brasileñas de 2022, Bolsonaro sembró abiertamente dudas sobre la seguridad de los sistemas electorales de su país y advirtió que, si perdía, sería por culpa de un fraude.

Cuando, de hecho, perdió frente al presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro se negó a reconocer de manera inequívoca su derrota y sus partidarios organizaron protestas que duraron meses y culminaron con un disturbio en enero de 2023 en el Congreso, el Supremo Tribunal Federal y las oficinas de la presidencia de Brasil.

Bolsonaro ya ha sido declarado inelegible para presentarse a las elecciones hasta 2030 por sus intentos de socavar los sistemas de votación de Brasil. Ahora podría ser arrestado y procesado penalmente.

Lula dijo en una entrevista en la radio el jueves que esperaba que la investigación sobre Bolsonaro fuera justa e imparcial. “Lo que quiero es que Bolsonaro tenga la presunción de inocencia, que yo no tuve”, dijo.

Lula cumplió 580 días en prisión por cargos de corrupción que fueron anulados después de que el Supremo Tribunal Federal de Brasil dictaminara que el juez de sus casos había sido parcial.

Las acusaciones reveladas el jueves muestran cómo el expresidente y sus aliados intentaron subvertir la joven democracia brasileña, incluyendo detalles alarmantes para un país que fue gobernado por una dictadura militar de 1964 a 1985.

En un momento de noviembre de 2022, después de que Bolsonaro perdiera las elecciones pero siguiera siendo presidente, Filipe Martins, uno de sus principales asesores, le llevó un borrador de un documento legal en el que se afirmaba que el Supremo Tribunal Federal de Brasil había interferido ilegalmente en los asuntos del poder ejecutivo, según la policía federal. El documento ordenaba el arresto de dos jueces del Supremo Tribunal y del presidente del Senado y convocaba nuevas elecciones, según la policía.

Bolsonaro ordenó cambios en el documento para que solo se detuviera a uno de los jueces del Supremo Tribunal Federal, señaló la policía. Una vez que el documento fue actualizado, Bolsonaro convocó a los principales líderes militares a la residencia presidencial para presentarles el documento y presionar por un golpe de Estado, dijo la policía. El resultado de esa reunión no estaba claro.

El juez del Supremo Tribunal Federal que habría sido arrestado con esa orden era Alexandre de Moraes, el mismo juez que ha supervisado las investigaciones sobre Bolsonaro y sus aliados durante años, lo que lo convirtió en uno de los archienemigos del expresidente.

De Moraes emitió la orden judicial que autorizaba los arrestos y las acciones policiales el jueves. La orden reveló que la policía federal también descubrió pruebas de que dos de los asesores de Bolsonaro habían vigilado los viajes de De Moraes en caso de que el gobierno intentara arrestarlo.

En la orden judicial desvelada el jueves, De Moraes dijo que la precisión de los asesores a la hora de conocer su agenda daba a entender que podrían haber estado utilizando tecnología para vigilarlo.

La policía federal ha acusado por separado al hijo de Bolsonaro y al exjefe de la agencia de inteligencia de Brasil de usar un software espía israelí, entre otras herramientas, para vigilar a los enemigos políticos del expresidente, incluido De Moraes.

La orden judicial revelada el jueves también detalla una reunión en julio de 2022, tres meses antes de las elecciones, en la que Bolsonaro ordenó a altos funcionarios del gobierno y líderes militares que difundieran denuncias de fraude electoral, a pesar de la falta de pruebas. “De aquí para adelante, quiero que todos los ministros digan lo que voy a decir aquí”, dijo Bolsonaro en la reunión, según una grabación obtenida por la policía.

Las transcripciones de la grabación que aparecen en los documentos judiciales revelan que el expresidente parecía creer, o al menos seguía propagando, varias teorías conspirativas que afirmaban que sus rivales estaban amañando las elecciones.

Afirmó falsamente que los sistemas electrónicos de votación habían sido precargados con los resultados y que los jueces electorales habían recibido decenas de millones de dólares en sobornos.

“No tengo pruebas. Pero algo extraño está pasando”, dijo Bolsonaro, según la policía. “Perder una elección no es ningún problema. Lo que no podemos es perder la democracia en unas elecciones amañadas”.

En otro momento, pidió a sus ministros y líderes militares que firmaran una carta pública diciendo que no se podía confiar en el sistema electoral de Brasil. (Dicha carta nunca se hizo pública).

Sin embargo, varios ministros del gobierno y líderes militares presentes en la reunión coincidieron con la opinión de Bolsonaro sobre el sistema electoral.

Anderson Torres, exministro de Justicia de Bolsonaro, instó a los presentes a actuar, afirmando que enfrentarían consecuencias si Lula se convertía en presidente. “Quiero que todo el mundo piense en lo que puede hacer de antemano porque todo el mundo saldrá perjudicado”, dijo, según la policía.

Paulo Sérgio Nogueira, exministro de Defensa de Bolsonaro y comandante del ejército, dijo que veía a los funcionarios electorales de Brasil como “el enemigo” y que los líderes militares se reunían semanalmente para garantizar elecciones limpias.

“Que tengamos éxito en reelegirlo”, le dijo a Bolsonaro, según la policía. “Ese es todo nuestro deseo”.

Pero también hubo señales internas de duda entre los aliados de Bolsonaro. Dos días después de la primera ronda de las elecciones de Brasil, que llevó a Bolsonaro y a Lula a una segunda vuelta, un oficial del ejército envió un mensaje de texto al asesor personal de Bolsonaro, Mauro Cid, diciendo que esperaba que el equipo de Bolsonaro “sepan lo que están haciendo”.

“Yo también”, respondió Cid, quien fue instrumental en la planificación de un golpe, según la policía. “Si no, voy preso”.

Cid fue detenido poco después de la elección de Lula y acusado de ayudar a falsificar los registros de vacunas de Bolsonaro. Firmó un acuerdo para cooperar con las autoridades.

El oficial del ejército preguntó entonces si el equipo de Bolsonaro había encontrado pruebas de fraude electoral.

“Nada”, respondió Cid, según la policía. “Ningún indicio de fraude”.

Paulo Motoryn colaboró con reportería desde Brasilia.

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

Lo que revelan los videos de soldados israelíes: burlas y destrucción

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

Un soldado israelí levanta el pulgar ante la cámara mientras maneja una excavadora por una calle de Beit Lahia, en el norte de Gaza, empujando un auto maltrecho hacia un edificio medio derruido.

“He dejado de contar cuántos barrios he borrado”, reza el pie de foto del video publicado en su TikTok personal, acompañado de un himno militarista.

Desde la invasión israelí en octubre, los soldados han publicado videos en las redes sociales desde Gaza, ofreciendo una mirada inusual y no autorizada de las operaciones sobre el terreno. Algunos han sido vistos por pequeños círculos de personas; otros han llegado a decenas de miles.

The New York Times examinó cientos de estos videos. Algunos muestran aspectos anodinos de la vida de un soldado: sus comidas, cómo pasa el rato o los momentos en los que envía mensajes a sus seres queridos en casa.

Otros muestran a soldados que han destrozado tiendas locales y aulas escolares, también los han captado haciendo comentarios despectivos sobre los palestinos o cuando arrasaban lo que parecen ser zonas civiles y pedían la construcción de asentamientos israelíes en Gaza, una idea incendiaria que promueven algunos políticos israelíes de extrema derecha.

Algunas de las publicaciones de los soldados infringen las normas de las Fuerzas de Defensa de Israel (FDI), las cuales restringen el uso de las redes sociales por parte de su personal, y que específicamente prohíben compartir contenido que pueda “afectar la imagen de las FDI y su percepción ante la opinión pública” o que muestren comportamientos que “atenten contra la dignidad humana”.

Mediante un comunicado, el ejército israelí condenó los videos filmados por soldados que aparecen en este artículo.

“La conducta de las fuerzas que aparecen en las imágenes es deplorable y no cumple con las órdenes del ejército”, señaló la institución en una declaración escrita. Y añadió que se estaban examinando las “circunstancias”.

Sin embargo, siguen apareciendo en internet nuevos videos como estos que recuerdan las muchas maneras en las que las redes sociales están cambiando la guerra. En Rusia y Ucrania, los soldados ahora comparten videos directamente desde el campo de batalla, publican con frecuencia imágenes de combate y a veces incluso ofrecen una perspectiva en primera persona desde cámaras montadas en cascos. También se han publicado videos que muestran torturas y ejecuciones.

Ahora que la guerra de Israel en Gaza está sometida a un intenso escrutinio, muchos de los videos de los soldados grabados en Gaza han avivado las críticas. Uno de ellos se proyectó y otros cinco se citaron como pruebas en el caso que Sudáfrica presentó ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia para acusar a Israel de genocidio, algo que Israel ha negado de manera categórica.

El Times rastreó más de 50 videos hasta las unidades israelíes de ingeniería de combate militar, que muestran el uso de topadoras, excavadoras y explosivos para destruir lo que parecen ser casas, escuelas y otros edificios civiles.

Los expertos en derechos humanos han expresado su preocupación por la magnitud de este tipo de destrucción en zonas bajo control militar israelí, señalando que los estándares internacionales de guerra requieren una clara necesidad militar de destruir propiedad civil.

Los videos de este artículo se han verificado determinando las fechas y lugares donde fueron grabados, o confirmando que los soldados que aparecen en ellos y sus unidades estaban en Gaza en el momento en que se subieron las imágenes.

Ninguno de los soldados que grabaron y publicaron los videos respondió cuando se les pidieron comentarios.

Más de 27.000 palestinos han muerto en Gaza desde que comenzaron los bombardeos y la invasión israelíes del enclave, según las autoridades sanitarias de Gaza. La ofensiva israelí se produjo tras los ataques dirigidos por Hamás contra Israel el 7 de octubre, que mataron a casi 1200 personas, según funcionarios israelíes.

Tras su invasión terrestre a fines de octubre, el ejército israelí estableció bases a lo largo de la costa norte de Gaza. La zona, que los soldados bautizaron como Nova Beach, en referencia al festival de música en el que murieron 364 personas a manos de Hamás y sus aliados el 7 de octubre, es el telón de fondo de muchos de los videos de las redes sociales analizados por el Times.

Antes de la guerra, la zona estaba compuesta por viviendas de familias gazatíes, propiedades vacacionales, invernaderos y campos de cultivo. Una casa dañada en Gaza, en lo que ahora es una base costera israelí, es el escenario de un video publicado en noviembre por un reservista que también es DJ.

El video iba acompañado de una versión paródica de la canción israelí This Was My Home, que apareció en una escena cómica israelí y se ha difundido en internet en los últimos meses entre los usuarios israelíes de las redes sociales para burlarse de los palestinos.

“Esta era mi casa, sin electricidad, sin gas”, dice la canción, mientras un soldado se acomoda entre los escombros de la casa dañada antes de asomarse a la ventana y señalar la escena de destrucción exterior. La casa fue destruida a finales de diciembre, según muestran las imágenes por satélite.

“Es desgarrador, inhumano”, declaró al Times Basel al-Sourani, abogado internacional especializado en derechos humanos del Centro Palestino de Derechos Humanos, organización sin ánimo de lucro con sede en la ciudad de Gaza, “y simplemente demuestra que, en esencia, los israelíes quieren a los palestinos fuera de su hogar, la Franja de Gaza”.

Usando otro meme popular, el mismo soldado también publicó un video a mediados de noviembre al son de un remix llamado Shtayim, Shalosh, Sha-ger, (Dos, tres, lanzamiento). En el video, ampliamente compartido, los soldados bailan frente a la cámara y, cuando se oye la palabra “lanzamiento”, el video pasa a una toma de un edificio siendo detonado.

Poco después de que el Times preguntó a TikTok por los videos que aparecen en este artículo, los videos fueron retirados de la plataforma. Un representante de TikTok aseguró que los clips infringían las directrices de la empresa, incluyendo sus políticas sobre incitación al odio y comportamiento.

Meta, propietaria de Facebook e Instagram, no respondió a la solicitud para hacer comentarios.

Algunas de las cuentas más activas revisadas por el Times pertenecían a soldados de unidades del Cuerpo de Ingeniería de Combate del ejército israelí, que utiliza maquinaria pesada, incluyendo excavadoras, con el fin de despejar caminos para las fuerzas militares, descubrir y destruir túneles, y arrasar estructuras. El Times documentó hace poco demoliciones controladas realizadas por unidades de ingeniería en toda Gaza.

En un video filmado en las afueras de Jan Yunis, en el sur de Gaza, a principios de enero, se puede ver a soldados de ingeniería de combate que fuman pipas de narguile antes de que unas explosiones derriben edificios residenciales en el fondo. Acto seguido, levantan copas para brindar.

​​En algunos de los videos de los ingenieros de combate, los soldados israelíes se burlan de los palestinos mientras destruyen estructuras y propiedades. En otros, que han sido muy compartidos en las redes sociales, los soldados dedican la destrucción de edificios a las víctimas de los ataques del 7 de octubre y a sus familiares. En un video de TikTok, los soldados dedican la demolición de un edificio a Eyal Golan, un cantante israelí que ha pedido la destrucción total de Gaza. Sudáfrica citó este video como prueba de lo que llamó “discurso genocida de los soldados” en su caso contra Israel ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia.

Mientras la topadora se dirige hacia los muros restantes de una casa parcialmente destruida en Jan Yunis, los soldados gritan: “Eyal Golan, nuestro hermano querido, te queremos”. Y añaden: “Esta casa es para ti”.

El 12 de diciembre, un soldado de ingeniería de combate compartió una fotografía en su cuenta de TikTok con tres excavadoras blindadas y un entorno destruido cerca de la base israelí en la costa norte de Gaza.

“Este es el resultado de mucho trabajo… todo el lugar estaba cubierto de vegetación y casas hasta que llegamos allí”, reza el pie de foto.

Casi a 1,6 kilómetros al sur de la costa, se puede ver una destrucción similar en imágenes por satélite captadas a finales de diciembre, que muestran que al menos 63 edificios, incluyendo viviendas, fueron demolidos en un radio de 400 metros de la base. En ese momento, la zona se encontraba a poco más de 2 kilómetros de la frontera del territorio controlado por Israel, según los mapas publicados por el Instituto para el Estudio de la Guerra.

Los escombros visibles coinciden con los métodos de limpieza utilizados por las unidades de ingeniería de combate que se ven en videos filmados en otros lugares de Gaza y analizados por el Times. Israel ha utilizado excavadoras para despejar grandes extensiones de tierra y propiedades en toda Gaza desde finales de octubre.

El Times envió al ejército israelí las coordenadas de cada una de las 63 estructuras y solicitó comentarios sobre la necesidad militar de destruirlas. En una respuesta por escrito, el ejército declaró que Israel “estaba librando actualmente una guerra compleja” y que “hay dificultades para rastrear casos concretos con una coordenada específica en este momento”.

Cuatro expertos jurídicos revisaron los videos de las redes sociales y las imágenes de satélite cercanas a la base y afirmaron que las imágenes podrían utilizarse para demostrar una destrucción ilegal, una violación de los Convenios de Ginebra.

John Quigley, profesor emérito de derecho en la Universidad Estatal de Ohio especializado en legislación internacional de los derechos humanos, señaló en un correo electrónico que “el alcance de la destrucción de edificios residenciales en Gaza sugiere que las FDI están aplicando un estándar para la protección de la propiedad privada que no cumple con las normas internacionales para la guerra”.

En respuesta a las preguntas sobre el derribo de viviendas civiles por parte de los soldados, un portavoz militar israelí, Nir Dinar, dijo que los militares actúan por “necesidad operativa” y siguen las leyes de la guerra. “Las casas que están siendo derribadas son edificaciones que implican una amenaza para las fuerzas que operan, o son un objetivo militar de algún tipo”, comentó al Times por teléfono. “Hay una buena razón para la eliminación de cada objetivo”.

Israel también está llevando a cabo demoliciones controladas a lo largo de los casi 58 kilómetros de frontera terrestre de Gaza con el fin de crear una “zona de contención”. Expertos jurídicos han cuestionado la legalidad de estas demoliciones y señalan que es poco probable que todos los edificios destruidos supusieran una amenaza militar inmediata.

Riley Mellen y Neil Collier colaboraron a este reportaje desde Nueva York, Johnatan Reiss y Patrick Kingsley desde Jerusalén y Mohammed Almajdalawi desde Gaza. Alexander Cardia colaboró con la producción.

Aric Toler es reportero del equipo de Investigaciones Visuales del Times, donde utiliza técnicas emergentes de descubrimiento para analizar información de código abierto. Más de Aric Toler

Sarah Kerr es reportera y productora de la unidad de video del Times y cubre historias y noticias de última hora nacionales e internacionales. Más de Sarah Kerr

Chevaz Clarke es editora de imágenes en directo en The New York Times y trabaja en estrecha colaboración con el equipo de la sección Live en la cobertura visual y se centra en la narración en video. Más de Chevaz Clarke

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.

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

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

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