The New York Times 2024-02-22 16:40:07

Middle East Crisis: U.S. Official Set to Meet With Netanyahu in Latest Diplomatic Push

Biden’s Mideast coordinator is in Israel to discuss efforts to free hostages, an official says.

A senior Biden administration official was in Israel on Thursday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to an Israeli official, part of a flurry of efforts to negotiate the release of hostages held in Gaza and a pause in the fighting.

The visit by President Biden’s Middle East coordinator, Brett McGurk, comes amid parallel attempts to secure a cease-fire deal that have taken on greater urgency as the toll from four months of war in the Gaza Strip nears 30,000 Palestinians, according to health officials there, and as Israel’s stated plan to invade the crowded city of Rafah raises international alarm.

After his own meeting with Mr. McGurk on Thursday in Tel Aviv, the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that Israel’s government “will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators.” He did not provide further details.

Talks last week in Cairo for a hostage deal failed to reach a breakthrough: Mr. Netanyahu withdrew his negotiators, accusing Hamas of refusing to budge on what he called “ludicrous” demands, and pledged to press on with Israel’s offensive. But on Wednesday night, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said that there had been momentum on a new draft of a deal that indicated a “possibility to advance.”

According to Israeli officials, about 130 hostages are still held in Gaza, though officials believe that at least 30 of them are dead.

Earlier this week, the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, saying it feared it could disrupt hostage negotiations.

Israeli and U.S. officials have argued that an immediate cease-fire would allow Hamas to regroup and fortify in Gaza, and reduce the pressure for making a deal to release hostages held in the territory.

The United States has drafted a rival resolution, which is still in early stages of negotiations, that calls for a temporary humanitarian cease-fire “as soon as practicable,” and the release of hostages.

An Israeli official confirmed that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. McGurk would discuss efforts to secure the release of the hostages. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press; there was no immediate comment from the White House.

Their meeting — on the heels of the cautious optimism from Mr. Gantz — came as Israeli news media reported that preparations were underway for another high-level summit in Paris to push for a cease-fire deal.

Qatar and Egypt have been acting as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which do not negotiate directly. On Tuesday, Hamas said that a delegation led by Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo to discuss efforts to end the war with Egyptian officials.

Strikes flatten a mosque in Rafah as residents report a heavy night of bombardment.

Deadly strikes hit several homes and flattened a mosque in Rafah, residents and the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency said on Thursday, delivering more misery to Gaza’s southernmost city, which Israel has said is the next target of its ground invasion.

“It was a very hard night,” said Akram al-Satri, who is sheltering in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge amid heavy fighting elsewhere. “They destroyed Al-Farouk mosque, which is one of the largest mosques in the area,” he added in a voice message on Thursday. Video published on Thursday by the Reuters news agency shows a large pile of debris at the site of the mosque.

The bombardment heightened fears among residents who said it was the heaviest since 10 days ago, when Israeli forces raided Rafah to free two hostages and launched a wave of attacks that health authorities said had killed dozens of Palestinians.

Wafa, the Palestinian news agency, reported that at least seven Palestinians were killed overnight in Rafah and dozens more wounded.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the strikes on Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the city as a Hamas stronghold and says the goal of Israel’s campaign is to eliminate the militant group.

International alarm has grown over the fate of civilians in Rafah if Israel presses on with its ground invasion there. Dr. Richard Brennan, the regional emergencies director for the World Health Organization, said the agency foresaw a “massive, further degradation of the humanitarian situation, if the ground offensive into Rafah proceeds in the coming weeks.”

Since the Rafah raid and Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement of the planned ground advance, some people there — many of whom had already been displaced several times — have begun packing up and moving north.

On Thursday morning, after a night of fear as drones buzzed and airstrikes boomed, more displaced families from Rafah began arriving at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, a city in central Gaza, said Beirut Hana, a lawyer who is sheltering there. They set up tents in and around the hospital and on empty plots of land, she said.

“Since the Israeli army announced their plans for a ground invasion of Rafah, people became scared and started moving,” Ms. Hana said in a phone interview. “Every day since then, large crowds of people have been arriving in Deir al Balah and Nuseirat,” another city in central Gaza.

Ms. Hana said that although some people were returning to their homes in Deir al Balah, others who were not from the city came in search of safety. But heavy bombardment has also continued in central Gaza, residents said.

“So many people are fleeing Rafah and coming here thinking they would be safer, only to get killed here,” said Ms. Hana, referring to the central strip.

Gazan health authorities say that more than 29,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s bombardment and invasion began on Oct. 7, after the Hamas-led attacks that killed 1,200 people in Israel.

Adam Sella in Tel Aviv contributed reporting.

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

At least one person is killed in a shooting at a West Bank checkpoint.

A shooting near a checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank killed at least one person and injured several others Thursday morning.

Three Palestinians used automatic weapons to fire from a car toward a traffic jam in front of the A Za’im checkpoint, which leads to Jerusalem, the Israeli police said. All three attackers were killed, Eli Levy, a police spokesman, said in a video statement.

Hamas praised the shooting in a statement, calling it a “natural response” to what it described as Israeli crimes in Gaza and the West Bank.

The checkpoint is on a main highway between Ma’ale Adumim, one of Israel’s largest settlements in the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

Israel’s emergency medical service said that a man in his twenties had been killed by the attackers. It said five others were being treated at hospitals for gunshot wounds, and one was in serious condition. The emergency medical service received a call reporting a shooting at about 7:30 a.m.

Mr. Levy called the attack terrorism.

Last week, a shooting that Israeli authorities also labeled terrorism killed two people and wounded four others at a bus station in central Israel. The country has been on high alert since the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7.

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting.

As Russia and the U.S. argue before the I.C.J., each accuses the other of hypocrisy.

The United States and Russia made opposing statements on Wednesday during hearings at the International Court of Justice focused on whether Israel’s lengthy occupation of Palestinian-majority territory is legal.

They were among 50 nations expected to address the I.C.J. in the matter — an unusually high number — underscoring the fact that the court, which once focused on staid issues like border disputes, has suddenly become a venue to wade into major, sensitive international issues.

“The I.C.J., which was previously seen as a kind of snoozy backwater of the U.N. system where disputes went to die, is turning into more and more of a platform for states to try to corner each other,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director for the International Crisis Group.

As Russia and the United States each use the court’s newfound prominence to promote their own agendas, they have both accused the other of hypocrisy.

The United States on Wednesday repeated its longstanding defense of Israel’s conduct of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its need to defend itself, while Russia said that need failed to justify Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.

In recent months, the court, the U.N.’s highest judicial body, has also heard preliminary arguments in a case South Africa brought against Israel, accusing it of genocide, while Ukraine and Russia have faced off concerning their war.

The increased politicization of a court created around strictly legal issues makes larger powers uneasy, Mr. Gowan said. Recent cases involving Israel, Ukraine and Myanmar touched on issues that the United States, Russia and China, respectively, consider their bailiwick.

“The I.C.J. is a place where little countries can line up and leverage international law to constrain what big powers and their allies try to do,” Mr. Gowan said.

The case regarding the legality of Israel’s occupation was triggered by a General Assembly vote long before the current war. In a separate case brought by South Africa after the war started, the judges have not yet ruled on whether Israel committed genocide, but decreed that Israel must take action to prevent it.

On Wednesday, the United States and Russia did not address each other directly in the courtroom in The Hague. But Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vladimir Tarabrin, criticized the United States several times, calling American policy an impediment to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Both the United States and Russia have repeatedly been accused of employing a double standard at the U.N. in the two conflicts, with the United States not pushing for a cease-fire in Gaza while demanding one in Ukraine, as Russia criticizes Israel for some of the very things Moscow has done in Ukraine.

For example, Ambassador Tarabrin said on Wednesday that the deaths that Israel experienced in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 did not justify the subsequent level of Israeli violence in Gaza. Though the hearing on the legality of Israel’s occupation does not center on Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, much of Russia’s argument focused on the current war there.

“We cannot accept the logic of those officials in Israel and some Western countries who try to defend the indiscriminate violence against civilians by referring to Israel’s duty to protect its nationals,” Mr. Tarabrin said.

Yet the Kremlin has said that it was forced to invade eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians under attack there. The Russian invasion, started in 2022, has devastated dozens of cities, towns and villages across the region and killed thousands of civilians.

Asked about that double standard in an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily A. Nebenzia, mostly dodged the question. He argued that people in the regions annexed by Moscow voted in a referendum in September 2022 to join Russia, a referendum rejected as illegal by most United Nations members.

A vast majority of United Nations members have voted repeatedly to demand that Russia stop the violence in Ukraine. The I.C.J. issued a similar ruling, although earlier this month it rejected many accusations that Ukraine made against Russia in the court, basically saying that its jurisdiction was limited.

In the hearing this week, Israel has declined to take part in the proceedings, and the Russian ambassador stressed that no ruling should be imposed on it. The court is expected to release a nonbinding advisory opinion.

The I.C.J. has no enforcement mechanism — it can only forward its rulings for action to the Security Council. The five permanent members can veto it, as the United States has done repeatedly with Gaza cease-fire resolutions and Russia with attempts to halt the fighting in Ukraine.

Marlise Simons and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

Scientists’ worst-case model for Gaza over the next 6 months: 85,000 deaths from war and disease.

An escalation of the war in Gaza could lead to the deaths of 85,000 Palestinians from injuries and disease over the next six months, in the worst of three situations that prominent epidemiologists have modeled in an effort to understand the potential future death toll of the conflict.

These fatalities would be in addition to the more than 29,000 deaths in Gaza that local authorities have attributed to the conflict since it began in October. The estimate represents “excess deaths,” above what would have been expected had there been no war.

In a second scenario, assuming no change in the current level of fighting or humanitarian access, there could be an additional 58,260 deaths in the enclave over the next six months, according to the researchers, from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

That figure could climb to 66,720 if there were outbreaks of infectious disease such as cholera, their analysis found.

Even in the best of the three possibilities that the research team described — an immediate and sustained cease-fire with no outbreak of infectious disease — another 6,500 Gazans could die over the next six months as a direct result of the war, the analysis found.

The population of the Gaza Strip before the war was 2.2 million.

“This is not a political message or advocacy,” said Dr. Francesco Checchi, professor of epidemiology and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We simply wanted to put it at the front of people’s minds and on the desks of decision makers,” he added, “so that it can be said afterward that when these decisions were taken, there was some available evidence on how this would play out in terms of lives.”

Dr. Checchi and his colleagues estimated the projected excess deaths from health data that was available for Gaza before the war began and from that collected through more than four months of fighting.

Their study considers deaths from traumatic injuries, infectious diseases, maternal and neonatal causes, and noncommunicable diseases for which people can no longer receive medication or treatment, such as dialysis.

Dr. Checchi said the analysis made it possible to quantify the potential impact of a cease-fire in lives. “The decisions that are going to be taken over the next few days and weeks matter hugely in terms of the evolution of the death toll in Gaza,” he said.

The projected 6,500 deaths even with a cease-fire is predicated on the assumption there will not be epidemics of infectious disease. With an outbreak of cholera, measles, polio or meningitis, that figure would be 11,580, said Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Hopkins Center for the Humanitarian Health and an author of the research, which has not been peer-reviewed.

While it is obvious that a military escalation would bring additional casualties, he added, policymakers should be cognizant of the range in the number of deaths that these scenarios indicate.

“We hope to bring some reality to it,” Dr. Spiegel said. “This is 85,000 additional deaths in a population where 1.2 percent of that population has already been killed.”

Patrick Ball, an expert on quantitative analysis of deaths in conflict who was not involved in the research, said it was unusual to see such a rigorous effort to calculate the potential humanitarian cost of an ongoing war.

“The paper illuminates this conflict in a way that we haven’t had in any prior conflicts,” said Dr. Ball, who is the director of research for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a nonprofit organization. “It illuminates the probable costs in human lives and human suffering of different kinds of future actions that are under human control.”

“People are going to make decisions that are going to lead to one of these three scenarios, or some complex mix of them, and this gives us a sense of what the likely outcomes of those decisions are,” he added.

The analysis projects that fatalities from traumatic injuries in Gaza over the next six months will be distributed across all ages and genders.

“Forty-three percent of the trauma deaths occur among females, and 42 percent are among children under 19 years,” the paper says, which “reflects the intensity and widespread nature of bombardment.”

Even with an immediate cease-fire, war-related deaths would continue, according to the analysis. The toll includes deaths of people who succumb to previous injuries or who are hurt by unexploded ordnance, deaths of babies and women for whom complex care in childbirth is not possible, and deaths of undernourished children who are unable to fight off infections such as pneumonia.

“I don’t think people realize how long it will take for that to change,” Dr. Spiegel said.

Israel’s planned Eurovision entry causes a storm.

A song called “October Rain” might simply be a ballad about dreary fall weather. But in the charged atmosphere following the Hamas-led attacks on Israel of Oct. 7, the title could also signal a lament about that tragedy, or a rallying call to stand firm against terrorism.

This week, the meaning of “October Rain” — a song that very few people have heard — became a contested question when newspapers in Israel reported that a song with that name had been chosen to represent the country in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Although initial reports gave few details of the song, they sparked a furor on social media. Some Eurovision fans complained that the track was clearly referring to Oct. 7 and should not be allowed in the nonpolitical event in which pop stars, representing countries, compete against each other each May.

Since Eurovision began in 1956, the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, has forbidden songs that make political statements, insisting that the competition should unify, rather than divide. Every year, the union vets proposed lyrics to ensure they do not undermine that principle. Although Israel is not in Europe, its broadcaster is a member of the European Broadcasting Union, and therefore the country is eligible to compete in Eurovision.

On Wednesday, the news division of Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, which oversees the country’s participation in Eurovision, reported that the broadcaster had begun discussions with the European Broadcasting Union over the suitability of “October Rain.” If the union refused to approve the track, the report speculated, Israel would not submit an alternative and would therefore be barred from the contest.

Miki Zohar, the country’s culture minister, said in a post on X on Wednesday that it would be “scandalous” if the song wasn’t allowed to compete.

In a letter sent to the European Broadcasting Union on Thursday, seen by The New York Times, Zohar put the case for “October Rain.” It was “an emotional song, discussing regeneration and rebirth,” he wrote. And while it reflected “the current public sentiment in Israel these days,” he said, that doesn’t make it “a political song.” (A spokesman for the minister said that Zohar hadn’t heard the “confidential” song, but had seen “a large part” of its lyrics.)

A European Broadcasting Union spokeswoman said in an email on Thursday that it was “currently in the process of scrutinizing the lyrics,” as it does for all proposed Eurovision tracks. “If a song is deemed unacceptable for any reason, broadcasters are then given the opportunity to submit a new song or new lyrics,” the spokeswoman added.

Even before this week’s uproar, Israel’s participation in this year’s Eurovision, which will be held in Malmo, Sweden, had cast a shadow over the event. As the death toll from Israel’s military offensive in Gaza has mounted, hundreds of musicians in countries including Sweden, Denmark and Iceland have signed petitions urging the European Broadcasting Union to ban Israel, following a similar decision in 2022 to ban Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

The European Broadcasting Union has repeatedly dismissed the comparison between Israel and Russia. “We understand the concerns and deeply held views around the current conflict in the Middle East,” the union said in a statement this month, but Eurovision was “not a contest between governments.”

At this year’s Eurovision, Israel will be represented by Eden Golan, a 20-year-old pop singer who was selected earlier this month when she won a TV talent show called “Rising Star,” singing an Aerosmith cover. During that show’s final, Golan referred to the roughly 130 hostages Israel believes Hamas is holding in Gaza. “We won’t truly be OK until everyone returns home,” she said.

Which song Golan will sing at Eurovision, however, is not only up to her. Kan has been evaluating potential tracks, and although it submitted “October Rain” for approval, the broadcaster is not scheduled to officially announce Israel’s song until March 10, allowing time for it to be changed, if necessary.

Throughout Eurovision’s history, the European Broadcasting Union has occasionally intervened when it detected political overtones in proposed entries, said Chris West, the author of a history of Eurovision. In 2009, he said, Georgia pulled out of the contest because the organizers objected to a song called “We Don’t Wanna Put In.” The song was seen as a statement against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, West said.

And in 2015, Armenia changed the title of its entry “Don’t Deny,” because it was widely interpreted as a reference to Turkey’s denial of the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians. The song was renamed “Face the Shadow,” West said.

“October Rain” seemed political from its title, West said, but Israel might claim it has nothing to do with last year’s attacks, or even that the country has a right to sing about the impact of Hamas’s atrocities.

“Eurovision’s organizers have a really difficult job of deciding where the line is,” West said.

As Gaza Death Toll Mounts, Israel’s Isolation Grows

When David Ben-Gurion, one of Israel’s founding fathers, was warned in 1955 that his plan to seize the Gaza Strip from Egypt would provoke a backlash in the United Nations, he famously derided the U.N., playing off its Hebrew acronym, as “Um-Shmum.”

The phrase came to symbolize Israel’s willingness to defy international organizations when it believes its core interests are at stake.

Nearly 70 years later, Israel faces another wave of condemnation in the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and from dozens of countries over its military operation in Gaza, which has killed an estimated 29,000 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and left much of the territory in ruins.

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Putin Takes a Ride in a Nuclear-Capable Bomber

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday took a short flight on a supersonic bomber, part of his pre-election effort to project confidence and power inside Russia, and a conspicuous reminder to the West of his country’s nuclear capabilities.

The flight took only 30 minutes, the Kremlin said in a statement, but the range of the wide-wing Tu-160M, also known as a White Swan in Russia, allows it to reach the United States with two dozen nuclear weapons aboard.

Russian state television showed Mr. Putin, 71, climbing up the stairs under the giant warplane, one of the largest and heaviest in the world, before it took off from the runaway of an airfield in Kazan, a city east of Moscow. The Kremlin released a video of Mr. Putin’s flight, showing him sitting in a pilot’s seat.

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Leaked Files Show the Secret World of China’s Hackers for Hire

The hackers offered a menu of services, at a variety of prices.

A local government in southwest China paid less than $15,000 for access to the private website of traffic police in Vietnam. Software that helped run disinformation campaigns and hack accounts on X cost $100,000. For $278,000 Chinese customers could get a trove of personal information behind social media accounts on platforms like Telegram and Facebook.

The offerings, detailed in leaked documents, were a portion of the hacking tools and data caches sold by a Chinese security firm called I-Soon, one of the hundreds of enterprising companies that support China’s aggressive state-sponsored hacking efforts. The work is part of a campaign to break into the websites of foreign governments and telecommunications firms.

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Bosnia’s Dysfunction Snarls Efforts to Curb Moscow’s Reach in the Balkans

Already struggling to contain intractable crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, the United States is also grappling with an impasse in the Balkans over a gas pipeline into Bosnia, an issue that is freighted with big geopolitical stakes.

The project, backed by both the United States and the European Union but blocked by the ethnic feuds that have long hobbled Bosnia, aims to break Moscow’s stranglehold on gas supplies to a fragile nation tugged between East and West.

The proposed pipeline, which would bring in natural gas from neighboring Croatia, a member of NATO and of the European Union, would be only 100 miles long and cost roughly $110 million, a pittance next to the $15 billion it took to build the Nord Stream gas connector between Russia and Germany.

Map locates existing and proposed pipelines in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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In Taiwan, Visiting Lawmakers Say U.S. Support Is Firm

Visiting American lawmakers sought to assure Taiwan on Thursday that the United States would stand by it in the face of pressure from China, while warning that uncertainty over proposed new military aid for Ukraine could weaken U.S. efforts to deter Beijing from moving aggressively against the island democracy.

“America stands with Taiwan, and you can draw upon a deep reservoir of friendship and support from the United States Congress,” Representative Mike Gallagher, the Wisconsin Republican leading the bipartisan House delegation, told Taiwan’s president-elect, Lai Ching-te, who takes office in May.

The lawmakers also met with Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen. Journalists in Taipei, the capital, were allowed to watch initial remarks in both meetings before being ushered out.

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U.S. Warns Allies Russia Could Put a Nuclear Weapon Into Orbit This Year

American intelligence agencies have told their closest European allies that if Russia is going to launch a nuclear weapon into orbit, it will probably do so this year — but that it might instead launch a harmless “dummy” warhead into orbit to leave the West guessing about its capabilities.

The assessment came as American intelligence officials conducted a series of rushed, classified briefings for their NATO and Asian allies, as details of the American assessment of Russia’s intentions began to leak out.

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A Russian Military Blogger Dies After Criticizing Army Losses

A pro-war Russian military blogger died on Wednesday, his lawyer said, after the blogger wrote the country’s military pressured him to remove a post exposing the scale of its losses in a recent battle in Ukraine.

The blogger, Andrei Morozov, claimed in his post that Russia had lost 16,000 men and 300 armored vehicles in its assault on the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which the Russians captured last week. He deleted the post on Tuesday after what he said was a campaign of intimidation against him.

The following morning, Mr. Morozov published a series of posts on Telegram outlining the complaints he had received from Russian military command and Kremlin propagandists about his exposé. In the posts, he threatened to end his life.

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Russian Forces Press On With Attacks in Southern Ukraine

Russian forces in recent days have launched multiple attacks around the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne, military officials and experts said, targeting land hard-won by Ukraine in a rare success of its counteroffensive last summer.

The Ukrainian Army said it had repelled four consecutive days of assaults from Saturday to Tuesday involving armored vehicles and large numbers of troops that had massed in the area.

Open-source maps of the battlefield compiled by independent groups analyzing combat footage suggest that Russia has made marginal gains to the west and south of Robotyne. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said on Monday that Russian forces had advanced to the western outskirts of the village.

Russian gains since Dec. 1
Russian-controlled area

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An Election Shatters the Image of Pakistan’s Mightiest Force

The intimidating myth of an all-powerful military in Pakistan has been smashed in public view.

The first cracks began to appear two years ago, when thousands of Pakistanis rallied alongside an ousted prime minister who had railed against the generals’ iron grip on politics. A year later, angry mobs stormed military installations and set them aflame.

Now comes another searing rebuke: Voters turned out in droves this month for candidates aligned with the expelled leader, Imran Khan, despite a military crackdown on his party. His supporters then returned to the streets to accuse the military of rigging the results to deny Mr. Khan’s allies a majority and allow the generals’ favored party to form a government.

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A Billionaire Bought a Chunk of Manchester United. Now He Has to Fix It.

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The process was six months old and already starting to wear on Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire, the first time he brought out the Champagne to toast his purchase of Manchester United. But even that celebration, at the Monaco Grand Prix in May, proved premature.

There was no deal. Not yet.

Doing one was never going to be easy. Mostly, that was because any potential sale for United offered a tantalizing marriage of money, power and history: Mr. Ratcliffe, the wealthy chairman of INEOS, the petrochemicals giant, had supported Manchester United since he was a boy. United, the most decorated club in English soccer, was one of the most iconic brands in global sports. And the Premier League, to which it belonged, was the richest soccer league in the world.

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Eiffel Tower Is Closed for 4th Day as Its Workers Strike

Anthony Aranda, a 23-year-old tourist from Peru, had only two days to visit Paris with his cousin, so getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower featured prominently on his to-do list. But on Thursday, he had to cross it off that list without stepping foot on France’s famed Iron Lady.

A labor strike, now in its fourth day, was keeping the tower closed.

“We are traveling to London next, so this was our last chance,” Mr. Aranda said in the drizzling rain as he looked up at the wrought-iron monument. “That was the idea, at least.”

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Bowing to Fan Revolt, German Soccer Rejects $1 Billion Investment

Germany’s soccer fans had thrown everything they could at the problem, often in a quite literal sense: At various points over the last few weeks, they protested the specter of a private equity giant’s taking a stake in the country’s domestic league by raining tennis balls, chocolate coins and even marbles onto fields across the country.

The demonstrations forced games to be delayed, embarrassed the authorities and may have helped to persuade one of the world’s largest financial firms not to pursue a deal. But it was thanks to an escalation in technology that ultimate victory was secured: Once the remote-controlled cars were deployed, belching smoke and disrupting yet another game, the league caved.

The end came in an emergency board meeting, where the league’s constituent clubs voted to abandon talks with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm registered in Luxembourg, over a deal that would have provided teams with a $1 billion cash injection in exchange for a portion of the league’s broadcasting revenues over the next two decades.

“Given current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer appears possible,” Hans-Joachim Watzke, the chairman of the league’s supervisory board, said Wednesday.

The vote was a comprehensive — if increasingly rare — victory for the interests of fans at a time when sports has shown itself unable to resist the overtures of deep-pocketed investors. That supporters of a few dozen German soccer clubs appeared to have won the argument through a mix of fury and wit somehow made their triumph seem even more remarkable.

CVC Partners has in recent years struck deals similar to the German proposal with a number of teams and competitions. The firm already has stakes in La Liga, the elite soccer league in Spain, and Ligue 1, its equivalent in France, as well as the WTA Tour and the prestigious Six Nations rugby competition.

The D.F.L., the body that oversees the top two divisions of German soccer, had originally voted to follow suit in December, narrowly endorsing a motion that would allow the league to investigate a “strategic partnership” with either CVC or Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private equity funds. Blackstone withdrew from the process earlier this month, leaving CVC as the only contender.

The turning point for the proposed German investment, most agreed, came on Sunday, when two remote-controlled cars were let loose during a second-division game between Hansa Rostock and Hamburg. Each had a smoke bomb attached to its back that billowed blue and white fumes into the air. The match was stopped for several minutes while stewards attempted to chase the cars down.

By then the protests and the subsequent furor were calling into question “match-day operations, games themselves and the integrity of the competition,” Mr. Watzke said.

The prospect of even indirect private investment into a league where clubs must, by law, be majority-controlled by fans proved a toxic prospect.

Protests broke out almost immediately after news of the league’s intention to seek a deal became public in December, and as fans made it clear that they did not want to follow the path laid down by England’s Premier League, where clubs are bought and sold by oil tycoons, venture capitalists and nation states.

Some games started to a backdrop of eerie silence as fans withheld their cheers. Others saw banners outlining the fans’ position, often in explicit terms, unfurled in the stands. A variety of objects were thrown onto fields to halt play.

Thomas Kessen, a spokesman for Unsere Kurve, an umbrella group that advocates on behalf of fans, described the protests as “comprehensive, creative and peaceful.”

Eventually, the protests proved so frequent and so fervent that the D.F.L. had little choice but to backtrack.

“For all active soccer fans and all members of the clubs, this is a great success that shows that German soccer is member-based and democratic,” Mr. Kessen said. “These very members must be involved in such landmark decisions.”

Melissa Eddy contributed reporting.

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Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

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A week after Hamas-led terrorists stormed his kibbutz and kidnapped his wife and three young children, Avihai Brodutch planted himself on the sidewalk in front of army headquarters in Tel Aviv holding a sign scrawled with the words “My family’s in Gaza,” and said he would not budge until they were brought home.

Passers-by stopped to commiserate with him and to try to lift his spirits. They brought him coffee, platters of food and changes of clothing, and welcomed him to their homes to wash up and get some sleep.

“They were so kind, and they just couldn’t do enough,” said Mr. Brodutch, 42, an agronomist who grew pineapples on Kibbutz Kfar Azza before the attacks on Oct. 7. “It was Israel at its finest,” he said. “There was a feeling of a common destiny.”

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An English City Gave Soccer to the World. Now It Wants Credit.

As far as the man in the food truck is concerned, the patch of land he occupies in Sheffield, England, is about as humdrum as they come. To him, the spot — in the drab parking lot of a sprawling home improvement superstore, its facade plastered in lurid orange — is not exactly a place where history comes alive.

John Wilson, an academic at the University of Sheffield’s management school, looks at the same site and can barely contain his excitement. This, he said, is one of the places where the world’s most popular sport was born. He does not see a parking lot. He can see the history: the verdant grass, the sweating players, the cheering crowds.

His passion is sincere, absolute and shared by a small band of amateur historians and volunteer detectives devoted to restoring Sheffield — best known for steel, coal and as the setting for the film “The Full Monty” — to its rightful place as the undisputed birthplace of codified, organized, recognizable soccer.

Map locates Sheffield, Manchester and London in England. It also shows where Wembley Stadium is in northwest London.

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How John Travolta Became the Star of Carnival

Jack Nicas and Dado Galdieri reported this article among the giant puppets of the Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Brazil

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It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

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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.

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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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Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

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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 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.

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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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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

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

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

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

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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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EE. UU. defiende a Israel ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia

El miércoles, un día después de vetar los llamados a un alto al fuego inmediato en Gaza, Estados Unidos defendió la ocupación israelí de Cisjordania y Jerusalén Oriente, ocurrida a lo largo de décadas, argumentando ante el más alto tribunal de las Naciones Unidas que Israel se enfrentaba a “necesidades muy reales en materia de seguridad”.

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La más reciente defensa estadounidense de Israel en la escena internacional se produjo en la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, donde Richard Visek, asesor jurídico en funciones del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU., instó a un panel de 15 jueces a no exigir la retirada inmediata de Israel de los territorios palestinos ocupados.

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¿Quién controla las prisiones de Latinoamérica? ¿El hampa o los guardias?

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El ejército de Ecuador fue enviado a recuperar el control de las prisiones el mes pasado, luego de que dos cabecillas importantes se fugaron y bandas criminales organizaron con rapidez una serie de disturbios que paralizaron el país.

La semana pasada, dos reclusos en Brasil con conexiones a una pandilla importante se convirtieron en los primeros en escapar de una de las cinco prisiones de máxima seguridad del país, según las autoridades.

Las autoridades en Colombia declararon una emergencia carcelaria después de que dos guardias fueron asesinados y varios más han sido blanco de lo que el gobierno calificó de represalias por su mano dura contra las principales organizaciones delictivas.

Al interior de las prisiones de toda Latinoamérica, grupos criminales ejercen una autoridad irrestricta sobre los presos, a quienes brindan protección o artículos básicos, como comida, a cambio de dinero.

Las prisiones también sirven como una suerte de refugio seguro para los líderes criminales encarcelados para que puedan dirigir a distancia y desde la reclusión sus grupos delictivos y ordenan asesinatos, organizan contrabando de drogas a Estados Unidos y Europa y coordinan secuestros y extorsiones a negocios locales.

A menudo, cuando las autoridades intentan restringir el poder que los grupos delincuenciales ejercen tras las rejas, sus líderes mandan a sus secuaces en el exterior de las prisiones a contraatacar.

“El principal centro de gravedad, el control que tiene el crimen organizado, está dentro de los centros carcelarios”, dijo Mario Pazmiño, coronel retirado y exdirector de inteligencia del ejército ecuatoriano que funge como analista en temas de seguridad.

“Ahí funcionan, digamos, los puestos de dirección, los puestos de mando”, añadió. Es “donde se dan las órdenes y disposiciones para que convulsionen el país”.

La población carcelaria de Latinoamérica se ha disparado en las últimas dos décadas, un crecimiento impulsado por medidas más severas como la prisión preventiva. Sin embargo, los gobiernos de la región no han destinado suficientes recursos para manejar este aumento y, más bien, a menudo han cedido el control a los reclusos, según expertos penalistas.

Quienes son enviados a prisión con frecuencia enfrentan una decisión: unirse a un grupo criminal o sufrir su ira.

Como resultado, los centros penitenciarios se han tornado en una pieza clave en el reclutamiento para los carteles y las pandillas más violentos de América Latina, con lo que refuerzan, y no pierden, su control de la sociedad.

En su mayoría, las autoridades carcelarias —mal financiadas, sobrepasadas en número, saturadas y que a menudo reciben sobornos— se han rendido ante los líderes criminales en muchas prisiones a cambio de una paz frágil.

Las bandas delictivas controlan total o parcialmente mucho más de la mitad de las 285 prisiones de México, según los expertos. En Brasil, el gobierno a menudo distribuye la población penitenciaria según su afiliación criminal para evitar la agitación. En Ecuador, los analistas dicen que la mayoría de las 36 prisiones del país tienen algún grado de control criminal.

“La pandilla está resolviéndole un problema al gobierno”, dijo Benjamin Lessing, profesor de ciencia política de la Universidad de Chicago que estudia bandas y prisiones latinoamericanas. “Esto le da a las bandas un tipo de poder que es muy difícil de medir pero también difícil de sobreestimar”.

La población de las prisiones latinoamericanas aumentó en un 76 por ciento de 2010 a 2020, según el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, lo que excede por mucho el aumento poblacional del 10 por ciento que experimentó la región en el mismo periodo.

Muchos países han impuesto políticas de aplicación de la ley más estrictas, entre ellas sentencias más prolongadas y más condenas por delitos menores relacionados con las drogas, lo que ha llevado a la mayoría de las cárceles de la región a sobrepasar su máxima capacidad.

Al mismo tiempo, los gobiernos han priorizado la inversión en las fuerzas de seguridad como una forma de atacar la delincuencia y mostrar al público que hacen algo, en lugar de invertir en las cárceles, que son menos visibles.

Brasil y México, los países latinoamericanos más poblados y con las mayores poblaciones carcelarias, invierten poco en las prisiones: el gobierno de Brasil gasta unos 14 dólares diarios por preso mientras que México gasta unos 20 dólares. Estados Unidos gastaba unos 117 dólares diarios por recluso en 2022. Los guardias penitenciarios de América Latina también reciben salarios ínfimos, lo que los vuelve susceptibles a los sobornos de las bandas que buscan ingresar contrabando o ayuda para que los detenidos de alto perfil puedan escapar.

Las autoridades federales de Brasil y Ecuador no respondieron a los pedidos de comentarios, mientras que las autoridades federales de México rechazaron hacer comentarios. En general, las prisiones federales en México y Brasil cuentan con mejor financiamiento y condiciones que sus prisiones estatales.

El estado de Río de Janeiro, que gestiona algunas de las prisiones más mala fama de Brasil, afirmó en una declaración que por décadas ha separado a los presos según su afiliación para “garantizar su seguridad física” y que la práctica está permitida por la legislación brasileña.

Algunos líderes criminales viven con relativa comodidad tras las rejas, lo que refleja el poder que tienen las bandas de las prisiones, donde operan tiendas de comestibles, clubes nocturnos y áreas de peleas de gallos, y a donde en ocasiones llevan de contrabando a sus familiares para que vivan con ellos.

Los expertos aseguran que las prisiones ecuatorianas son un ejemplo modélico de los problemas que aquejan a los sistemas penitenciarios en Latinoamérica y de la dificultad de atenderlos.

Los disturbios de enero estallaron después de que el presidente recientemente electo de Ecuador intentara aumentar la seguridad en las prisiones luego de que una investigación realizada por la fiscala general del país mostró que un cabecilla encarcelado, que se enriqueció con el tráfico de cocaína, había corrompido a jueces, oficiales de policía, guardias e incluso al exdirigente del sistema penitenciario.

El presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, planeaba transferir a varios líderes delictivos a una prisión de máxima seguridad, dificultando así la operación de sus negocios ilícitos.

Pero dichos planes se filtraron a los líderes de las bandas y uno desapareció de un centro penitenciario.

La búsqueda subsiguiente dentro de la prisión ocasionó disturbios en las cárceles del país, tras los cuales escaparon decenas de presos, entre ellos el líder de otra poderosa banda.

Las bandas también ordenaron a sus miembros que atacaran en el exterior, dijeron los expertos. Secuestraron oficiales de policía, quemaron vehículos, detonaron explosivos y tomaron brevemente el control de una gran cadena de televisión.

Noboa respondió con el decreto de un conflicto armado interno, autorizando al ejército a actuar contra las bandas en las calles e intervenir en las prisiones. En al menos una prisión se despojó a las personas privadas de su libertad de la ropa interior y se confiscaron y quemaron sus pertenencias, según el ejército y videos en las redes sociales.

Las escenas recordaban a algunas en El Salvador, en donde el presidente Nayib Bukele declaró un estado de excepción en 2022 para abordar la violencia de las pandillas. Unas 75.000 personas han sido encarceladas en ese país, muchas de ellas sin el debido proceso, de acuerdo con grupos de derechos humanos.

El dos por ciento de todos los salvadoreños están encarcelados, la proporción más alta del mundo, según World Prison Brief, una base de datos recopilados por Birkbeck, Universidad de Londres.

Las tácticas de Bukele han diezmado a las pandillas callejeras del país, revertido años de violencia terrible y ayudado a asegurarle un segundo mandato.

Pero los expertos aseguran que miles de personas inocentes han sido encarceladas.

“¿Qué consecuencias tiene esto?”, dijo Carlos Ponce, experto en El Salvador y profesor asistente en la Universidad del Fraser Valley en Canadá. “Esto los va a marcar a ellos y sus familias de por vida”.

El frecuente uso de la prisión preventiva por toda la región para combatir la delincuencia ha ocasionado que muchas personas desfallezcan durante meses e incluso años en prisión a la espera de ser enjuiciados, aseguran grupos de defensa de derechos humanos. La práctica afecta especialmente a los más pobres, quienes no pueden pagar abogados y a menudo se enfrentan a un sistema judicial que avanza con lentitud y está saturado.

En los primeros siete meses del estado de excepción de El Salvador, el 84 por ciento de los arrestados se encontraba en prisión preventiva y casi la mitad de la población penitenciaria de México sigue a la espera de un juicio.

“Las cárceles pueden definirse como centros de explotación para los pobres”, dijo Elena Azaola, una académica que ha estudiado el sistema penitenciario de México durante 30 años.

“Algunas personas han estado encarceladas por 10 o 20 años sin proceso”, añadió. “Muchas salen peor de lo que estaban al ingresar”.

De hecho, las prisiones de algunos países latinoamericanos son hasta cierto punto un carrusel.

Alrededor del 40 por ciento de los prisioneros en Argentina, Brasil, Chile y México son liberados solo para volver a ser puestos tras las rejas. Si bien la tasa de reincidencia es mucho más elevada en Estados Unidos, en América Latina muchas personas son encerradas por delitos menores y a menudo no violentos y luego pasan a cometer crímenes más graves, dicen los expertos, en parte porque los delincuentes del fuero común comparten el encierro con los criminales serios.

De hecho, las dos pandillas más grandes de Brasil —el Primer Comando Capital y el Comando Vermelho— se fundaron en prisiones que siguen siendo bastiones de su poder.

Jefferson Quirino, otrora integrante de una pandilla que completó cinco detenciones distintas en las cárceles de Río, dijo que las bandas controlaban todas las prisiones donde estuvo recluido. En algunas, los presos a menudo se dedicaban a llevar a cabo operaciones de las pandillas a través de los numerosos celulares que lograban ingresar de contrabando, con frecuencia con la ayuda de guardias a los que habían comprado.

En Brasil, donde las autoridades mismas a menudo dividen a los centros de detención por su afiliación criminal, la influencia de las pandillas en las prisiones es tan grande que los guardias obligan a los nuevos reclusos a elegir un bando a fin de limitar la violencia.

“Lo primero que te preguntan es: ‘¿A qué pandilla perteneces?’”, dijo Quirino, quien lidera un programa para evitar que los niños pobres se unan a las pandillas. “En otras palabras, necesitan comprender dónde ubicarte en el sistema porque de otro modo te mueres”.

Esto ha contribuido a que los grupos delictivos aumenten sus filas.

“La cárcel funciona como un espacio de reclutamiento de personal”, dijo Jacqueline Muniz, quien fue líder de Seguridad de Río de Janeiro.

“Y para crear lealtad entre tu fuerza de trabajo criminal”.

Colaboraron con reportería Emiliano Rodríguez Mega desde Ciudad de México; José María León Cabrera desde Quito, Ecuador; Thalíe Ponce desde Guayaquil, Ecuador; Genevieve Glatsky desde Bogotá, Colombia; y Laurence Blair desde Asunción, Paraguay.

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

Maria Abi-Habib es corresponsal de investigación con sede en Ciudad de México y cubre América Latina. Anteriormente ha reportado desde Afganistán, todo Medio Oriente e India, donde cubrió el sur de Asia. Más de Maria Abi-Habib

Jack Nicas es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Brasil, con sede en Río de Janeiro, desde donde lidera la cobertura de gran parte de América del Sur. Más de Jack Nicas

4 Ways Autocrats Have Used Interpol to Harass Faraway Enemies

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Interpol is the world’s largest police organization. It serves as a powerful bulletin board that governments and law enforcement agencies use to team up to pursue fugitives across the globe. At its best, it helps track down killers and terrorists.

But it is also a novel weapon for strongmen and autocrats in the hunt for political enemies, giving them the power to reach across borders and grab their targets — even in democracies.

Here are some of the ways countries can exploit Interpol:

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La salud de Navalny se vio perjudicada por las condiciones carcelarias

Alexéi Navalny se presentaba a sí mismo como invencible, utilizando constantemente su característico humor para dar a entender que el presidente Vladimir Putin no podría doblegarlo, por terribles que fueran sus condiciones en prisión.

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Pero detrás de esa cara valiente, la realidad era evidente. Desde su encarcelamiento a principios de 2021, Navalny, la figura más formidable de la oposición rusa, y sus colaboradores indicaron constantemente que sus condiciones eran tan sombrías que lo estaban matando a cámara lenta.

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La disputa territorial entre Belice y Guatemala sigue siendo una preocupación en la región

Simón Romero y Alejandro Cegarra pasaron varios días en Belice, viajando en barco hasta el río Sarstoon y atravesando el país en auto para hablar con la gente sobre el conflicto con Guatemala.

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El barco se abrió paso entre los manglares, un enmarañado laberinto de ramas cubiertas de espinas que cobijaban jaguares y ruidosos monos aulladores. Las señales de nuestros GPS señalaban que estábamos en Belice, el país centroamericano de habla inglesa donde piratas británicos se instalaron hace siglos.

Pero algunos miembros del ejército guatemalteco, vestidos con camuflaje y boinas, nos vieron. Se acercaron en su propia embarcación, empuñaron fusiles y acercaron los dedos índices a los gatillos.

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