The New York Times 2024-02-25 16:50:10


The Spy War: How the C.I.A. Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin

Adam Entous and

Adam Entous and Michael Schwirtz conducted more than 200 interviews in Ukraine, several other European countries and the United States to report this story.

Nestled in a dense forest, the Ukrainian military base appears abandoned and destroyed, its command center a burned-out husk, a casualty of a Russian missile barrage early in the war.

But that is above ground.

Not far away, a discreet passageway descends to a subterranean bunker where teams of Ukrainian soldiers track Russian spy satellites and eavesdrop on conversations between Russian commanders. On one screen, a red line followed the route of an explosive drone threading through Russian air defenses from a point in central Ukraine to a target in the Russian city of Rostov.

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In Russia, Knowing That Her Son Is Dead, and Waiting for Him Anyway

When Yulia Seleznyova walks around her home city in Russia, she scrutinizes everyone passing by in the hope that she will lock eyes with her son Aleksei.

She last heard from him on New Year’s Eve 2022, when he sent holiday greetings from the school in eastern Ukraine that his unit of recently mobilized soldiers was using as a headquarters.

The Ukrainian military hit the school with U.S.-supplied HIMARS rockets on New Year’s Day. The Russian authorities acknowledged dozens of deaths, though pro-Russian military bloggers and Ukrainian authorities estimated that the real number was in the hundreds.

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In Latin America, a New Frontier for Women: Professional Softball in Mexico

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

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In many parts of Latin America, baseball is a popular and well-established sport with men’s professional leagues in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, among others. But women wanting to play baseball’s cousin — softball — professionally had only one option: to leave. They had to go to the United States or Japan.

Until now.

In what is believed to be a first in Latin America — a region where men often have more opportunities than women, particularly in sports — a professional women’s softball league has started in Mexico. On Jan. 25, when the inaugural season began, 120 women on six teams got to call themselves professional softball players, many for the first time.

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A Re-established West Bank Settlement Symbolizes Hardened Israeli Views

For an Israeli settlement that has become such a resounding symbol of religious and right-wing politics in the West Bank, Homesh is not much to look at.

Three families live in tarpaulin-covered shelters full of bunk beds for some 50 young men, who study in a yeshiva that is a shabby prefab structure surrounded by abandoned toys, building materials and garbage.

They live part time here amid the ruins and rubbish of a hilltop settlement ripped down in 2005 by the Israeli Army and the police. It is one of four West Bank settlements dismantled when Israel pulled all of its troops and settlements out of Gaza. Israel’s intention then, pushed by Washington, was to signal that outlying settlements too hard to defend would be consolidated in any future peace deal.

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Belarus Holds an Election, but the Outcome Is Not Hard to Predict

Amid a number of high-stakes elections to be held around the world this year, the East European nation of Belarus on Sunday offered an alternative to the unpredictability of democracy: a vote for Parliament without a single candidate critical of the country’s despotic leader.

Opposition parties have all been banned — belonging to one is a crime — and the four approved parties taking part in the election have competed only to outdo each other in their displays of unwavering loyalty to the country’s leader, President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 30 years.

For the government, the election on Sunday — the first since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which neighbors Belarus to the south — is important as an opportunity to show Moscow, its ally, that it has snuffed out all domestic opposition and survived economic and other strains imposed by the war. Russia, which has in the past had doubts about Mr. Lukashenko’s durability and reliability, launched its invasion in February 2022 in part from Belarusian territory.

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Weary but Determined, Ukrainians Vow Never to Bow to Russia

Reporting from Kharkiv, Ukraine

When Russian missiles struck the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv a couple of weeks ago, schoolchildren and their teachers installed in newly built underground classrooms did not hear a thing.

Down in the bowels of Kharkiv’s cavernous, Soviet-era subway stations, the city administration has built a line of brightly decorated classrooms, where 6- and 7-year-olds are attending primary school for the first time in their lives in this war-stricken city.

“The children were fine,” said Lyudmyla Demchenko, 47, one of the teachers. “You cannot hear the sirens down here.”

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Ukraine’s Deepening Fog of War

Reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine

The forecasts are anything but optimistic: The best Ukraine can hope for in 2024, many Western officials and analysts say, is to simply hold the line.

Only a year ago, Ukraine was brimming with confidence. It had defied expectations, staving off Russia’s attempt to take over the country. Western nations, buoyed by Ukraine’s success, promised aid to help Ukrainians break through Russian lines.

But the flow of much-needed weapons from allies into the country was unpredictable, and slow. Ukraine’s own domestic arms production was mired in bureaucracy, top military officials have said. And the command structure of the army was not changing quickly enough to manage a force that had expanded from 200,000 troops to nearly a million in a matter of months.

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Atrocities Mount in Sudan as War Spirals, U.N. Says

Bombs that struck houses, markets and bus stations across Sudan, often killing dozens of civilians at once. Ethnic rampages, accompanied by rape and looting, that killed thousands in the western region of Darfur.

And a video clip, verified by United Nations officials, that shows Sudanese soldiers parading through the streets of a major city, triumphantly brandishing the decapitated heads of students who were killed on the basis of their ethnicity.

The horrors of Sudan’s spiraling civil war are laid out in graphic detail in a new United Nations report that draws on satellite imagery, photos, videos and interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses, to present the stark human toll from 10 months of fighting.

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Fire in Valencia, Spain, Leaves Residents Homeless After Panicked Escapes

Vladimir Likhvan fled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, hoping to find safety in Europe, only to watch helplessly as his new home was destroyed in a fire that raged Thursday through a high-rise apartment complex in Valencia, killing at least 10 people.

Mr. Likhvan, 37, his sister, Victoria Tudovshi, 42, and her 13-year-old daughter lived in rented accommodation on the 10th floor of the taller of the two buildings destroyed by Thursday’s fire. They had recently arrived in Spain after a year living with relatives in Lithuania.

Like the two dozen or so other Ukrainian families also living in the building at the time of the fire, the siblings had started to build new lives in Spain, away from the dangers and destruction of war. But on Saturday, they and many of their neighbors were left with no worldly possessions save the clothes on their backs; they were homeless, shopping for toothbrushes and other basic necessities.

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Zong Qinghou, Beverage Tycoon in China, Dies at 79

Zong Qinghou, a self-made beverage entrepreneur who was once the richest person in China, died on Sunday.

His death was announced by his company, Wahaha Group, which said that Mr. Zong had died from an unspecified illness and gave his age as 79. The company statement provided no further details.

Mr. Zong’s rags-to-riches story had made him prominent in China even before a public feud with his foreign business partner considerably raised his profile — and his wealth. He founded a beverage company in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, he partnered with Danone, the French food giant, to launch one of the best-known food and beverage brands in China.

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Hard Lessons Make for Hard Choices 2 Years Into the War in Ukraine

Two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States has the capacity to keep Kyiv supplied with the weapons, technology and intelligence to fend off a takeover by Moscow. But Washington is now perceived around Europe to have lost its will.

The Europeans, in contrast, have the will — they just committed another $54 billion to reconstruct the country — but when it comes to repelling Russia’s revived offensive, they do not have the capacity.

That is the essence of the conundrum facing Ukraine and the NATO allies on the dismal second anniversary of the war. It is a stunning reversal. Only a year ago, many here predicted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive, bolstered by European tanks and missiles and American artillery and air defenses, could push the Russians back to where they were on Feb. 24, 2022.

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For Car Thieves, Toronto Is a ‘Candy Store,’ and Drivers Are Fed Up

Vjosa Isai drove around Toronto in a Volkswagen Passat with 290,000 miles on it, a vehicle not coveted by car thieves, to report this article.

Whenever Dennis Wilson wants to take a drive in his new SUV, he has to set aside an extra 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to remove the car’s steering wheel club, undo four tire locks and lower a yellow bollard before backing out of his driveway.

His Honda CR-V is also fitted with two alarm systems, a vehicle tracking device and, for good measure, four Apple AirTags. Its remote-access key fob rests in a Faraday bag, to jam illicit unlocking signals.

As a final touch, he mounted two motion-sensitive floodlights on his house and aimed them at the driveway in his modest neighborhood in Toronto.

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Sanitation Crisis in Gaza Spreads Disease

In a sprawling tent encampment in Gaza, the Israeli bombs fall close enough to hear and feel. But daily life is also a struggle against hunger, cold and a growing sanitation crisis.

A lack of sufficient toilets and clean water, as well as open sewage, are problems that displaced Palestinians have struggled with since the early days of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

For two months after Salwa al-Masri, 75, and her family fled to the city of Rafah, at the southernmost tip of Gaza, to escape Israel’s military offensive, she said she would walk 200 yards to reach the nearest bathroom. If she was lucky, younger women in line would let her jump ahead. Other times, she might wait up to an hour to use a dirty toilet shared with thousands of other people.

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Aleksei Navalny’s Body Was Returned to His Mother, Allies Say

The Russian authorities have transferred the body of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny to his mother, his spokeswoman said on Saturday, ending a grim battle for custody of his remains, but it is unclear whether he will get a funeral that the public can attend.

“Aleksei’s body has been handed over to his mother,” Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said in a statement posted on social media. “The funeral is yet to come. We don’t know whether the authorities will interfere with carrying it out in the way the family wants and as Aleksei deserves.”

Mr. Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, on Saturday was still in the northern city of Salekhard, near the Arctic prison where Mr. Navalny was reported to have died on Feb. 16, Ms. Yarmysh said. She added that the opposition leader’s team would release information about the funeral “as it becomes available.”

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Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

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’

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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Can Gabriel Attal Win Over France?

Gabriel Attal, 34, is a new kind of French prime minister, more inclined to Diet Coke than a good Burgundy, at home with social media and revelations about his personal life, a natural communicator who reels off one-liners like “France rhymes with power” to assert his “authority,” a favorite word.

Since taking office in early January, the boyish-looking Mr. Attal has waded into the countryside, far from his familiar haunts in the chic quarters of Paris, muddied his dress shoes, propped his notes on a choreographed bale of hay, and calmed protesting farmers through adroit negotiation leavened by multiple concessions.

He has told rail workers threatening a strike that “working is a duty,” not an everyday French admonition. He has shown off his new dog on Instagram and explained that he called the high-energy Chow Chow “Volta” after the inventor of the electric battery. He has told the National Assembly that he is the living proof of a changing France as “a prime minister who assumes his homosexuality.”

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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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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

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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

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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Incendio en Valencia: hay al menos 9 muertos

Un día después de que un incendio arrasara un complejo de viviendas de gran altura en la ciudad española de Valencia, que derivó en la muerte de al menos 9 personas, los investigadores policiales intentaban determinar por qué las llamas se habían extendido por los dos edificios en menos de una hora.

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Las primeras sospechas recayeron en los materiales de construcción, pero era difícil determinarlo, ya que las dos estructuras permanecían tan calientes que los bomberos no pudieron entrar en los edificios sino hasta alrededor del mediodía del viernes, horas después de haber llegado al lugar durante la noche anterior.

Luis Sendra, decano del Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de la Comunidad Valenciana, dijo que los investigadores tendrían que esperar a que las estructuras se enfriaran para poder precisar si el revestimiento exterior podría haber contribuido a avivar el fuego. Afirmó que los huecos entre el aislamiento y el revestimiento podrían haber facilitado la propagación de las llamas.

“Es pronto para saber la causa exacta”, dijo Sendra. “Pero por la rapidez con que se extendió, podría haber mucha similitud con Grenfell en Londres”.

Setenta y dos personas murieron en el incendio de Grenfell, que consumió un edificio de apartamentos de gran altura en el oeste de Londres en 2017. Se habían utilizado materiales inflamables en el revestimiento de ese edificio, lo que aceleró la propagación del fuego.

En una rueda de prensa celebrada el viernes por la mañana, Carlos Mazón, presidente de la Comunidad Valenciana, anunció un periodo de luto de tres días y afirmó que siete bomberos habían resultado heridos en el incendio.

El gobierno de la comunidad autónoma había anunciado a primera hora del viernes que 10 personas habían fallecido en el incendio, pero de acuerdo con información que apareció en los medios de comunicación españoles más tarde ese mismo día, citando fuentes policiales, se afirmaba que el número de muertes se había revisado y eran nueve, y una persona desaparecida.

En unas imágenes dramáticas que circularon en los medios de comunicación españoles se veía a un bombero saltando desde el séptimo piso a una colchoneta de seguridad en el suelo. Dos residentes también fueron rescatados de un balcón tras quedar atrapados por el fuego; mientras los bomberos contenían las llamas con mangueras, los residentes trepaban de balcón en balcón para llegar a una plataforma de rescate elevada por un camión de bomberos.

El complejo residencial de Valencia, la tercera ciudad más grande de España, estaba formado por un edificio de 14 plantas y otro más bajo, y tenía un total de 138 viviendas, según Sendra.

Un equipo de 15 agentes forenses de la policía nacional está llevando a cabo una investigación sobre el incendio. Tampoco estaba claro el origen del incendio.

Aún no se sabía con claridad qué materiales se utilizaron en el exterior de los edificios. Sendra declaró a los medios de comunicación que el uso de aluminio en las fachadas de los edificios estaba permitido por la normativa de construcción española, pero que el uso de poliuretano como aislante no lo estaba.

Tampoco quedaba claro si se había utilizado poliuretano. Sin embargo, Esther Puchades, vicepresidenta del Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Técnicos Industriales de Valencia, afirmó en un comunicado que “todos los indicios apuntaban al poliuretano como el causante de la voracidad de las llamas y el color del humo”.

Un comunicado del colegio señaló que algunos de los materiales de la fachada de los edificios contenían plástico que se incendió con rapidez, pero añadía: “No podemos asegurar que sea un material en concreto hasta que no acabe la investigación”.

Pep Benlloch, presidente de la asociación de vecinos de la zona, dijo en una entrevista en la cadena de televisión Antena 3 que en el complejo vivían muchos extranjeros, entre ellos ucranianos, pero que, en un principio, había estado vacío durante mucho tiempo debido a los precios prohibitivos por el auge de la construcción.

La policía y el ayuntamiento señalaron que no podían confirmar inmediatamente cuántas de las viviendas estaban habitadas en el momento del incendio. El complejo se construyó durante el auge inmobiliario de mediados de la década de 2000, según Sendra.

Un residente de 67 años que solo dio su nombre de pila, Pep, dijo el viernes a los medios de comunicación españoles que había salido de su vivienda con su esposa poco después de que se declarara el incendio.

“Cogí la cartera, el móvil, y logré salir del infierno”, dijo el hombre, hablando fuera del hotel donde ha sido alojado temporalmente.

Jorge, quien vive en el barrio de Campanar, dijo que había salido a dar un paseo cuando vio el incendio y se unió a un pequeño grupo de personas que contemplaba con horror cómo el edificio era consumido por las llamas.

Inmediatamente empezó a grabar; hizo un video del edificio en llamas, con el sonido de gritos de fondo, que publicó en las redes sociales

“Olía a plástico quemado”, dijo Jorge, quien solo dio su nombre de pila, en una entrevista.

El ayuntamiento de Valencia señaló en un comunicado que se había instalado una locación de asistencia en un edificio cercano para ofrecer apoyo práctico y psicológico a los residentes sobrevivientes.

El presidente del gobierno de España, Pedro Sánchez, visitó el viernes el lugar del incendio, agradeció a los trabajadores de emergencia y ofreció “trasladar nuestra solidaridad, nuestro cariño y nuestra empatía” a las familias afectadas por el fuego.

“La prioridad ahora”, dijo, “es la búsqueda de víctimas”.


Emily Schmallcolaboró con reportería.

EE. UU. indagó acusaciones de vínculos del narco con aliados del presidente de México

Funcionarios de la ley estadounidenses indagaron durante años afirmaciones de que aliados del presidente de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, se habían reunido con cárteles del narcotráfico y recibido millones de dólares luego de que asumió el cargo, según consta en registros de EE. UU. y de acuerdo con tres personas con conocimiento del tema.

La indagatoria, de la que hasta ahora no se había informado, descubrió información que señalaba posibles vínculos entre operadores poderosos de los cárteles y funcionarios y asesores mexicanos cercanos a López Obrador cuando ya gobernaba el país.

Pero Estados Unidos nunca abrió una investigación formal a López Obrador y los funcionarios que estaban haciendo la indagatoria al final la archivaron. Concluyeron que había poca disposición en el gobierno estadounidense para rastrear acusaciones que pudieran implicar al líder de uno de los principales aliados del país, dijeron las tres personas con conocimiento del caso, quienes no tenían autorización de ofrecer declaraciones públicamente.

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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

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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