The New York Times 2024-03-03 04:56:27


Israel Helped Organize Convoy That Ended in Disaster

The Gaza aid convoy that ended in bloodshed this week was organized by Israel itself as part of a newly hatched partnership with local Palestinian businessmen, according to Israeli officials, Palestinian businessmen and Western diplomats.

Israel has been involved in at least four such aid convoys to northern Gaza over the past week. It undertook the effort, Israeli officials told two Western diplomats, to fill a void in assistance to northern Gaza, where famine looms as international aid groups have suspended most operations, citing Israeli refusals to greenlight aid trucks and rising lawlessness. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.

Israeli officials reached out to multiple Gazan businessmen and asked them to help organize private aid convoys to the north, two of the businessmen said, while Israel would provide security.

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Migration From South America Through the Perilous Darién Gap Resumes

Migration toward the United States through the perilous jungle known as the Darién Gap returned to normal on Friday, with hundreds of people from Venezuela, Ecuador and beyond entering the jungle following a roughly five-day pause in which migrants could not begin the trek.

The pause in this increasingly large migration flow was the result of an arrest operation led by the Colombian prosecutor’s office, in which two captains driving boats full of migrants headed to the jungle were taken into custody, where they remain, according to the prosecutor’s office. The office said that the captains had been transporting the individuals illegally, in part because the migrants did not carry proper documentation.

The captains worked for two boat companies — Katamaranes and Caribe — that for years have been playing an essential role in carrying migrants from the northern Colombia community of Necoclí about two hours across a gulf to the entrance to the jungle, which they must then cross to get to Central America and eventually the United States. The boat companies have been doing this openly — something documented extensively by The New York Times — and the arrests seemed to signal a shift in policy by Colombian authorities.

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Harris to Meet With Top Israeli Official as Truce Talks Continue

Harris to Meet With Top Israeli Official as Truce Talks Continue

The vice president expects to discuss the urgency of a hostage deal and getting food and supplies to Palestinian civilians with a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet.

Erica L. Green and

Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to meet with Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, in Washington on Monday, according to a White House official and a spokesman for Mr. Gantz.

During the meeting with Mr. Gantz, Ms. Harris is expected to discuss the urgency of securing a hostage deal, which would allow for a temporary cease-fire, and the need to significantly increase aid into Gaza, according to the White House official, who provided details on the condition of anonymity.

The meeting, which is scheduled to take place at the White House, comes as the Biden administration faces pressure to help secure a temporary cease-fire and hostage deal in the Israel-Hamas war and to more forcefully address the escalating humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

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Lives Ended in Gaza


They served cappuccinos, repaired cars and acted onstage. They raised children and took care of older parents. They treated wounds, made pizza and put too much sugar in their tea. They loved living in Gaza or sought to leave it behind.

They represent a fraction of the more than 30,000 people the local authorities say have been killed in Gaza in four and a half months of war. Their stories offer a snapshot of the vast human loss — one in every 73 of Gaza’s 2.2 million people.

More than two-thirds of the total deaths were women and children, the local authorities say. Often, they were killed with their families in Israeli airstrikes. Many thousands were fighters for Hamas, according to Israel, which says it is trying to eliminate the group that led the Oct. 7 attacks while limiting civilian casualties.

Hamas ruled Gaza and ran a covert military organization, the identity of its fighters unclear, even to other Gazans. Some residents supported it, some opposed it, everyone had to live with it. After decades of conflict, hatred of Israel was common, and many Gazans, including some of those below, cheered the fighters who attacked Israel.

Here are some of the people who have been killed in Gaza, as recalled by friends and relatives and documented in social media posts, news articles and other sources.

Gaza is a youthful place, with nearly half of the population under 18, according to UNICEF. Gaza’s health authorities say that more than 13,000 children have been killed in the war.

Gaza’s isolation and its school system gave it an uncommon mix: an educated population with high poverty and unemployment rates. Many Gazans with strong credentials struggled to find suitable employment.

Gaza has been under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas seized control in 2007. The blockade has shaped nearly every aspect of life, limiting the movement of goods in and out of the territory and making it difficult, if not impossible, for many Gazans to leave. In that period, there have also been several wars and deadly clashes with Israel.

Many residents had differing views about what Gaza could be.

Gaza is a small place, about six times the size of Manhattan, with a higher population density than Chicago. People forged close ties with large, extended families and their neighbors, often depending on one another.

Blasphemy Is a Crime in Pakistan. Mobs Are Delivering the Verdicts.

Late last month, hundreds of people protested in major Pakistani cities over a blasphemy ruling by a top judge, who also faced an online backlash and threats. Two days later, a police officer in Punjab Province rescued a woman from attack by people who had mistaken Arabic script on her dress for Quranic verses.

Later that week, a group in Karachi demolished the minarets on a house of worship used by the Ahmadi sect, a long-persecuted minority declared heretical under Pakistan’s Constitution, amid accusations that their faith insults Islam.

These are only the most recent of many such episodes in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country where faith holds immense sway. Blasphemy is taken seriously in the country, and a conviction could mean death.

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King Harald V of Norway Receives Temporary Pacemaker in Malaysia

King Harald V of Norway received a temporary pacemaker in Malaysia on Saturday to help him return home, according to the Norwegian Royal House, after contracting an infection while on the trip.

The monarch, 87, had been hospitalized for an infection at a hospital on the Malaysian island of Langkawi, the Royal House said earlier in the week. The decision on Saturday to insert a pacemaker was made because the king had a “low heart rate,” the house said in a statement, calling the procedure “successful.”

The plan was to medically transport the monarch back to Norway in the “next couple of days,” the Royal House said. “His Majesty is doing well under the circumstances but still requires rest,” the statement said. It added that the temporary pacemaker will “make the return home safer,” according to King Harald’s personal physician, Bjørn Bendz, who is with the monarch.

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South Korea Needs Foreign Workers, but Often Fails to Protect Them

Samsung phones. Hyundai cars. LG TVs. South Korean exports are available in virtually every corner of the world. But the nation is more dependent than ever before on an import to keep its factories and farms humming: foreign labor.

This shift is part of the fallout from a demographic crisis that has left South Korea with a shrinking and aging population. Data released this week showed that last year the country broke its own record — again — for the world’s lowest total fertility rate.

President Yoon Suk Yeol’s government has responded by more than doubling the quota for low-skilled workers from less-developed nations including Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines and Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of them now toil in South Korea, typically in small factories, or on remote farms or fishing boats — jobs that locals consider too dirty, dangerous or low-paying. With little say in choosing or changing employers, many foreign workers endure predatory bosses, inhumane housing, discrimination and other abuses.

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Surprisingly Weak Ukrainian Defenses Help Russian Advance


Russian forces continue to make small but rapid gains outside of the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, attributable in part to dwindling Ukrainian ammunition and declining Western aid.

But there’s another reason the Kremlin’s troops are advancing in the area: poor Ukrainian defenses.

Sparse, rudimentary trench lines populate the area west of Avdiivka that Ukraine is trying to defend, according to a Times review of imagery by Planet Labs, a commercial satellite company. These trench lines lack many of the additional fortifications that could help slow Russian tanks and help defend major roads and important terrain.

Avdiivka became the site of a fierce standoff over the last nine months, emerging as one of the bloodiest battles of the war. When Russia captured the city on Feb. 17, its first major gain since last May, the Ukrainian Army claimed it had secured defensive lines outside the city.

But Russian troops have captured three villages to the west of Avdiivka in the span of a week, and they are contesting at least one other.

Satellite imagery at the scale shown here is widely available. U.S. officials said privately that it was concerning that Ukraine did not shore up its defensive lines early or well enough, and that it may now face the consequences as Russian units advance slowly but steadily beyond Avdiivka.

British military intelligence said on Thursday that Russian forces had advanced to about four miles from the center of Avdiivka in the past two weeks, a small but unusually rapid advance compared with previous offensive operations.

Ukrainian commanders have had ample time to prepare defenses outside Avdiivka. The area has been under attack since 2014, and Ukraine has had a tenuous hold on it since Russia launched its full-scale invasion two years ago.

But the Ukrainian defenses outside Avdiivka show rudimentary earthen fortifications, often with a connecting trench for infantry troops to reach firing positions closest to the enemy, but little else.

Stronger Russian Defenses

The lack of robust Ukrainian entrenchments in the area is especially glaring when compared with the formidable Russian defenses that thwarted Kyiv’s advances last summer during the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which ultimately failed.

Russian fortifications outside the southern village of Verbove, which Ukraine tried and failed to retake this fall, show a much different picture.

Unlike the poorly fortified villages that Russian forces are trying to capture outside Avdiivka, Verbove has a concentric ring of fortifications. It starts with a trench wide enough to ensnare advancing tanks and armored vehicles, followed by a mesh of cement obstacles known as dragon’s teeth — also used to stop vehicles — and, finally, a sprawling trench for the infantry.

Satellite imagery from February shows the multilayered Russian defenses to the west of Verbove, with thousands of shell craters visible in the surrounding fields.

‘A Very Costly Option’

There are many possible reasons for Ukraine’s apparent lack of defenses.

Ukrainian officials may have been too focused on offensive operations last year to dedicate the necessary resources to building the kind of multiple trenches and tank traps that Russian engineers built since late 2022 in the country’s south, the U.S. officials and military experts said.

“Who cared and who considered it as an option — because it’s a very costly option — the construction of defensive lines? No one,” said Serhiy Hrabskyi, a retired Ukrainian Army colonel, noting that Ukraine had few resources to spare at the time.

There may have also been a psychological element at play, the U.S. officials said. If Ukrainian troops heavily mined certain areas to thwart Russian advances, it would be a tacit acknowledgement that they were unlikely to carry out offensive operations in the same area at a future date. They’d effectively be writing off that territory to the Russian military, the officials said.

While Moscow began building defensive lines in the south more than half a year before Kyiv’s counteroffensive, Ukraine appeared to have begun plans for new fortifications only three months ago, when government officials announced the creation of a working group to coordinate efforts between civilian and military authorities.

Responsibility for building the first line of defense would fall to the military units stationed in the area, the officials said, while the next defensive lines would be built by civilian authorities, with the help of private contractors. Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, said that some 30 billion Ukrainian hryvnias, about $800 million, had been allocated for fortifications this year.

Areas in the eastern Donetsk region, where Avdiivka is, “will receive maximum attention,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a visit near the front line in late November, noting the “need to boost and accelerate the construction of structures.”

But Pasi Paroinen, an analyst from the Black Bird Group, which analyzes satellite imagery and social media content from the battlefield, said that “nothing significant has happened” since Mr. Zelensky’s visit.

Outside of Avdiivka, Mr. Paroinen added, “there are new positions being prepared, but they do not yet constitute a particularly formidable defensive line” and are not comparable in scale to Russia’s fortifications in the south.

The Ukrainian authorities have said they lack people able to carry out the construction work. In mid-January, local officials in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region said they were looking for 300 workers willing to help build fortifications in the Donetsk region, more than 500 miles to the east.

“We have a lack of engineering units. And even the units we have lack equipment,” Mr. Hrabskyi said. By comparison, he and Mr. Paroinen said, Russia had far more equipment, materials and experienced personnel when it built its defensive lines.

The absence of strong defensive lines outside of Avdiivka has been denounced in recent days by several Ukrainian journalists, in a rare show of public criticism of the military.

Delays in the construction of fortifications mean that Ukrainian troops may now be left to reinforce their defensive lines while under fire from the Russian Army, making the task exponentially more difficult.

Mr. Hrabskyi said Russia was currently preventing Ukrainian troops from shoring up their defenses by relentlessly bombarding them, including with powerful glide bombs carrying hundreds of kilograms of explosives that can smash through even well-prepared fortifications.

“The quality of these defensive lines cannot be good enough to resist massive bulldozer tactics by the Russian forces,” Mr. Hrabskyi said.

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.

Witnesses of Aid Convoy Violence Describe Shooting, Panic and Desperation

They went out by the thousands, camping overnight along a coastal road in the cold Gaza night, huddled together by small fires, waiting for supplies to come so they could feed their families.

What they encountered was death and injury by the hundreds, according to witnesses and a doctor who treated the wounded, as Israeli forces opened fire toward desperate Palestinians who surged forward when aid trucks finally arrived before dawn on Thursday.

“I saw things I never, ever thought I would see,” said Mohammed Al-Sholi, who had camped out overnight for a chance to get food for his family. “I saw people falling to the ground after being shot, and others simply took the food items that were with them and continued running for their lives.”

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From a Funeral Image, the Textures of Faith and State in Russia

This image of Aleksei A. Navalny’s body in a coffin, at a church in southern Moscow, conveys many of the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church, an institution that has bound itself closely to the Kremlin but that also counted opposition figures, including Mr. Navalny, among its faithful.

“I, to my shame, am a typical post-Soviet believer,” Mr. Navalny said in an interview in 2012. “I keep fasts, I got baptized at church, but I go to church quite rarely.”

Being an Orthodox Christian, he said, made him feel “like I am part of something big and shared.”

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Thousands Turn Out for Navalny’s Funeral in Moscow

Thousands of people crowded a neighborhood on Moscow’s outskirts on Friday — some bearing flowers and chanting, “No to war!” — as they tried to catch a glimpse of the funeral for Aleksei A. Navalny. The outpouring turned the opposition leader’s last rites into a striking display of dissent in Russia at a time of deep repression.

The service took place under tight monitoring from the Russian authorities, who have arrested hundreds of mourners at memorial sites since Mr. Navalny died. The police presence was heavy around the church where funeral services began shortly after 2 p.m. local time.

After a procession to the cemetery, Mr. Navalny’s coffin was placed next to his freshly dug grave. Video live streamed from the site showed his family members and then other mourners kissing him goodbye for the last time. Then his face was covered with a white cloth and the coffin was lowered to the Frank Sinatra song “My Way” and then the final song from “Terminator 2,” which Mr. Navalny considered “the best film on Earth.” Mourners slowly passed by, each taking a handful of dirt and tossing it into the grave.

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In a Land of Lavish Weddings, This Prenuptial Party Takes the Cake

When a member of one of India’s wealthiest families gets married, big-name guests and showstopping pomp and circumstance are nothing unusual. But it’s not every day that the invitees include royalty, business titans, Bollywood luminaries and Rihanna, for three days of a pre-wedding spectacular, months ahead of the actual ceremony.

The lavish festivities that got underway on Friday for Anant Ambani, whose father heads Reliance Industries, have seized public attention in India despite — or perhaps because of — how they underscore gaping inequality in a country that has enjoyed economic growth yet where millions still live in profound poverty.

Mr. Ambani, 28, the younger son of Mukesh Ambani, will welcome the guests at a sprawling venue in the western Indian state of Gujarat, along with his fiancée, Radhika Merchant. Ms. Merchant, 29, comes from a family that owns health care businesses and is trained in Indian classical dance.

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Calls for a Boycott Roil Iran’s Parliamentary Elections

As Iran prepares for a parliamentary election on Friday, calls to boycott the vote are turning it into a test of legitimacy for the ruling clerics amid widespread discontent and anger at the government.

A separate election on Friday will also decide the membership of an obscure, 88-member clerical body called the Assembly of Experts, which selects and advises the country’s supreme leader, who has the last word on all key state matters. While it normally operates behind the scenes, the assembly has the all-important task of choosing a successor to the current, 84-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ruled Iran for more than three decades.

Iran’s leaders view turnout at the polls as a projection of their strength and power. But a robust vote appears unlikely with these elections taking place amid a slew of domestic challenges and a regional war stemming from the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that has come to include Iran’s network of proxy militias.

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Why Mexico’s Ruling Party Candidate Is Already Dominating the Presidential Race

Simon Romero and

Reporting from Mexico City

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With Mexico’s presidential election just three months away, one thing is clear: The candidate for the governing party appears to be running away with it.

Claudia Sheinbaum, a physicist and protégée of the current president, holds a commanding lead of about 30 percentage points in the polls over the opposition’s Xóchitl Gálvez, a tech entrepreneur, as campaigning officially starts on Friday.

Playing it safe at a time when the departing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, remains broadly popular, Ms. Sheinbaum has kept so closely to his policies and persona that she not only vows to adopt his priorities, she also sometimes imitates his slow-paced way of talking in appearances across the country.

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A Boring Capital for a Young Democracy. Just the Way Residents Like It.

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

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Mention Belmopan, Belize’s capital that sits deep in the country’s interior, and many Belizeans will belittle the city as a bastion of pencil-pushing bureaucrats that’s not just dull, but also devoid of nightlife.

“I was warned, ‘Belmopan is for the newlyweds or the nearly deads,’” said Raquel Rodriguez, 45, owner of an art school, about the reactions when she moved to Belmopan from coastal, bustling Belize City.

Not exactly known as an Eden for young urbanites, Belmopan figures among the smallest capital cities anywhere in the Americas. It has only about 25,000 residents and a cluster of hurricane-proof, heavy-on-the-concrete, Maya-inspired Brutalist buildings.

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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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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.”

The one-man sit-in mushroomed in the weeks after the attacks. But the sidewalks outside the military headquarters could not contain multitudes, and some people were uncomfortable with the location, which was associated with anti-government protests last year.

So the mass moved a block north to the plaza in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where a long rectangular table set for 234 people and surrounded by empty chairs had been installed to represent the captives. Since some 110 hostages have come home, half of the table has been reset to correspond to the conditions of captivity they described, with half a moldy piece of pita bread on each plate and bottles of dirty water on the table instead of wineglasses.

In the months since the attacks, the plaza has continued to attract a steady stream of Israelis and tourists on volunteer missions who want to support the families. But it has also become a home away from home for the parents, adult children, siblings, cousins and other relatives of hostages.

Although it can get damp and chilly in Tel Aviv in the winter, many have set up tents in the plaza, often sleeping there, keeping company with the only other people in the world who they say can truly understand what they are experiencing — the family members of other hostages.

“If I don’t know what to do, I come here,” said Yarden Gonen, 30, who was wearing a white sweatshirt emblazoned with a picture of her sister Romi Gonen, 23, who was shot and kidnapped at the outdoor Nova music festival near the Gaza border. A friend with her was killed.

“None of us is doing anything remotely related to our previous lives,” Yarden Gonen said. Even having coffee in a cafe would make her feel bad, she said.

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“To do that would be to normalize the situation,” she said. “It would be like saying, ‘This is OK, and I’m used to it.’ And I’m not willing to do that.”

Ms. Gonen said she found comfort in the constant presence in the square of people who are not related to the hostages, like the peace activists from Women Wage Peace who stand vigil daily from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. so the families are not alone, and a trio of women who bonded over their anger at international organizations they believe have failed the hostages (they carry posters that say, “Red Cross Do Your Job!” or “U.N. Women, Where Are You?”).

“When it’s raining and I see that they’ve come, it is moving, because they could have stayed cozy at home,” Ms. Gonen said. “There is a feeling that they support us, that we haven’t been abandoned.”

Although the Israeli government has stated that one of the primary goals of the war in Gaza is to free the hostages, the army has said it has so far rescued only a small number of individuals. Three others were mistakenly killed by Israeli troops.

Most of the hostages who have returned — including Mr. Brodutch’s wife and children — were released in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, as part of a cease-fire deal negotiated with Hamas in November.

For many of the hostage families, the greatest fear is that despite the stated goal, the government is not prioritizing the extrication of the hostages. They worry it may ultimately chalk up the loss of the remaining captives as just more collateral damage in the bloody conflict.

The Gaza health ministry says that more than 29,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the territory since the war’s start.

Many people who come to the Tel Aviv plaza regularly say that if Israel does not secure the release of the hostages, the country will never be the same. “We will be worth nothing if they don’t come back,” said Jemima Kronfeld, 84, who visits every Thursday. “We will have no value. We will lose what we were, the safe feeling of being at home.”

In the initial chaos after the surprise attacks, many people did not know if their relatives — who had gone missing from kibbutzim and the site of a rave near the Gaza border — had been bound and dragged across the border, or killed, and many complained that the government was unresponsive.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a grass-roots citizens’ group, sprung up to fill the void. The group provides a wide range of services for hostage families, serving them three meals a day, making medical, psychological and legal services available, and acting as an advocacy group, organizing and funding news media appearances and meetings with world leaders, as well as rallies pressing for the hostages’ release.

The forum raises private donations but has received no support from the Israeli government, which still does not provide the families with regular updates, said Liat Bell Sommer, who quit her day job to head the forum’s international media relations team.

Other volunteers pitch in when they can.

“I just felt like I had to do something — I thought I’d go crazy if I didn’t have some part in this,” said Hilla Shtein, 49, of Tel Aviv, a human resources manager who goes to the plaza several times a week to work a stand where visitors can make a donation and pick up hats, sweatshirts and buttons that say “Bring them home NOW.”

The most popular items — ubiquitous throughout Israel now — are dog tags that say “Our hearts are hostage in Gaza,” in Hebrew.

“It’s hard, because it’s really in your face when you’re here,” Ms. Shtein said, adding, “But it’s pulling at your heart all the time anyway.”

After reports last week that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told negotiators not to participate further in talks in Cairo about a cease-fire and the return of the hostages, the forum accused the government of abandoning the captives. Thousands protested on Saturday night, despite thunderstorms, calling on the government to secure their immediate return.

Those who visit the plaza regularly say that there is always something new to see.

In January, the artist Roni Levavi installed a giant 30-yard tunnel that people can walk through to experience being in a dark sealed space, like the tunnels in Gaza that some returned hostages have described being held in. Romi Gonen’s dance teachers hold an open lesson on the plaza every Sunday afternoon in her honor, and friends of Carmel “Melly” Gat, 39, a hostage who is an occupational therapist and yoga instructor, teach an open yoga class every Friday morning.

There is a booth where visitors can write letters to hostages, or paint a rock if they prefer, and another booth that offers mental health first aid. Occasionally, someone will sit down and play an Israeli pop song at a piano donated by relatives of Alon Ohel, 22, a musician who was kidnapped from the rave, and the crowd sings along.

When it is a hostage’s birthday, some families commemorate the day in the square, where a symbolic high chair and birthday cake are set up for Kfir Bibas, who would have turned 1 in captivity. The Israeli army said Monday that it feared for the safety of the baby and his family.

In early February, Albert Xhelili, 57, an artist visiting from Santa Fe, N.M., attracted onlookers when he started drawing charcoal portraits of the hostages that he hung on a clothesline in one of the tents on the square.

Ariel Rosenberg, 31, a marketing consultant from New York who came to Israel in January as part of a group to do volunteer work, said she and her fellow travelers had been at the plaza recently to help sort posters with pictures of the hostages, separating out those who had been released and those who were no longer alive, something that was painful for the families to do.

Ms. Rosenberg said the group members find themselves coming back every Saturday night to attend weekly rallies calling for the immediate release of the hostages, and they often stop by on other evenings as well. “I come to bear witness,” Ms. Rosenberg said. “It’s become sacred ground.”

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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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Murder and Magic Realism: A Rising Literary Star Mines China’s Rust Belt

For a long time during Shuang Xuetao’s early teenage years, he wondered what hidden disaster had befallen his family.

His parents, proud workers at a tractor factory in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, stopped going to work, and the family moved into an empty factory storage room to save money on rent.

But they rarely talked about what had happened, and Mr. Shuang worried that some special shame had struck his family alone.

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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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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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Nearly a month after international figure skating’s governing body revised the results of a marquee competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, stripping Russia of the gold medal and giving the United States team a long-delayed victory, a new fight about the outcome erupted on Monday.

Eight members of the Canadian squad that competed in the team competition in Beijing have filed a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport demanding that they be awarded bronze medals in the team event. The court announced the filing but revealed no details.

The Canadians, whose case was joined by their country’s skating federation and national Olympic committee, are expected to argue that figure skating’s global governing body erred when it revised the results of the competition in January after a Russian skater who had taken part, the teenage prodigy Kamila Valieva, was given a four-year ban for doping.

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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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Why the Cost of Success in English Soccer’s Lower Leagues Keeps Going Up

Geoff Thompson knows there are plenty of people who want to buy what he has to sell. The phone calls and emails over the last few weeks have left no doubt. And really, that is no surprise. Few industries are quite as appealing or as prestigious as English soccer, and Mr. Thompson has a piece of it.

It is, admittedly, a comparatively small piece: South Shields F.C., the team he has owned for almost a decade, operates in English soccer’s sixth tier, several levels below, and a number of worlds away, from the dazzling light and international allure of the Premier League. But while his team might be small, Mr. Thompson is of the view that it is, at least, as perfectly poised for profitability as any minor-league English soccer club could hope to be.

South Shields has earned four promotions to higher leagues in his nine years as chairman. The team owns its stadium. Mr. Thompson has spent considerable sums of money modernizing the bathrooms, the club shop and the private boxes. There is a thriving youth academy and an active charitable foundation. “We have done most of the hard yards,” Mr. Thompson said.

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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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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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En México, la contienda presidencial se perfila hacia una victoria aplastante

Simon Romero y

Reportando desde Ciudad de México

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Con las elecciones presidenciales de México a realizarse en apenas tres meses, hay algo claro: la candidata del partido gobernante parece ser la clara ganadora.

Claudia Sheinbaum, física y protegida política del presidente actual, mantiene una amplia ventaja de cerca de 30 puntos porcentuales en las encuestas sobre la candidata de la oposición, Xóchitl Gálvez, empresaria del sector tecnológico. Este viernes es el inicio oficial de la campaña.

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Jugando a lo seguro en un momento en el que el presidente saliente, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, sigue teniendo altos niveles de popularidad, Sheinbaum se ha mantenido tan cerca de sus políticas y su personalidad que no solo se ha comprometido a adoptar las prioridades del presidente, sino que en ocasiones imita su pausada manera de hablar en las apariciones que ha tenido por todo el país.

Pero si bien la campaña excepcionalmente disciplinada de Sheinbaum la ha consolidado como la amplia favorita, la candidata que podría ser la primera presidenta de México sigue siendo un misterio para muchos mexicanos.

“Claudia Sheinbaum sigue siendo el gran misterio de esta elección”, dijo Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, politólogo del Tecnológico de Monterrey. “Tiene la cabeza muy distinta a la de López Obrador. Es una científica. Tarde o temprano tiene que quitarse esa máscara de ser la repetidora de López Obrador”.

Por ahora, la contienda subraya cómo López Obrador, un político combativo que mezcla retórica nacionalista y de izquierda con políticas que son social, ambiental y fiscalmente conservadoras, ha dominado tanto la política mexicana desde que asumió el cargo en 2018 que la oposición fragmentada está teniendo problemas para hacerle frente a su posible sucesora.

Gálvez, una senadora con raíces indígenas que representa a una coalición de partidos en su mayor parte conservadores, causó revuelo el año pasado, cuando entró a la contienda. Pero no ha logrado obtener mucho impulso en un momento en el que la economía de México se está beneficiando de una transición en la manufactura, históricamente de China, lo que ha hecho que México sea el principal socio comercial de Estados Unidos.

Sheinbaum, quien forma parte de Morena, el partido gobernante, y fue jefa de gobierno de Ciudad de México, ha enfatizado constantemente su cercanía con el presidente, conocido por sus iniciales, AMLO.

Hija de padres judíos y nacida en Ciudad de México, Sheinbaum se convirtió en experta en temas energéticos tras estudiar física e ingeniería energética en México y realizar trabajos de investigación para su doctorado en el Laboratorio Nacional Lawrence Berkeley, en California.

A pesar de la ventaja de Sheinbaum, los expertos afirman que las encuestas podrían tergiversar el sentimiento de los votantes y que la contienda, que culminará con las elecciones del 2 de junio, está lejos de definirse mientras las candidatas discuten sus planes para el país de habla hispana más grande del mundo.

“Hay un buen porcentaje que apenas va a empezar a tomar decisiones sobre qué candidato le convence”, dijo Lorena Becerra, analista política y encuestadora.

Gálvez no pudo ser contactada el jueves, y un portavoz de Sheinbaum declaró que, por ahora, no realizarán comentarios sobre las tendencias de votación.

Pero en el inicio de marzo, Sheinbaum está respaldada por el 63 por ciento de las personas registradas para votar, según una tabulación de encuestas realizada por Oraculus, una organización que estandariza y agrupa las encuestas de votación del país. Gálvez, su principal oponente, cuenta con el 31 por ciento, una diferencia del equivalente de casi 20 millones de votos.

Un tercer candidato presidencial, el político progresista Jorge Álvarez Máynez, perteneciente al partido Movimiento Ciudadano, se ha quedado rezagado con el 5 por ciento.

“Morena llega en condiciones inmejorables”, afirmó Carlos Pérez Ricart, politólogo del Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, en Ciudad de México. Reflexionando sobre los ciclos electorales recientes de México, agregó: “Nunca tuvo tanto viento a favor la candidatura oficialista como ahora”.

Hay varios factores que favorecen a Sheinbaum y su partido; por encima de todo, quizás, están los altos niveles de popularidad de López Obrador, los cuales superan los de cualquier otro presidente en los cuatro gobiernos más recientes del país.

Forjando una conexión visceral con muchos votantes que se habían sentido abandonados por otros presidentes, López Obrador le ha dado prioridad a populares programas antipobreza durante su sexenio (la reelección presidencial está prohibida por ley en México).

Alrededor de unas 25 millones de familias se han beneficiado de las transferencias directas de dinero. El gobierno ha incrementado los subsidios para reducir los precios del combustible y las facturas de electricidad. Además, ha desarrollado grandes proyectos de infraestructura, como una ambiciosa línea ferroviaria en la península de Yucatán, como una forma para desarrollar regiones históricamente empobrecidas.

Si bien Sheinbaum no ha jugado un papel en la creación de estas políticas, se ha comprometido a seguir los pasos de López Obrador, en gran parte consolidando sus proyectos de infraestructura, ejecutando sus medidas de austeridad y manteniendo sus populares programas de bienestar social.

Pero a diferencia de su mentor, afirmó Pérez Ricart, el politólogo, “podemos, con toda seguridad, esperar una candidata mucho más detallista en la ejecución. Si fue el carisma de López Obrador lo que lo mantuvo con números altos, ella va a tener que reemplazar eso por eficacia”.

Ya existen algunas evidencias de que un gobierno de Sheinbaum podría diferir del de su predecesor en algunas maneras cruciales.

Cuando fue jefa de gobierno en Ciudad de México, su gestión de la pandemia difirió drásticamente de la respuesta del gobierno federal. Sheinbaum intentó seguir la ciencia mientras López Obrador minimizaba los riesgos. También ha dicho que se enfocará en la energía renovable, en contraste con la prioridad que le dio López Obrador a los combustibles fósiles.

Luego está el persistente tema de la seguridad. López Obrador ha confiado en las fuerzas armadas para que lidien con la creciente violencia; Sheinbaum se comprometió a mejorar la capacitación de la policía, mejorar sus salarios e invertir en órganos de inteligencia, medidas que implementó durante su tiempo como jefa de gobierno de Ciudad de México.

Los resultados de cada estrategia están a la vista. Si bien los reportes de extorsión y desapariciones se han disparado por todo el país, los homicidios, robos y otros crímenes en Ciudad de México se han desplomado en un 60 por ciento.

“Las diferencias están frente a nosotros”, añadió Pérez Ricart. “Claramente tiene una forma de gobernar distinta y lo ha demostrado en los últimos años”.

Gálvez también ha dejado entrever algunas propuestas, como permitir que la inversión privada modernice la endeudada petrolera del país y promover las fuentes de energía renovable.

También crearía una fuerza policial de investigación nacional y reduciría el poder de los militares.

Las preocupaciones sobre la seguridad forman parte de la conversación de la campaña mientras México se prepara para su elección más grande alguna vez organizada, en la que los votantes elegirán desde cargos nacionales hasta cargos en niveles municipales.

Desde junio, Laboratorio Electoral, un instituto de investigación independiente enfocado en la democracia y las elecciones, ha documentado al menos 67 ataques, amenazas, secuestros y asesinatos relacionados con las elecciones. Al menos 39 personas han sido asesinadas, 19 de ellas candidatos a cargos locales. Una porción significativa de la violencia está vinculada a los cárteles y a otros grupos criminales que buscan influir en los resultados.

Sobre la contienda se cierne la campaña presidencial que se desarrolla actualmente en Estados Unidos. Si bien la reelección del presidente Biden sería una señal de continuidad, una victoria de Donald Trump, el favorito republicano, podría alterar la política de México al convertir la dependencia del país del comercio con Estados Unidos en una fuente de vulnerabilidad.

La campaña de Trump está impulsando una propuesta para un arancel universal del 10 por ciento sobre los bienes importados. Un arancel así “presentaría al próximo presidente de México, quienquiera que sea, un reto que AMLO y sus predecesores no enfrentaron”, dijo Andrew Rudman, director del Instituto México del Centro Internacional para Académicos Woodrow Wilson, con sede en Washington.

El propio López Obrador podría ser otro factor desestabilizador si su protegida gana la presidencia. Su plan, como ya ha mencionado en diversas ocasiones, es desentenderse de la política y mudarse a una finca en Palenque, en el sureño estado de Chiapas, que sus padres le dejaron a él y a sus hermanos.

A muchos en México les cuesta creer que López Obrador pueda simplemente desaparecer en el ocaso.

“Un personaje del tamaño de Andrés Manuel López Obrador, la capacidad que tenía de movilizar emociones y, con eso, suplir muchas de las carencias de su gobierno; pues eso no lo va a tener Claudia Sheinbaum”, dijo la politóloga Blanca Heredia. “Y va a ser difícil que no se le esté, sobre todo al principio, comparando con él”.

Simon Romero es corresponsal en Ciudad de México, y cubre México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Se ha desempeñado como jefe del buró del Times en Brasil, jefe del buró andino y corresponsal internacional de energía. Más de Simon Romero

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega es investigador-reportero del Times radicado en Ciudad de México. Cubre México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Emiliano Rodríguez Mega


¿Qué pasó con el convoy de alimentos en Gaza? Hay versiones encontradas

El viernes, los líderes mundiales intensificaron sus exigencias a Israel para que deje entrar más ayuda en Gaza y dé más respuestas sobre la muerte de decenas de palestinos en una escena de caos en torno a un convoy humanitario que sus fuerzas estaban protegiendo.

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Muchas preguntas quedaron sin respuesta cuando el ejército israelí y funcionarios gazatíes ofrecieron versiones distintas sobre una de las catástrofes más mortíferas, en la que hubo civiles implicados, conocidas en los casi cinco meses de guerra. Annalena Baerbock, ministra de Relaciones Exteriores de Alemania, pidió al ejército israelí que “explicara plenamente” las matanzas del norte de Gaza y se sumó a los llamamientos en favor de un alto el fuego que permitiera la liberación de los rehenes israelíes y la entrada de más ayuda en el territorio.

“La gente en Gaza está más cerca de la muerte que de la vida”, dijo en las redes sociales. “Debe llegar más ayuda humanitaria. Inmediatamente”.

El ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Francia, Stéphane Séjourné, pidió una investigación independiente y afirmó que el caos mortal que rodeaba al convoy era consecuencia de una catástrofe humanitaria que ha hecho que los gazatíes estén “peleando por comida”.

“Lo que está ocurriendo es indefendible e injustificable”, declaró Séjourné a France Inter el viernes. “Israel debe poder oírlo y debe detenerse”.

El desastre se desencadenó el jueves por la mañana, cuando miles de personas hambrientas se congregaron cerca de un convoy de alimentos en la ciudad de Gaza, con soldados y tanques israelíes en las inmediaciones. Era una escena cada vez más habitual en Gaza: palestinos que enfrentan el hambre, en medio de la guerra de Israel contra Hamás, se congregan regularmente en torno al número relativamente pequeño de camiones de ayuda que pueden entrar en el territorio.

Lo que ocurrió después sigue sin estar claro. Funcionarios de salud gazatíes afirman que los soldados israelíes dispararon contra la multitud, matando a más de 100 personas e hiriendo a otras 700 en lo que calificaron de “masacre”. Un portavoz militar israelí dijo que los soldados habían hecho disparos de advertencia al aire antes de abrir fuego “cuando la muchedumbre se movió de forma que los puso en peligro”. Los militares afirmaron que la mayoría de las personas habían muerto pisoteadas y que los camiones de ayuda también habían atropellado a personas.

Ninguna de las dos versiones ha podido verificarse de forma independiente, y las imágenes parciales de video de drones publicadas por el ejército israelí, junto con los videos de la escena en las redes sociales analizados por The New York Times, no explican del todo la secuencia de los hechos. Los videos muestran a personas arrastrándose y agachándose para ponerse a cubierto. Un hospital de la ciudad de Gaza señaló que había recibido los cadáveres de al menos una decena de personas que habían recibido disparos y que había atendido a más de 100 personas con heridas de bala.

Un portavoz militar israelí, el teniente coronel Peter Lerner, declaró al Canal 4 británico que los soldados se habían encargado de la seguridad del convoy, en el que viajaban vehículos privados que distribuían alimentos de donantes internacionales. Israel ha estado sometida a una creciente presión internacional para que facilite más entregas de ayuda, ya que grupos como la agencia de ayuda de las Naciones Unidas para los palestinos —el principal grupo que distribuye suministros humanitarios en Gaza— afirman que se ha vuelto demasiado anárquico y caótico operar en gran parte del territorio, especialmente en el norte.

Samantha Power, administradora de la Agencia de EE. UU. para el Desarrollo Internacional, dijo que, independientemente de cómo hubieran muerto, estaba claro que la gente había muerto o resultado herida al intentar conseguir alimentos para sus familias.

“Eso no puede ocurrir”, dijo. “No se debe disparar contra civiles desesperados que intentan alimentar a sus familias hambrientas”.

Power instó a Israel a abrir más pasos fronterizos para facilitar que la ayuda llegue al norte de Gaza y a flexibilizar las restricciones aduaneras que, afirmó, dejan la harina en los puertos mientras la gente está al borde de la inanición.

El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores palestino pidió a los líderes del mundo que impusieran sanciones a Israel para obligarlo a proteger a los civiles y garantizar sus necesidades humanitarias, argumentando que estaba obligado a hacerlo en virtud del derecho internacional como potencia ocupante.

“Negaron completamente la verdad de la masacre que cometieron contra civiles desarmados agotados por el hambre y la sed como consecuencia de políticas racistas”, afirmó el ministerio en un comunicado el viernes.

Refugees International, grupo de defensa de los refugiados, exigió una investigación independiente inmediata sobre el desastre y pidió a Estados Unidos que suspendiera la ayuda militar a Israel hasta que los responsables rindieran cuentas.

“No hay nada que pueda justificar el asesinato de civiles desesperados por recibir ayuda vital para sus familias”, afirmó el grupo en un comunicado.

La tortuosa trayectoria de Aaron Bushnell, el aviador que se inmoló en protesta contra Israel

Una tarde de esta semana, vestido con su uniforme de la Fuerza Aérea de Estados Unidos, Aaron Bushnell caminó hasta la embajada de Israel en Washington y con tranquilidad manifestó su intención de “participar en un acto extremo de protesta” contra la ofensiva del ejército israelí en la Franja de Gaza.

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Procedió a vaciar un líquido inflamable sobre su cabeza rapada, se ajustó su gorra de camuflaje sobre la frente y se prendió fuego. “¡Palestina libre!”, gritó varias veces antes de desplomarse sobre el pavimento.

En los días que han pasado desde este impactante acto, que Bushnell plasmó en una transmisión en directo, sus amigos y familiares han estado tratando de entender cómo un joven al que conocían como un chico tímido y reflexivo de una aislada comunidad cristiana de Massachusetts, que llegó a convertirse en un alto funcionario militar que trabajaba en la defensa cibernética en el estado de Texas, llegó a escenificar una protesta tan fatal y definitiva.

“Me cuesta trabajo asimilarlo”, comentó Ashley Schuman, de 26 años, quien conocía a Bushnell desde la infancia. “Dije: ‘¿Pero cómo? ¿Cómo es posible que hayas llegado hasta este punto?’”.

La inmolación de Bushnell ha provocado una serie de vigilias en su honor, además impulsó nuevas manifestaciones contra los ataques de Israel y originó críticas por parte de algunas personas que consideran esta protesta como un acto suicida que no se debería celebrar.

Algunas cosas que Bushnell, de 25 años, escribió en fechas recientes indicaron que había planeado esta acción de manera detallada con el fin de enfocar la atención en el ataque de Israel a los palestinos en Gaza, donde el ministerio de salud local afirmó que casi 30.000 palestinos han sido asesinados. Israel lanzó su campaña en el mes de octubre tras el ataque de Hamás en el cual, según las autoridades de Israel, murieron cerca de 1200 israelíes y casi 250 personas más fueron tomadas como rehenes.

En las horas que antecedieron a su protesta, Bushnell envió un correo electrónico a varios medios de comunicación independientes con el título: “Contra el genocidio”, en el que incluyó un enlace al sitio web en el que después apareció un video de su inmolación. “Les pido que se aseguren de conservar las imágenes e informar sobre ellas”, escribió. En días recientes, Bushnell también había enviado su testamento a un amigo, en el cual adjudicaba sus posesiones.

Según quienes lo conocieron, en los últimos años, Bushnell había tomado cada vez más distancia de su educación conservadora y de su carrera en el ejército, para dedicarse al activismo anarquista y de izquierda y hablar con frecuencia de reducir la pobreza y oponerse al capitalismo. Sus amigos comentaron que llegó a repudiar al pequeño enclave profundamente religioso ubicado a lo largo de la bahía de Cabo Cod, donde fue criado.

Algunos antiguos miembros del vecindario, conocido como Comunidad de Jesús, han afirmado que sufrieron maltratos psicológicos. Los familiares de Bushnell no han hecho comentarios públicos y una mujer que contestó el teléfono del número asignado a la Comunidad de Jesús se negó a responder o a tomar el mensaje.

Al igual que Bushnell, Schuman también nació dentro de esa comunidad y comentó que en su adolescencia ambos sufrieron de ansiedad por las altas expectativas y las fuertes restricciones que les imponían los maestros y los líderes comunitarios. Ahí asistieron a una escuela de una casa comunal, aunque Bushnell también pasó un año en el bachillerato público.

En el verano de 2016, después de graduarse del bachillerato, fue a Israel y a Cisjordania en un viaje organizado por la Comunidad de Jesús que llevó a sus integrantes a sitios históricos de la Biblia, explicó Schuman, quien no recordó ningún comentario importante relacionado con el conflicto israelí-palestino durante el viaje, pero mencionó que los estudiantes pasaron un día en la ciudad cisjordana de Belén y hablaron con varios estudiantes de la Universidad de Belén, una institución educativa católica.

“Sé que ese viaje fue muy importante para todos los que formamos parte del grupo”, afirmó Schuman.

En los años posteriores a que Schuman y Bushnell se graduaran del bachillerato, cada uno comenzó a considerar si debía quedarse en la comunidad. La constitución de la comunidad, llamada “Las reglas de la vida”, describe un sistema de ascensos en el que sus partidarios pueden, al paso de varios años, alcanzar un nivel en el que hay que tomar votos de membresía “de por vida”. Pero, en el otoño de 2019, Bushnell le dijo a Schuman que se iría.

Se fue de la comunidad, donde había vivido con sus padres y su hermano menor, y trabajó durante poco tiempo en una casa de empeño en otra parte de Massachusetts antes de comenzar su servicio activo en la Fuerza Aérea en la ciudad de San Antonio, en mayo de 2020.

Schuman, quien también se marchó de la comunidad, mencionó que hablaban por teléfono con regularidad acerca de cómo gestionar la transición; Bushnell le dijo que había estado hablando con un terapeuta y le aconsejó consultar a uno, comentó.

Fuera del trabajo, parecía cada vez más empeñado en resolver el problema de la indigencia. Schuman contó que empezó a preocuparse cuando Bushnell le dijo que le había estado enviando una cantidad importante de dinero a una mujer de otro estado que decía que era una madre sin hogar. Schuman creía que ellos nunca se habían conocido.

“En realidad no me contó mucho al respeto, más allá de querer que yo siguiera rezando por ella”, recordó Schuman. “Yo le decía: ‘Caramba, Aaron, ni siquiera conoces a esa persona’. Pero creo que lo que lo impulsaba era estar ayudando a alguien menos afortunado que él”.

Ya entrado el año 2021, Bushnell todavía hablaba de la posibilidad de regresar algún día a la comunidad de Cabo Cod, algo que a Schuman le costaba escuchar puesto que ella estaba buscando una nueva vida lejos de ahí. Con el tiempo dejaron de comunicarse.

Otro amigo comentó que Bushnell se quejaba un poco sobre su trabajo en la Fuerza Aérea —los horarios irregulares, la falta de sueño— y en ocasiones hablaba de sus desacuerdos con el ejército estadounidense por conflictos anteriores, como las invasiones de Irak y Afganistán.

En noviembre de 2022, recién llegado de unas vacaciones en Hawái con su hermano menor, Bushnell se presentó solo en un evento que organizó el Partido por el Socialismo y la Liberación en San Antonio, donde hizo un nuevo grupo de amigos.

Lupe Barboza, de 32 años, contó que ella y sus amigos lo invitaron a participar en las visitas semanales de su grupo de ayuda a campamentos de personas sin hogar. Barboza comentó que Bushnell le dijo al grupo, conocido como San Antonio Collective Care, que sus ideas políticas habían cambiado radicalmente poco después de haberse unido al ejército.

“Afirmó que había pasado de un extremo —las creencias conservadoras con las que había sido educado— al otro, en el que formó sus ideas anarquistas y antiimperialistas”, comentó Barboza. “También dijo que había sido un cambio muy rápido y solo comentó que había pasado de un extremo al otro”.

Pero poco después les dijo que tenía que tomar distancia del grupo porque estaba lidiando con un trauma de su pasado que había reaparecido, afirmó Barboza. No obstante, se mantuvo en contacto con muchos de sus amigos de la organización.

Les dijo que esperaba dejar el ejército cuando terminara su servicio militar en la primavera de este año, comentó Barboza. En su perfil de LinkedIn escribió: “Mi verdadera pasión es la programación de software y no veo la hora de colaborar para impulsar la innovación en el ámbito civil”.

Susan Wilkins, de 59 años, quien abandonó la Comunidad de Jesús después de haber vivido ahí desde 1970 hasta 2005, mencionó que no era cercana a Bushnell ni a su familia, pero los conocía y le preocupaba que Bushnell no contara con el apoyo necesario para hacer la transición a un mundo menos estructurado.

“Comprendo que cuando creces en un entorno restrictivo, la anarquía tenga su atractivo”, comentó.

A Schuman, al igual que a otros miembros de la comunidad, le ha costado mucho trabajo entender la protesta fatal de Bushnell.

“Nunca apoyaré las medidas extremas”, aseveró. “Pero a juzgar por el lugar donde crecimos, en el que no podíamos decir lo que en realidad queríamos ni en lo que creíamos, es admirable lo que él hizo por personas que en estos momentos no tienen voz”.

Eric Schmitt colaboró con este reportaje. Kirsten Noyes colaboró con la investigación.

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs es reportero de noticias nacionales en Estados Unidos y se enfoca en la justicia penal. Es de Nueva York. Más de Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Colbi Edmonds escribe sobre medioambiente, educación e infraestructura. Más de Colbi Edmonds


‘Belmopán es un experimento social’: así es la capital multicultural de Belice

Reportando desde Belmopán, Belice

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Cuando se menciona Belmopán, la capital de Belice, situada en lo profundo del interior del país, muchos beliceños la tachan como un bastión de burócratas que no solo es aburrida, sino que carece de vida nocturna.

“Me advirtieron: ‘Belmopán es para los recién casados o los casi muertos’”, dijo Raquel Rodriguez, de 45 años y propietaria de una escuela de arte, sobre los comentarios que le hicieron cuando dejó la costera y bulliciosa Ciudad de Belice para mudarse a Belmopán.

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

Belmopán, que no es precisamente un edén para jóvenes urbanitas, es una de las capitales más pequeñas de América. Tiene apenas unos 25.000 habitantes y un conjunto de edificios brutalistas de inspiración maya, muy pesados y de hormigón, a prueba de huracanes.

La capital de la única nación anglófona de Centroamérica puede parecer muy diferente de las frenéticas capitales de los países vecinos. En cuanto a sus orígenes y diseño, Belmopán tiene más en común con las capitales de otras antiguas colonias británicas, especialmente en África.

Pero Belmopán quizá sea un prisma para ver el desarrollo de Belice, que ha surgido como una especie de excepción en Centroamérica. En una región donde los gobernantes adoptan tácticas autoritarias, Belice se ha convertido en una democracia parlamentaria relativamente estable (aunque joven), con un historial de transiciones pacíficas en el poder.

La capital, que en general se caracteriza por una serena tranquilidad, presume de su reputación de seguridad y calidad de vida. En un país escasamente poblado, con menos de medio millón de habitantes, el ambiente acogedor de Belmopán también evidencia la extraordinaria diversidad étnica de Belice y su propensión a recibir migrantes de otras regiones de Centroamérica.

No hay más que ver el mercado al aire libre en el que muchos residentes compran sus alimentos. Los vendedores ambulantes saludan a los clientes en la lengua oficial de Belice, el inglés, o en criollo beliceño, la lengua que se formó hace siglos cuando los británicos trajeron africanos esclavizados a lo que hoy es Belice.

Otros vendedores hablan lenguas mayas como el quekchí, el mopán y el yucateco, muestra de los pueblos indígenas que desde hace mucho tiempo han vivido en Belice o que se trasladaron al país desde Guatemala o México. Otros realizan sus oficios y comercian en español, chino o plautdietsch, una lengua germánica arcaica influida por el neerlandés.

Como muchas otras personas en Belmopán, Johan Guenther, agricultor menonita de 71 años, vino de otra parte. Nació en el estado mexicano de Chihuahua, donde hay grandes comunidades menonitas, y llegó a Belice a los 16 años.

Después probó suerte en Bolivia durante un tiempo, pero decidió que prefería el estilo de vida más apacible de Belice. Vive con su esposa en un pequeño asentamiento agrícola a las afueras de Belmopán, y viene a la capital a vender queso, mantequilla, crema y miel en el mercado.

“No soy un hombre de ciudad, pero me gusta Belmopán”, dice Guenther en una mezcla de inglés, plautdietsch y español. “Es tranquilo, bueno para vender mi producción, fácil de entrar y fácil de salir”.

Convertir a Belmopán en el eje del desarrollo agrícola del interior de Belice y en un refugio frente a las catástrofes naturales era una prioridad cuando los colonialistas británicos desarrollaron los planes para construir la ciudad después de que, en 1961, el huracán Hattie arrasara Ciudad de Belice, la antigua capital, dejando cientos de muertos.

En esa época, las ciudades planificadas estaban surgiendo en diversas partes del mundo, una tendencia que se aceleró con la inauguración de la futurista capital brasileña, Brasilia, en 1960. En el imperio británico que se estaba desintegrando, especialmente en África, entre las nuevas capitales destacaban Dodoma, en Tanzania; Gaborone, en Botsuana; y Lilongüe, en Malaui. Los diseñadores las concibieron, al igual que Belmopán, como “ciudades jardín” con amplios espacios abiertos, parques y paseos peatonales.

Las tensiones políticas determinaron los planes de la ciudad. George Price, el arquitecto de la independencia de Belice, veía la construcción de Belmopán como una manera de forjar un sentimiento de identidad nacional que trascendiera las diferencias étnicas. Y como Guatemala reclamaba Belice en una disputa territorial que persiste hasta hoy, los gobernantes coloniales del país eligieron un emplazamiento a medio camino entre Ciudad de Belice y la frontera guatemalteca, en un intento de poblar hacia el interior.

Los robustos edificios gubernamentales de hormigón, como la Asamblea Nacional, evocan el diseño piramidal de un templo maya ubicado sobre un montículo artificial donde la brisa ayuda a refrescar la estructura. Se diseñaron para que fueran a prueba de huracanes y económicos, evitando la necesidad de instalar sistemas de aire acondicionado en aquel momento.

Al mismo tiempo, las autoridades trataron de atraer a los empleados públicos a Belmopán ofreciéndoles viviendas, esencialmente en forma de cascarones de hormigón, en calles donde se pretendía que vivieran personas de distintos estratos económicos.

“Belmopán es un experimento social”, dijo John Milton Arana, arquitecto beliceño de 51 años cuya familia se mudó a la capital en 1975. Observando los senderos que aún conectan las zonas residenciales con el núcleo de Belmopán, lleno de hormigón, añadió: “El peatón era la prioridad de esta visión”.

No obstante, Arana afirma que la ciudad, de ritmo notablemente lento, también puede desorientar con sus rotondas, su carretera de circunvalación y la escasez de zonas comerciales abarrotadas. “La gente me visita y me pregunta: ‘¿Dónde está el centro?’”, dice Arana. “Yo les digo: ‘Acabas de pasarlo’”.

Belmopán no le gusta a todo el mundo. Los turistas tienden a saltarse la ciudad, prefiriendo las actividades de buceo cerca de islas remotas o los impresionantes yacimientos arqueológicos mayas. Cuando se inauguró en 1970, se preveía que Belmopán crecería de manera rápida hasta albergar 30.000 habitantes, una cifra que, más de cinco décadas después, aún no se ha alcanzado.

Algunos atribuyen ese lento crecimiento a las perennes restricciones presupuestarias que han hecho que Belmopán tenga un aspecto inacabado. Los edificios con aspecto de fortaleza en los que trabajan muchos funcionarios están envejeciendo, adornados con ruidosos aparatos de aire acondicionado; edificios nuevos y luminosos como el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, un regalo del gobierno de Taiwán repleto de jardines colgantes, muestran cómo las autoridades han dejado atrás los espartanos orígenes de Belmopán.

Arana dijo que las desviaciones de los diseños originales de Belmopán estaban cambiando la ciudad para peor. Explicó que el desarrollo descontrolado afuera de las zonas céntricas, sobre todo donde se han asentado los migrantes hispanohablantes de países vecinos como El Salvador y Guatemala, pone de relieve problemas como la falta de vivienda y las aguas residuales sin tratar.

Entre los diplomáticos, las opiniones sobre Belmopán están divididas. Países como Panamá y Guatemala, así como la isla autónoma de Taiwán, mantienen sus embajadas en Ciudad de Belice, que tiene más del doble de habitantes que Belmopán. Incluso después de que Belice logró la plena independencia en 1981, Estados Unidos tardó 25 años en trasladar su embajada a Belmopán.

Michelle Kwan, embajadora de Estados Unidos en Belice y patinadora olímpica galardonada, dijo que se había encariñado con Belmopán tras mudarse desde Los Ángeles. Comparó la vida en la capital centroamericana con sus días de entrenamiento en Lake Arrowhead, una pequeña comunidad turística ubicada en las montañas californianas de San Bernardino, donde podía enfocarse “realmente en lo que tenía que hacer”.

“Esto no es distinto”, dijo Kwan. “Aquí es donde nos enfocamos y donde trabajamos”.

Otros beliceños sugieren que la ciudad ha contribuido a forjar una identidad beliceña multicultural que incorpora a los pueblos mayas y a los inmigrantes latinoamericanos más recientes, distinto a los que se percibe en Ciudad de Belice, mejor conocida como un bastión de los criollos, que son las personas de ascendencia africana y británica.

“Belmopán hizo que nuestras diferencias culturales fueran menos pronunciadas”, afirmó Kimberly Stuart, de 49 años y profesora de educación en la Universidad de Belice, cuyo campus principal está en la capital.

Otros lamentan ciertos aspectos de la vida en Belmopán. Mientras que las nuevas y llamativas viviendas y los nuevos edificios de oficinas están alterando el ambiente pueblerino de la capital, los restaurantes y bares siguen siendo escasos y suelen cerrar temprano.

Algunos habitantes de Belmopán dicen que es francamente aburrido, pero a ellos les gusta que sea así. A Raj Karki, un inmigrante nepalí de 52 años que se trasladó a Belice para trabajar en un proyecto hidroeléctrico, le gustó tanto la tranquila ciudad que decidió quedarse y abrir un restaurante de comida sudasiática cerca de los edificios gubernamentales.

“Puedes venir a Belmopán desde cualquier lugar del mundo”, dijo Karki. “En poco tiempo te dan la bienvenida y te dicen: ‘Ayúdanos a construir el futuro’”.

Simon Romero es corresponsal en Ciudad de México, y cubre México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Se ha desempeñado como jefe del buró del Times en Brasil, jefe del buró andino y corresponsal internacional de energía. Más de Simon Romero