The New York Times 2024-03-11 10:29:47


As Israel’s Ties to Arab Countries Fray, a Strained Lifeline Remains

Only a few years ago, plenty of citizens of the United Arab Emirates were willing to speak warmly about their country’s budding ties with Israel.

Israel had just established relations with the Emirates through a U.S.-brokered deal. Business groups had sprung up to funnel cross-country investment. Two women, Emirati and Israeli, posed for a photograph holding hands atop a skyscraper in Dubai. American, Emirati and Israeli officials predicted that their deal, called the Abraham Accords, would spread peace across the Middle East.

But now, as Israel’s monthslong bombardment of Gaza fuels anger around the region, Emirati fans of the deal are increasingly hard to find.

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Palace Photo, Meant to Dispel Rumors About Catherine, Fans Them Instead

A photograph of Catherine, Princess of Wales, with her three children, released by Kensington Palace and meant to showcase her recovery from surgery, has come under scrutiny after three news agencies advised news organizations on Sunday evening to withdraw it, saying the image had been manipulated by the palace.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse issued advisories about the photo, which circulated widely on news sites, including The New York Times, and social media after it was distributed by the palace on Sunday morning. The Times has since removed the photo from an article about it.

In a “kill notification” issued on Sunday evening, the A.P. said: “At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image. No replacement image will be sent.” It added, “Please remove it from all platforms, including social, where it may still be visible.”

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‘It’s a Way of Life’: Women Make Their Mark in the Ukrainian Army

Over two weeks, Nicole Tung spent time with women serving in Ukraine’s army in the country’s east.

On the front line just outside Bakhmut, Ukraine, a 32-year-old commander of a Ukrainian artillery platoon rocked to and fro in the passenger seat of a beat-up Lada, as another soldier navigated the car through a thick forest, sometimes mowing down young trees. When they reached their destination, a small village less than two miles from Russian lines, all that was left were destroyed houses, their shattered roofs visible in the moonlight.

The commander, a female soldier who uses the call sign Witch, is a former lawyer who, along with two of her brothers and her mother, joined the military the day after Russia invaded in February 2022. Her first experience in combat was in the outskirts of Kyiv that year, and much of what she has learned about weapons systems since has been self-taught and on the fly.

Since early 2023, Witch has been with her platoon in the 241st Brigade in the area around Bakhmut, supervising all of the artillery systems. She is resolute about staying in the military even if the war ends. “People who want to join the armed forces must understand that it’s a way of life,” she said.

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Xi Sticks to His Vision for China’s Rise Even as Growth Slows

Even with growth faltering in China, Xi Jinping appears imperiously assured that he possesses the right road map to surpass Western rivals.

China’s economy has lurched into a slower gear. Its population is shrinking and aging. Its rival, the United States, has built up a lead in artificial intelligence. Mr. Xi’s pronouncement several years ago that “the East is rising and the West is declining” — that his country was on the way up while American power shrank — now seems premature, if not outright hubristic.

The problems have brought growing talk abroad that China could peak before it fully arrives as a superpower. But Mr. Xi seems unbowed in insisting that his policies, featuring extensive party control and state-led industrial investment in new sectors like electric vehicles and semiconductors, can secure China’s rise.

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Gabriel García Márquez’s Hometown Awaits His Last Book and More Visitors

Statues and murals bear his likeness. Schools and libraries are named after him. Hotels, barbershops, nightclubs and bike repair stores carry references to his work.

In the sweltering Colombian mountain town of Aracataca, it is impossible to walk down a single street without seeing allusions to its most renowned former resident: the winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature, Gabriel García Márquez.

Yellow butterflies are seen all over town, a nod to one of his famous literary images. The house where he lived as a child has been turned into a museum filled with its original furniture, including the crib where he slept.

The library, named Biblioteca Pública Municipal Remedios La Bella, after the character Remedios the Beauty from his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” features a glass case of his books translated into various languages.

Aracataca, a once dusty and dilapidated town of 40,000 plagued by unemployment and a lack of basic services, has been transformed by its connection to Mr. García Márquez, Colombia’s most famous author and one of the world’s literary titans.

Ten years ago, the town had little to offer tourists and did little to promote its connection to the author, beyond a museum and a pool hall that called itself Macondo Billiard, after the name of the fictional town in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

But since Mr. García Márquez’s death in 2014, interest in him and his hometown, which inspired some of his most well-known works, has surged.

Many refer to the writer by his nickname, Gabo, and the town has become a sort of Gabolandia.

Walk down any block, and there are visible reminders of the author: signs with his name, murals, statues, street signs and plenty of stands selling any of number of items, from baseball caps to coffee mugs, with Mr. García Márquez’s likeness.

With the release of his final posthumous book, “Until August,” hopes are high among Aracataca officials and residents that the surrounding publicity will lure even more tourists.

“We have seen changes in all aspects,” said Carlos Ruiz, the director of a museum where Mr. García Márquez’s father worked as a telegraph operator. He has been working along with the regional government to boost literary tourism in the town.

“What we want is for Aracataca to be strengthened through Gabo,” Mr. Ruiz said, adding that 22,000 tourists visited last year, up from 17,500 in 2019.

The town celebrates Mr. García Márquez’s birthday on March 6 every year, but this year’s festivities were bigger, with more participants and more activities.

The celebration included a short story and poetry competition featuring a dance performance by girls dressed as yellow butterflies. A librarian dressed up as Mr. García Márquez to read parts of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” to children. In the evening, a theater group put on a performance of “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

Mr. García Márquez didn’t want his latest book published, and the literary merits of the work are already being debated. But, in his hometown, the work has generated intense excitement.

“There is a great expectation, especially because in this work a woman is the protagonist,” said Claudia Aarón, 50, a schoolteacher.

“How nice,” she added, “that our great teacher still lets us enjoy his work even after his death.”

Ms. Aarón, who was dressed in bright yellow like many of the others at the poetry competition, recalled the last time the writer came to Aracataca, in 2007, when he rode around town in a horse-drawn carriage.

“That was tremendous,” she said. “He and his wife, waving like the queen of the town.”

“So many things help us and motivate us to continue living here, to fight for this culture,” said Rocío Valle, 52, another teacher attending the poetry contest. “Thanks to God and thanks to Gabo.”

Mr. García Márquez was born in Aracataca in 1927 and was raised largely by his maternal grandparents before he moved to Sucre to live with his parents at age 8.

While his time in Aracataca was relatively brief, the town became the model for the fictional town of Macondo. (There was a referendum in 2006 to change the name of Aracataca to Macondo, which ultimately failed.)

In his memoir “Living to Tell the Tale,” the novelist recalled that when he returned to Aracataca as a young man, “the reverberation of the heat was so intense that you seemed to be looking at everything through undulating glass.”

These days in Aracataca, the works of Mr. García Márquez are taught as early as preschool, with children asked to draw pictures based on his short stories that are read aloud, Ms. Aarón said.

A group of teenagers gathered outside a shop on Wednesday said the legacy of Mr. García Márquez’s Nobel Prize had inspired them to be creative and imaginative in class. They debated which work of his was their favorite — “The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother” or “The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”

Alejandra Mantilla, 16, said she was proud to see tourists from as far away as Europe and China visit the town, particularly because Colombia still struggles to overcome its reputation for drugs and violence.

“Colombia is maybe one of the countries that is very isolated because of drug trafficking and all that,” she said. “So it’s good that he gives a good image to the country.”

Iñaki Otaoño, 63, and his wife, who live in Spain, made sure to make Aracataca one of their stops during their monthlong trip to Colombia. Mr. Otaoño said he had read all of Mr. García Márquez’s works.

“We are a bit monomaniacal about this gentleman,” he said. “We had to know the place where the book takes place.”

He said they planned to buy his new book when they got to Bogotá.

“Better to buy it here in his country, right?” he said.

The regional government has been working to revive a railroad that passes through Aracataca, currently used only to transport coal, to transport passengers as part of a “Macondo route.” A large hotel with a pool and bakery is also under construction.

The increased tourism has provided more financial opportunities.

When Jahir Beltrán, 39, lost his job as a coal miner, he worked briefly in construction and farming before a friend suggested that he work as a tour guide.

He started studying Mr. García Márquez’s writing and hired a tailor to make him a uniform so he could dress up as Col. Aureliano Buendía, a key protagonist in “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

“All this knowledge, both of the writer and of old Aracataca, has helped me to transmit it to the tourists,” said Mr. Beltrán, who now works full time as an independent tour guide. ‌ ‌

Fernando Vizcaíno, 70, a retired banker, got the idea to turn his house into a hostel about six years ago when he saw visitors starting to arrive in bigger numbers. He named it the Magic Realism Tourist House, and he and his wife decorated it in brilliant colors, chock-full of homages to Mr. García Márquez.

Mr. Vizcaíno said his father was a friend of the author’s family and carried letters back and forth between Mr. García Márquez’s parents when they were young and pursuing a forbidden love, a courtship that inspired “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

“Here in Aracataca, he is still alive,” he said.

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Indonesia Investigates How Two Pilots Dozed Off During a Flight

Indonesia’s aviation authority said it would review how the country’s airlines operate night flights after both pilots on a Batik Air flight carrying 153 passengers fell asleep, causing the plane to briefly veer off course.

The flight — a journey of about three hours from Kendari to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, early on Jan. 25 — was a return leg for the crew and plane, which had spent less than an hour on the ground after arriving from Jakarta.

The plane took off from Kendari at about 8 a.m., and after reaching cruising altitude, the captain took a nap while the co-pilot manned the flight, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Committee. After about an hour, the co-pilot accidentally fell asleep, and several frantic calls from the air traffic control center and other aircraft went unanswered.

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Middle East Crisis: Biden-Netanyahu Dispute Over Gaza War Heats Up

Israel’s leader, rejecting a rebuke from the U.S. president, says he is doing his people’s will.

A day after President Biden asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was “hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu dismissed that contention as “wrong,” escalating the leaders’ increasingly public dispute.

Mr. Netanyahu, in an interview with Politico, challenged Mr. Biden’s assessment of Israel’s military strategy in the Gaza Strip, and said that his policies represented what the “overwhelming majority” of Israelis wanted.

“I don’t know exactly what the president meant, but if he meant by that that I’m pursuing private policies against the majority, the wish of the majority of Israelis, and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then he’s wrong on both counts,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

He added, “They’re policies supported by the overwhelming majority of the Israelis. They support the action that we’re taking to destroy the remaining terrorist battalions of Hamas.”

Mr. Netanyahu was responding to comments Mr. Biden made on Saturday in an interview with MSNBC. Mr. Biden rebuked Mr. Netanyahu over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, even as he reaffirmed American support for Israel.

“He has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken,” Mr. Biden said.

“In my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Mr. Biden said, appearing to refer to Mr. Netanyahu’s military strategy. “It’s contrary to what Israel stands for, and I think it’s a big mistake. So I want to see a cease-fire.”

Asked by the interviewer, Jonathan Capehart, if he had a “red line” that Mr. Netanyahu should not cross, like a ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, Mr. Biden offered a muddled response but said that “the defense of Israel is still critical.”

“He cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead as a consequence” of his pursuit of Hamas, the president said, referring to Mr. Netanyahu.

“There’s other ways to deal, to get to, to deal with the trauma caused by Hamas,” he added.

Mr. Biden did not offer details. The Gazan health ministry has said that more than 31,000 people have been killed in the enclave since Israel began the war in response to the Oct. 7 attacks launched by Hamas.

But the president’s comments once again highlighted the delicate position the United States has found itself in: arming Israel while at the same time providing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Mr. Biden has been more forceful in recent days about the plight of civilians in Gaza, urging Mr. Netanyahu not to go ahead with his stated plans to launch a major ground offensive in Rafah without a plan to protect those sheltering there. More than a million Gazans have sought refuge in the city, many of whom were displaced by Israeli military orders to move into so-called safe zones.

In the interview with Politico, Mr. Netanyahu reiterated that Israel still intended to invade Rafah: “We’ll go there. We’re not going to leave. You know, I have a red line. You know what the red line is, that Oct. 7 doesn’t happen again. Never happens again.”

When asked about Mr. Biden’s remarks, Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, declined to say what they suggested about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

“I am trying to separate between rhetoric and essence: The goals of the war and the state of Israel are simple — they are to release all of the hostages and to dismantle Hamas’s military and leadership force,” Mr. Katz told Kan, Israel’s public radio network on Sunday. “The United States supports these goals as Biden had stressed yesterday.”

He added that Israel had said there would be a plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah before any ground invasion, and he reiterated that his country’s military did not “deliberately harm civilians.”

The push toward Rafah has drawn warnings from the United States and other allies about the potential humanitarian cost. The United Nations has said that a ground invasion of Rafah could have “huge implications for all of Gaza, including the hundreds of thousands at grave risk of starvation and famine in the north.”

Under Mr. Biden’s direction, U.S. military cargo planes have in recent days dropped food, water and other aid into Gaza a handful of times. The latest airdrop came on Sunday, when the U.S. military said it dropped meals along with rice, flour and other goods into northern Gaza.

In addition, the Biden administration has announced plans to build a floating pier off the coast of Gaza to deliver more supplies to the enclave.

But American officials have acknowledged that dropping aid by air and building a pier will not be as effective as delivering supplies by land, an option that Israel has largely blocked.

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

A U.S. military ship has set sail to help build a pier off Gaza for aid.

The U.S. military said on Sunday that a ship had set sail carrying equipment to build a floating pier on Gaza’s coast, part of a Biden administration effort to deliver aid to the enclave by sea and help ease its hunger crisis.

The administration’s plan for a pier and causeway, announced last week, could eventually help deliver as many as two million meals a day for residents of Gaza. But the Pentagon has said that the project will take weeks to complete, and humanitarian officials have criticized the plans, saying delivering aid by truck is far more efficient.

On Sunday, the U.S. military said that an Army ship, the General Frank S. Besson, had set sail from a base near Norfolk, Va., a day earlier. It was unclear when it would reach Gaza.

“Besson, a logistics support vessel, is carrying the first equipment to establish a temporary pier to deliver vital humanitarian supplies,” it said in a post on social media.

The Pentagon has said that one of the main military units involved in the construction of the floating pier would be the Army’s Seventh Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), and that some 1,000 American service members would work to complete it.

The Israeli military will help coordinate the installation of the pier, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, said on Saturday. Shipments will be inspected by Israeli troops before they are handed off to aid groups that will distribute it, he said.

The U.S. project is the latest in a flurry of efforts to get more aid into the enclave — including by sea — amid warnings from the United Nations that a famine in Gaza is imminent.

Such plans will come with significant logistical challenges and a hefty price tag, diplomats and officials have said. Aid officials have said that trucks are the most efficient and cheapest way to deliver food and supplies to Gaza, urging Israel to open more border crossings and ease its entry restrictions.

Britain, the European Union and the United Arab Emirates said on Friday that they would join a separate maritime initiative to get aid into Gaza.

And on Saturday, World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization founded by the renowned Spanish chef José Andrés, said that its staff was loading a cargo ship in Cyprus with 200 tons of rice, flour and proteins. It added that the ship was expected to depart from Larnaca, Cyprus, as soon as possible and head off on an estimated 60-hour trip to the Gaza Strip.

The ship, called Open Arms, is owned by a Spanish aid group of the same name that is a partner in the initiative along with the United Arab Emirates. They are trying to deliver the first sea shipment of food and humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Helene Cooper, Gaya Gupta and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

There were hopes for a last-minute cease-fire before Ramadan, but talks remain stalled.

International hopes of reaching a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan were dashed on Sunday, hours before Palestinians and other Muslims were to begin the month of daytime fasting, as Hamas repeated demands for a comprehensive cease-fire, which Israel has rejected.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States had sought to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas before the start of Ramadan on Monday, and there had been optimism for a last-minute deal that would allow for the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza and Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

But weeks of indirect negotiations have stalled, and a top Hamas political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a televised speech on Sunday that Hamas wanted an agreement that would end the war, guarantee the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, return displaced Palestinians to their homes and provide for the humanitarian needs of Gazans.

Israel “wants to get its prisoners back and then resume the war on our people,” he said.

Mr. Haniyeh said if the mediators were to inform Hamas that Israel was committed to ending the war, withdrawing from Gaza and permitting the return of displaced people to the north, then the Islamist group would be ready to show flexibility on the issue of exchanging Palestinian prisoners for hostages.

“The enemy must understand that it will pay a price on the issue of an exchange, but the top priority is protecting our people, ending the aggression and massacres, returning the displaced people to their homes, and opening a political horizon for our issue and people,” he said.

Some Palestinians in Gaza have criticized Hamas, arguing the group was holding up negotiations in order to press Israel into freeing more Palestinian prisoners.

In an interview with Politico that was published on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel suggested a cease-fire was not imminent, saying that he would “like to see another hostage release” but that there had not been a breakthrough in negotiations.

“Without a release, there’s not going to be a pause in the fighting,” he said.

Israel has said it must wipe out Hamas’s military and governing abilities in Gaza before agreeing to end the war. It also has said a key goal of the war was the return of all the hostages taken in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

On Friday, David Barnea, the chief of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, met with the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, in an effort to advance a deal to release hostages, the Israeli spy agency said. The Mossad accused Hamas of seeking to inflame the region at the expense of Palestinians in Gaza, but said that ongoing talks were aimed narrowing the gaps between Israel and Hamas.

In an interview with MSNBC on Saturday, President Biden said that he remained hopeful that the United States could still help broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas as Ramadan approached, kicking off a month of family celebrations and nightly feasts.

“I think it’s always possible,” Mr. Biden said.

Thousands of pregnant women in Gaza suffer from malnutrition, health authorities say.

When Wafaa al-Kurd was nearly due to give birth, she said, she weighed less than she did before becoming pregnant and was surviving on rice and artificial juice.

She gave birth to a girl weighing nearly six pounds, named Tayma, just over two weeks ago, she said. Since then, her husband has spent his days scouring markets in northern Gaza, where the family lives, trying to find enough food for his wife to breastfeed and keep Tayma alive.

Nearly 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza are suffering from malnutrition, dehydration and lack of proper health care, according to the Gaza health ministry. In a statement on Friday, the ministry said that about 5,000 women in Gaza were giving birth every month in “harsh, unsafe and unhealthy conditions as a result of bombardment and displacement.”

The ministry added that about 9,000 women, including thousands of mothers and pregnant women, had been killed since Israel’s bombardment and invasion began in early October.

The United Nations and aid agencies have warned that famine is looming in the besieged enclave, where health officials reported that at least 25 people, most of them children, had died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent days.

Dr. Deborah Harrington, an obstetrician working at Al Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza, said the expectant and new mothers she treated had not received nearly enough pre- and postnatal care, risking both their lives and those of their babies.

Some of the new mothers she spoke to said they were forced to give birth in the street, in their shelters or in their cars, because they could not safely reach a hospital in time, Dr. Harrington said.

“Many of them are delivering unsafely, without birth attendants in a hygienic setting, with no lifesaving resources available,” she said.

The Global Nutrition Cluster, a group of aid agencies working in Gaza, found in a report last month that more than 90 percent of children under 2 and pregnant and breastfeeding women, in both northern Gaza and the southern city of Rafah, faced severe food poverty.

Ms. al-Kurd said her biggest pregnancy craving was for tomatoes, which were very scarce in northern Gaza. On her birthday, in November, her husband, Saleh, was determined to find her some.

Hours later, when he finally came home — holding a bag of extremely expensive tomatoes that he bought at the only shop that sold them — his wife was “happier than she was when I bought her a gold ring for her birthday last year,” he said in a phone call on Friday.

Like Ms. al-Kurd, Aya Saada, who is seven months pregnant with her second child, said that she had not been able to find fruits or vegetables to eat in recent months. She added that she did not always have filtered water to drink. “I’m always getting dizzy and nauseous and I’m constantly tired,” said Ms. Saada, 23, who is sheltering at a hospital in northern Gaza.

“You’re supposed to gain weight during your pregnancy,” Ms. Saada said in a voice message on Friday. “But instead, I’m losing weight.” she added.

Vulnerable mothers give birth to vulnerable babies, Dr. Harrington said, and pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers face particularly high risks of malnourishment.

“If you are malnourished, you’re more likely to be anemic,” she said. “You will miss all the kinds of micronutrients that you need to grow a baby safely.”

Pregnant women who have been injured in the bombardment or who have contracted infectious diseases — which are spreading rapidly throughout Gaza — also face much higher risks of miscarriage and stillbirth, Dr. Harrington added.

“When mothers are ill, then their babies can be ill, too, and that increases stillbirth rates,” she said. “Because women are not having prenatal care, you can’t pick up problems.”

Ms. Saada said that her biggest fear — calling it the only thing on her mind — was that her baby would be born with health issues because she lacked nutritious food and clean water during pregnancy. “It’s not possible to prepare for the arrival of my baby,” she said. “We are now just looking for food to eat.”

“The food I’m eating now is not healthy,” said Kholoud Saada, 34, who is nine months pregnant and sheltering, with her four children, in a tent at a school in northern Gaza. (She is not related to Aya Saada.) “There is no healthy food in the markets now, no chicken or fish,” she said. “There is no food fit for a pregnant woman,” she added in a voice message on Friday.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting from Haifa, Israel, and Gaya Gupta from New York.

Pope Says Ukraine Should Have the ‘Courage of the White Flag’

Pope Francis has reiterated in a new interview that Ukraine should negotiate to end the war with Russia, but this time he used language — adopting his interviewer’s expression, “white flag” — that has drawn attention and raised questions about whether the pope was suggesting that Ukraine surrender.

On Saturday night, the Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, immediately clarified that the pope meant “cease-fire and negotiation,” not surrender, when he said white flag, a universal symbol for giving up.

But the pope’s words and others he used during the interview have underscored how the Vatican has often bewildered Ukraine’s officials and supporters struggling to understand its position.

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With Haiti in Chaos, a Humanitarian Crisis Is Rapidly Unfolding

Dr. Ronald V. LaRoche has not been able to cross into dangerous territory to inspect the hospital he runs in Haiti’s Delmas 18 neighborhood since it was ransacked by gangs last week, but a TikTok video he saw offered clues to its current condition: It was on fire.

He learned from neighbors and others who dared venture into gang territory that Jude-Anne Hospital had been looted and cleared of anything of value. It was the second hospital he has had to close.

“They took everything — the operating rooms, the X-rays, everything from the labs and the pharmacies,” Dr. LaRoche said. “Imagine! They are taking windows from hospitals! Doors!”

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Three Is Best: How China’s Family Planning Propaganda Has Changed


For decades, China harshly restricted the number of children couples could have, arguing that everyone would be better off with fewer mouths to feed. The government’s one-child policy was woven into the fabric of everyday life, through slogans on street banners and in popular culture and public art.

Now, faced with a shrinking and aging population, China is using many of the same propaganda channels to send the opposite message: Have more babies.

The government has also been offering financial incentives for couples to have two or three children. But the efforts have not been successful. The birthrate in China has fallen steeply, and last year was the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Instead of enforcing birth limits, the government has shifted gears to promote a “pro-birth culture,” organizing beauty pageants for pregnant women and producing rap videos about the advantages of having children.

In recent years, the state broadcaster’s annual spring festival gala, one of the country’s most-watched TV events, has prominently featured public service ads promoting families with two or three children.

In one ad that aired last year, a visibly pregnant woman was shown resting her hand on her belly while her husband and son peacefully slept in bed. The caption read: “It’s getting livelier around here.”

The propaganda effort has been met with widespread ridicule. Critics have regarded the campaign as only the latest sign that policymakers are blind to the increasing costs and other challenges people face in raising multiple children.

They have also mocked the recent messaging for the obvious regulatory whiplash after decades of limiting births with forced abortions and hefty fines. Between 1980 and 2015, the year the one-child policy officially ended, the Chinese government used extensive propaganda to warn that having more babies would hinder China’s modernization.

Today the official rhetoric depicts larger families as the cornerstone of attaining a prosperous society, known in Chinese as “xiaokang.”

For officials, imposing the one-child policy also meant they had to challenge the deep-rooted traditional belief that children, and sons in particular, provided a form of security in old age. To change this mind-set, family planning offices plastered towns and villages with slogans saying that the state would take care of older Chinese.

But China’s population is aging rapidly. By 2040, nearly a third of its people will be over 60. The state will be hard pressed to support seniors, particularly those in rural areas, who get a fraction of the pension received by urban salaried workers under the current program.

Now the official messaging has shifted dramatically, highlighting the importance of self-reliance and family support.

Under the one-child policy, local governments levied steep “social upbringing fees” on those who had more children than allowed. For some families, these penalties brought financial devastation and fractured marriages.

As recently as early 2021, people were still being fined heavily for having a third child, only to find out a few months later, in June, that the government passed a law allowing all married couples to have three children. It had also not only abolished these fees nationwide but also encouraged localities to provide extra welfare benefits and longer parental leave for families with three children.

The pivot has prompted local officials to remove visible remnants of the one-child policy. Last year, local governments across various provinces systematically erased outdated slogans on birth restrictions from public streets and walls.

In a village in Shanxi Province in northern China, government employees took down a mural with a slogan that promoted the one-child policy.

But the slogans that the government would like to treat as relics of a bygone era are finding new resonance with young Chinese.

On social media, many Chinese users have shared photos of one-child policy slogans as witty retorts to what they described as growing societal pressure to have larger families. Some of the posts have garnered thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.

‘You Can Hear a Pin Drop’: The Rise of Super Strict Schools in England

As the teacher started to count down, the students uncrossed their arms and bowed their heads, completing the exercise in a flash.

“Three. Two. One,” the teacher said. Pens across the room went down and all eyes shot back to the teacher. Under a policy called “Slant” (Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head and Track the speaker), the students, aged 11 and 12, were barred from looking away.

When a digital bell beeped (traditional clocks are “not precise enough,” the principal said) the students walked quickly and silently to the cafeteria in a single line. There they yelled a poem — “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley — in unison, then ate for 13 minutes as they discussed that day’s mandatory lunch topic: how to survive a superintelligent killer snail.

In the decade since the Michaela Community School opened in northwest London, the publicly funded but independently run secondary school has emerged as a leader of a movement convinced that children from disadvantaged backgrounds need strict discipline, rote learning and controlled environments to succeed.

“How do those who come from poor backgrounds make a success of their lives? Well, they have to work harder,” said the principal, Katharine Birbalsingh, who has a cardboard cutout of Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” in her office with the quote, “Hold the Line.” In her social media profiles, she proclaims herself “Britain’s Strictest Headmistress.”

“What you need to do is pull the fence tight,” she added. “Children crave discipline.”

While some critics call Ms. Birbalsingh’s model oppressive, her school has the highest rate of academic progress in England, according to a government measure of the improvement pupils make between age 11 and 16, and its approach is becoming increasingly popular.

In a growing number of schools, days are marked by strict routines and detentions for minor infractions, like forgetting a pencil case or having an untidy uniform. Corridors are silent as students are forbidden to speak with their peers.

Advocates of no-excuses policies in schools, including Michael Gove, an influential secretary of state who previously served as education minister, argue that progressive, child-centered approaches that spread in the 1970s caused a behavioral crisis, reduced learning and hindered social mobility.

Their perspective is tied to a conservative political ideology that emphasizes individual determination, rather than structural elements, as shaping people’s lives. In Britain, politicians from the governing Conservative Party, which has held power for 14 years, have supported this educational current, borrowing from the techniques of American charter schools and educators who rose to prominence in the late 2000s.

The hard-right firebrand Suella Braverman, a former minister with two Tory governments, was a director of the Michaela school. Martyn Oliver, the chief executive of a schools group known for its strict approach to discipline, was appointed as the government’s chief inspector for education last fall. Ms. Birbalsingh served as the government’s head of social mobility from 2021 until last year, a position she held while running the Michaela school.

Tom Bennett, a government adviser for school behavior, said that sympathetic education ministers had helped this “momentum.”

“There are lots of schools doing this now,” Mr. Bennett said. “And they achieve fantastic results.”

Since Rowland Speller became the principal of the Abbey School in the south of England, he has cracked down on misbehavior and introduced formulaic routines inspired by Michaela’s methods. He said that a regulated environment is reassuring for students who have a volatile home life.

If one student does well, the others clap twice after a teacher says, “Two claps on the count of two: one, two.”

“We can celebrate lots of children really quickly,” Mr. Speller said.

Mouhssin Ismail, another school leader who founded a high-performing school in a disadvantaged area of London, posted a picture on social media in November of school corridors with students walking in lines. “You can hear a pin drop during a school’s silent line ups,” he wrote.

The remarks triggered a backlash, with critics likening the pictures to a dystopian science fiction movie.

Ms. Birbalsingh argues that wealthy children can afford to waste time at school because “their parents take them to museums and art galleries,” she said, whereas for children from poorer backgrounds, “the only way you’re going to know about some Roman history is if you’re in your school learning.” Accepting the tiniest misbehavior or adapting expectations to students’ circumstances, she said, “means that there is no social mobility for any of these children.”

At her school, many students expressed gratitude when asked about their experiences, even praising the detentions they received, and eagerly repeating the school’s mantras about self-improvement. The school’s motto is “work hard, be kind.”

Leon, 13, said that initially he did not want to go to the school, “but now I am thankful I went because otherwise I wouldn’t be as smart as I am now.”

With around 700 students, Michaela is smaller than the average state-funded secondary school, which has around 1,050, according to the government. It is so famous that it attracts about 800 visitors a year, mostly teachers, Ms. Birbalsingh said. A leaflet handed to guests asks them not to “demonstrate disbelief to pupils when they say they like their school.”

But some educators have expressed concern about the broader zero-tolerance approach, saying that controlling students’ behavior so minutely might produce excellent academic results, but does not foster autonomy or critical thinking. Draconian punishments for minor infractions can also come at a psychological cost, they say.

“It’s like they’ve taken 1984 and read it as a how-to manual as opposed to a satire,” said Phil Beadle, an award-winning British secondary school teacher and author.

To him, free time and discussion are as important to child development as good academic results. He worries that a “cultlike environment that required total compliance” can deprive children of their childhood.

The Michaela school made headlines in January after a Muslim student took it to court over its ban on prayer rituals, arguing that it was discriminatory. Ms. Birbalsingh defended the ban on social media, saying it was vital for “a successful learning environment where children of all races and religion can thrive.”

The high court has not yet issued its decision in the case.

Proponents of the strict model and some parents say that children with special education needs thrive in strict, predictable environments, but others saw their children with learning difficulties struggle in these schools.

Sarah Dalton sent her dyslexic 12-year-old son to a strict school with excellent academic results. But his dread of being penalized for minor mistakes created unbearable stress, and he started showing signs of depression.

There was this fear of being punished,” she said. “His mental health just spiraled.”

When she moved him to a more relaxed school, he started to heal, Ms. Dalton said.

In England, government data last year showed that dozens of superstrict schools were suspending students at a far higher rate than the national average. (The Michaela school was not among them.)

Lucie Lakin, the principal of Carr Manor Community School in Leeds — which does not follow the zero-tolerance model — said that she realized the approach was spreading when a growing number of students enrolled at her school after being expelled. Her school earns high academic scores, but she said that was not the only goal of an education.

“Are you talking about the school’s results being successful, or are you trying to make successful adults?” she asked. “That’s the path you’ve got to pick.”

In the United States, charter schools that adopted similar strict approaches were initially praised for their results. But growing criticism from some parents, teachers and students in the mid-2010s triggered a reckoning in the sector.

In 2020, Uncommon Schools, an American network of charter schools and one of the pioneers of the “no excuses” approach, announced it was abandoning some of its strictest policies, including “Slant.” The organization said it would remove “undue focus on things like eye contact and seat posture” and put greater emphasis on building student confidence and intellectual engagement.

“A titan in the world of education falls to progressive pressure,” Ms. Birbalsingh wrote on social media. “Uncommon you have just let hundreds of thousands of children down.”

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.

The capital of Central America’s only English-speaking nation can feel jarringly different from the frenetic capitals of neighboring countries. In terms of its origins and design, Belmopan has more in common with the capitals of other former British colonies, especially in Africa.

But Belmopan is also, perhaps, a prism through which to view the development of Belize, which has emerged as something of an exception in Central America. In a region where rulers are embracing authoritarian tactics, Belize has developed into a relatively stable (albeit young) parliamentary democracy with a history of peaceful transitions of power.

The capital, serenely calm at times, boasts a reputation for safety and quality of life. In a sparsely populated country with fewer than half a million people, Belmopan’s welcoming vibe also showcases Belize’s extraordinary ethnic diversity, and its propensity to absorb migrants from other parts of Central America.

Consider the open-air market where many residents buy their food. Peddlers greet customers in Belize’s official language, English, or Kriol, the patois formed centuries ago when Britons brought enslaved Africans to what is now Belize.

Other vendors speak Mayan languages such as Kekchí, Mopán and Yucatec, spotlighting the Indigenous peoples who have long lived in Belize or who moved to the country from Guatemala or Mexico. Reflecting different migration waves, others ply their trade in Spanish, Chinese or Plautdietsch, an archaic Germanic language influenced by Dutch.

Like many others in Belmopan, Johan Guenther, 71, a Mennonite farmer, came from somewhere else. He was born in Mexico’s Chihuahua State, the site of large Mennonite communities, and came to Belize at 16.

He then tried his luck in Bolivia for a while but decided he preferred Belize’s mellower lifestyle. He lives with his wife in a small farming settlement outside Belmopan, coming into the capital to sell cheese, butter, cream and honey at the market.

“I’m not a city man, but I like Belmopan,” Mr. Guenther said in a mixture of English, Plautdietsch and Spanish. “It’s calm, good for selling my production, easy to get in and easy to get out.”

Making Belmopan a linchpin for agricultural development in Belize’s interior, and a haven from natural disasters, was top of mind when British colonialists developed plans to build the city after Hurricane Hattie in 1961 laid waste to the old capital, Belize City, leaving hundreds dead.

At the time, planned cities were popping up in various parts of the world, a trend turbocharged by the inauguration in 1960 of Brazil’s futuristic capital, Brasília. In Britain’s disintegrating empire, especially in Africa, the new capitals included Dodoma, in Tanzania; Gaborone, in Botswana; and Lilongwe, in Malawi. Designers largely envisioned them, like Belmopan, as “garden cities” with ample open spaces, parks and pedestrian walkways.

Political tensions shaped the city’s plans. George Price, the architect of Belizean independence, viewed Belmopan’s construction as a way to forge a sense of national identity transcending ethnic differences. And with Guatemala laying claim to Belize in a territorial dispute persisting to this day, Belize’s colonial rulers chose a site about midway between Belize City and the Guatemalan border, in a bid to populate to the interior.

Sturdy concrete government buildings like the National Assembly evoke the pyramidal design of a Maya temple, perched on an artificial mound where breezes could cool the structure. They were designed to be both hurricane proof and economical, at the time avoiding the need for air conditioning.

At the same time, the authorities tried to lure public employees to Belmopan by offering them homes, essentially in the form of concrete shells, on streets where people from different economic backgrounds were intended to live.

“Belmopan is a social experiment,” said John Milton Arana, 51, a Belizean architect whose family moved here in 1975. Noting the footpaths still connecting residential areas to Belmopan’s concrete-laden core, he added, “The pedestrian was the priority of this vision.”

Still, Mr. Arana said the notably slow-paced city can also be disorienting with its traffic circles, ring road and dearth of teeming commercial areas. “People visit and ask me, ‘Where’s downtown?’” Mr. Arana said. “I tell them, ‘You just passed it.’”

Not everyone is sold on Belmopan. Tourists tend to neglect the city, preferring the snorkeling near remote islands or stunning Maya archaeological sites. When Belmopan was inaugurated in 1970, it was forecast to grow quickly to a population of 30,000 — a figure it has still not reached more than five decades later.

Some attribute that slow growth to perennial budgetary restrictions giving Belmopan a perpetually unfinished look. The fortresslike structures where many civil servants toil are showing their age, adorned with noisy air-conditioning units; airy new buildings like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a gift from Taiwan’s government replete with hanging gardens, show how the authorities have moved on from Belmopan’s spartan origins.

Mr. Arana, the architect, said that departures from Belmopan’s original designs were changing the city for the worse. Ramshackle development outside central areas, he said, particularly where Spanish-speaking migrants from neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala have settled, underscore problems like substandard housing and untreated sewage.

Among diplomats, views on Belmopan are divided. Countries like Panama and Guatemala, along with the self-governing island of Taiwan, maintain their embassies in Belize City, which has more than double Belmopan’s population. Even after Belize gained full independence in 1981, the United States took 25 years to move its embassy to Belmopan.

Michelle Kwan, the United States ambassador to Belize and a decorated Olympic figure skater, said she had grown fond of Belmopan after relocating from Los Angeles. She compared life here to her days training in Lake Arrowhead, a small resort community in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, where she could “really focus on what I had to do.”

“It’s no different here,” Ms. Kwan said. “This is where we focus and where we work.”

Others in Belmopan suggest the city has helped forge a multicultural Belizean identity incorporating Maya peoples and newer Latino immigrants that is distinct from that of Belize City, known more as a bastion of Kriols, people of African and British descent.

“Belmopan made our cultural divides less pronounced,” said Kimberly Stuart, 49, an education lecturer at the University of Belize, whose main campus is in the capital.

Others bemoan certain aspects of life in Belmopan. While garish new homes and flashy new office buildings are altering the capital’s small-town feel, restaurants and bars are still few in number, and tend to close early.

Some in Belmopan say it is downright boring — but they like it that way. Raj Karki, 52, a Nepalese immigrant who moved to Belize to work on a hydroelectric project, liked the relaxed city so much that he decided to stay and open a restaurant offering South Asian food near government buildings.

“You can come to Belmopan from any place in the world,” Mr. Karki said. “In a short time you are welcomed and they say, ‘Help us build the future.’”

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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.”

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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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‘Decolonizing’ Ukrainian Art, One Name-and-Shame Post at a Time

Hiding for days in the basement of a kindergarten in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb that became synonymous with Russian war crimes, Oksana Semenik had time to think.

Outside, Russian troops were rampaging through the town, killing civilians who ventured into the streets. Knowing she might not make it out, Ms. Semenik, an art historian, mulled over the Ukrainian artworks she had long wanted to write about — and which were now in danger of disappearing.

That time spent holed up in Bucha was during the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, but even then, two years ago, she had already seen reports of destroyed museums. Precious folk paintings by her favorite artist, Maria Primachenko, had gone up in flames. Moscow, she realized, was waging a war on Ukrainian culture.

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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

Sign up for the Canada Letter Newsletter  Back stories and analysis from our Canadian correspondents, plus a handpicked selection of our recent Canada-related coverage.

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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La ayuda de World Central Kitchen de José Andrés podría salir a Gaza en unos días

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

El primer cargamento marítimo de ayuda humanitaria a Gaza —asistencia alimentaria de la organización World Central Kitchen— podría salir del país insular mediterráneo de Chipre en unos días, dijeron autoridades de la Unión Europea.

Ursula von der Leyen, presidenta del organismo ejecutivo de la UE, describió el cargamento como un “proyecto piloto” para un corredor marítimo de asistencia a Gaza, pero ofreció pocos detalles sobre cómo se llevaría a cabo ni en qué ubicación del territorio se entregaría.

El célebre cocinero español José Andrés, fundador de World Central Kitchen, publicó el viernes en las redes sociales imágenes en las que se veían plataforma de carga cargadas en un buque con los nombres de su grupo y de Open Arms, un organismo de asistencia español. Dijo que los planes para el envío estaban “en las fases finales” y que “desembarcaría en las playas de Gaza con 200 palés”. No quedó claro cómo se recogería o distribuiría la ayuda, si llegaba a Gaza.

Desde octubre, organizadores y cocineros palestinos que trabajan con la World Central Kitchen han servido más de 32 millones de comidas en Gaza, según ha declarado el grupo. Sus esfuerzos podrían ser impulsados por los planes del ejército de EE. UU. para construir un muelle flotante para llevar más ayuda a Gaza, y los anuncios el viernes del Reino Unido, la Unión Europea y otros países indicando que establecerían un corredor marítimo de asistencia al territorio.

La medida le daría al grupo un acceso clave a un suministro constante de alimentos, el cual les serviría para más que duplicar las raciones que sirven diariamente y ayudar incluso más a la población de la zona norte de Gaza, dijo José Andrés en una entrevista el jueves, luego de que Estados Unidos anunció los planes del muelle flotante.

“Estamos intentando hacer lo imposible”, dijo. “Merece la pena intentar lo imposible para alimentar a la población de Gaza”.

La organización ha establecido 65 cocinas comunitarias en Gaza gestionadas por palestinos locales y tiene planes de añadir al menos 35 más, dijo José Andrés. Cada día se sirven unas 350.000 raciones, pero, añadió, le gustaría distribuir más de un millón.

Llevar alimentos y ayuda a Gaza ha sido desalentador, dijo. World Central Kitchen ha recurrido a enviar alguna de sus ayudas mediante lanzamientos aéreos con la Real Fuerza Aérea Jordana.

José Andrés fundó la organización tras el terremoto de Haití de 2010, en el que fallecieron unas 300.000 personas. Desde entonces, ha asistido en numerosas catástrofes naturales y guerras en Estados Unidos y en el extranjero. En 2017, la asociación sirvió millones de raciones de comida a los puertorriqueños afectados por el huracán María, a los ucranianos damnificados por la guerra contra Rusia y, más recientemente, a personas que se enfrentaban a incendios en Chile y Texas, entre otros lugares.

“Tenemos que apuntar a la Luna, porque donde sea que caigamos, merece la pena el esfuerzo”, dijo.

La asociación es el mayor programa de alimentación de emergencia creado por un grupo de cocineros: ha servido más de 350 millones de raciones de comida desde su fundación. Su impacto es inmediato, pues José Andrés y su personal pueden establecer redes rápidamente, organizar cocinas en condiciones difíciles y conseguir ingredientes y equipos.

Las cocinas, como las de Gaza, suelen estar gestionadas por lugareños, que preparan su gastronomía. Muchas de esas recetas se recopilaron en el libro de cocina del World Central Kitchen que se publicó en septiembre.


Christina Morales es reportera de alimentación para el Times. Más de Christina Morales.

Monika Pronczuk es una reportera radicada en Bruselas. Se incorporó al Times en 2020. Más de Monika Pronczuk.

Juan Orlando Hernández es hallado culpable en juicio de narcotráfico

Juan Orlando Hernández ejerció el poder en Honduras durante más de una década, primero como integrante del Congreso Nacional, luego como líder de ese organismo y finalmente como el presidente del país.

El viernes, un jurado estadounidense de un Tribunal Federal del Distrito encontró a Hernández culpable de conspirar para importar cocaína a Estados Unidos y de posesión y conspiración para poseer “dispositivos destructivos”, entre ellos ametralladoras.

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

Tras el veredicto, Hernández, quien se enfrenta a una pena de prisión obligatoria de al menos 40 años, y cuya sentencia está prevista para el 26 de junio, se puso de pie y permaneció en silencio con las manos cruzadas mientras los miembros del jurado desalojaron el juzgado.

Durante su primera campaña presidencial en 2013, Hernández, militante del derechista Partido Nacional de Honduras, se presentaba como un candidato favorable a la aplicación de la ley y el orden que sería capaz de detener la epidemia de drogas y delincuencia que había azotado al país.

Pero según los fiscales en Estados Unidos, Hernández estaba aliado con las mismas fuerzas a las que pretendía combatir. Durante un juicio por conspiración en Manhattan, una serie de testigos declararon que el éxito político de Hernández estuvo impulsado por las ganancias del narcotráfico que le entregaban los traficantes de cocaína, a quienes trataba como socios comerciales.

Los fiscales afirmaron que Hernández recibió millones de dólares de organizaciones de traficantes en Honduras, México y otros lugares, entre ellos Joaquín Guzmán Loera, conocido como el Chapo, un capo mexicano de la droga y antiguo líder del Cártel de Sinaloa. A cambio, agregaron los fiscales, Hernández permitía que grandes cantidades de cocaína pasaran por Honduras de camino a Estados Unidos.

Se jactaba de “meter la droga por las narices de los gringos”, según los fiscales de EE. UU.

Las pruebas y los testimonios presentados durante el juicio de Hernández retrataron un panorama desolador de un país en el que las drogas y la política han estado entrelazadas durante mucho tiempo y en el que la gente que trabaja en la política han exigido y aceptado sobornos de forma rutinaria.

Diariamente, las filas de asientos del tribunal se abarrotaban de hondureños que decían acudir a ver cómo Hernández se enfrentaba a un proceso judicial del tipo que algunos dudaban que pudiera haber sucedido en su país de origen.

Algunos de esos espectadores se rieron burlonamente cuando Hernández, vestido con un traje oscuro, dio su testimonio cerca del final del juicio, insistiendo que no tenía ninguna relación con el narcotráfico y que los testigos que habían declarado lo contrario eran “mentirosos profesionales”.

Un abogado defensor amplió esa idea durante su alegato, repasando una lista de delitos —incluidos un total de 224 asesinatos— que han sido asociados a varios de los antiguos traficantes que subieron al estrado como testigos del gobierno.

“Este fue un elenco de personajes que nunca antes se había visto y los cuales nunca se volverán a ver mientras se viva”, dijo el abogado, Renato Stabile. “A lo largo del juicio estas personas les han dicho que son mentirosos. Les han dicho que son asesinos”.

Pero un fiscal, Jacob H. Gutwillig, le dijo a los miembros del jurado que Hernández había aceptado “sobornos pagados con cocaína” de los cárteles y que había “protegido sus drogas con todo el poder y la fuerza del Estado: ejército, policía y sistema judicial”.

Aunque los exmandatarios extranjeros a veces son juzgados en Estados Unidos, no suelen serlo por delitos relacionados con las drogas. El paralelo más cercano a Hernández es el general Manuel Antonio Noriega, antiguo dirigente de Panamá, quien en 1992 fue declarado culpable ante un tribunal federal de Miami de permitirle al Cartel de Medellín que enviara cocaína a Estados Unidos a través de su país a cambio de millones de dólares en sobornos.

Cuando Hernández dejó la presidencia en 2022, era una figura profundamente impopular en Honduras. Su gobierno había hecho poco por mitigar los efectos de la delincuencia o por crear una economía estable, lo que llevó a muchos ciudadanos a abandonar el país. La sucesora de Hernández en la presidencia, Xiomara Castro, lo acusó de haber convertido a la nación en una “narcodictadura”, y miles de hondureños celebraron su extradición a Nueva York tres meses después de dejar el cargo.

También hubo celebraciones en el exterior del tribunal, en el sur de Manhattan, tras conocerse el veredicto de culpabilidad. Decenas de personas ondeaban banderas hondureñas y coreaban en español. Una mujer sostenía un cartel en el que advertía que no tendría que haber perdón para la narcopolítica.

Expusieron fotografías de personas que decían que habían sido víctimas de la violencia de los cárteles, junto con un uniforme de presidiario naranja con esposas unidas por una larga cadena.

De pie en medio de la multitud, Carlos Hernández, de 32 años, dijo que había abandonado Honduras cuando aún era un adolescente para huir de la violencia y la pobreza del país.

“Esto es histórico”, dijo sobre el veredicto, y añadió que el juicio le había dado a Honduras un sentido de justicia.

El juicio de Hernández fue relativamente sencillo, basado principalmente en el recuento de testigos, entre ellos un investigador de drogas hondureño y los antiguos traficantes, incluidos dos hombres que dijeron haberse declarado culpables de delitos graves y que se enfrentan a posibles cadenas perpetuas en prisiones estadounidenses.

El investigador, Miguel Reynoso, declaró que estaba presente cuando las autoridades hondureñas detuvieron a un grupo de vehículos con compartimentos ocultos y en el que encontraron armas de fuego, granadas y casi 200.000 dólares envueltos en plástico. Las autoridades también encontraron cuadernos con las iniciales de Juan Orlando Hernández que, según los fiscales de Manhattan, detallaban transacciones de drogas.

Reynoso atestiguó que los cuadernos fueron colocados en bolsas de plástico selladas y que las llevó, con los sellos intactos, a los fiscales de Estados Unidos en 2019.

Entre los extraficantes que subieron al estrado se encontraba Amilcar Alexander Ardón Soriano, quien declaró que había sido alcalde del municipio de El Paraíso mientras traficaba drogas, que había participado en torturas y asesinado a dos personas, y que era responsable de la muerte de más de 50 individuos. Dijo que había pedido a los legisladores a los que había sobornado previamente que votaran a favor de Hernández como presidente del Congreso hondureño. A cambio, dijo Ardon, Hernández prometió protegerlo de los fiscales.

Ardón añadió que entregó 500.000 dólares procedentes del narcotráfico a la campaña presidencial de Hernández en 2013 y que había sobornado a personas en El Paraíso para que votaran por él. También dijo que tenía entendido que el Chapo había acordado proporcionar a esa campaña un millón de dólares.

Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, antiguo líder de la brutal banda hondureña Los Cachiros, fue probablemente el testigo con peor reputación en subir al estrado. Empezó a trabajar en secreto con las autoridades estadounidenses hace una década y admitió estar implicado en la muerte de 78 personas, entre ellas dos periodistas y un funcionario que trabajaba como zar antidroga en Honduras.

En 2012, testificó Rivera, sobornó a Hernández con 250.000 dólares entregados a su hermana, Hilda, a cambio de protección para los Cachiros.

Cuando un abogado defensor le preguntó si sentía algún remordimiento por las personas a las que le había hecho daño, Rivera respondió que se arrepentía de todo lo que había hecho como miembro de lo que denominó como una banda peligrosa, incluyendo los pagos de sobornos a policías y políticos “corruptos”.

Afirmó que aunque las autoridades hondureñas debían haber intentado capturarlos, más bien, se aliaron con ellos.

Una foto borrosa y un dilema: la cobertura mediática a la princesa de Gales

Tras una semana de especulaciones a menudo alarmistas sobre su bienestar, de pronto aparecieron dos pruebas plausibles de que Catalina, princesa de Gales, se estaba recuperando: una foto suya en un automóvil conducido por su madre y la confirmación por parte del ejército británico de que asistiría a una ceremonia militar en junio.

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Pero, como ha ocurrido en las últimas semanas con casi todo lo que ha rodeado a la salud de la esposa del príncipe Guillermo, de 42 años, cualquier sensación de certeza se desvaneció rápidamente.

Un funcionario de palacio dijo el martes que el ejército se había precipitado al anunciar la participación de Catalina en Trooping the Color, un ritual anual que celebra el cumpleaños del soberano. Y aunque los periódicos británicos informaron de la existencia de fotos de paparazzi, supuestamente de Catalina, que se difundieron en las redes sociales el lunes, ninguno de ellos publicó las imágenes.

Al final de otro ciclo informativo, los consumidores de noticias de la realeza volvieron a la casilla de inicio: sin información sobre la princesa, que se sometió a cirugía abdominal en enero y a quien no se ha visto durante su larga convalecencia.

La única certeza en la saga de Catalina es la participación, desenfadada y sin filtro, de su tío Gary Goldsmith, en un programa de telerrealidad británico, Celebrity Big Brother, que se emitió el lunes por la noche. En cualquier otro momento, la aparición de Goldsmith podría haber sido una vergüenza para Catalina, quien ha intentado cultivar una imagen digna y disciplinada como miembro principal de la familia real.

Sin embargo, en el vacío de noticias sobre ella, los expertos dicen que las travesuras televisivas de Goldsmith pueden ser una distracción bienvenida para los periódicos sensacionalistas británicos. Los editores se han esforzado por equilibrar su afán por informar sobre la realeza —un entusiasmo casi ilimitado, en el caso de la futura reina, antes conocida como Kate Middleton— con el reconocimiento de que, en el Reino Unido, incluso la mayoría de los personajes públicos tienen derecho a la intimidad en cuestiones de salud.

“Los medios de comunicación van, inusualmente, rezagados”, dijo Sarah Sands, ex editora sénior de la BBC y exeditora de The Sunday Telegraph. “Están confundidos: ¿La quisieron demasiado y la presionaron demasiado? ¿Es el nuevo papel de los medios de comunicación brindar tranquilidad?

“Acude en ayuda de los tabloides la simpática figura de pantomima del malvado tío de Kate, Gary Goldsmith”, continuó Sands. Goldsmith, dijo, “será probablemente el único comentario desde dentro que recibiremos durante las próximas semanas”.

De ser cierto, esto podría evitar que los periódicos y las cadenas de televisión tengan que tomar decisiones como la que debieron afrontar el lunes, cuando el sitio estadounidense de chismes sobre famosos TMZ publicó lo que afirmaba, eran las primeras imágenes de Catalina luego de que fuera hospitalizada. Las fotos, tomadas con teleobjetivo, granuladas y en las que aparece una mujer con gafas de sol que se parece a Catalina, fueron tomadas cerca del castillo de Windsor, según el sitio.

El Daily Mail dijo que las fotos no se publicaron en el Reino Unido porque el palacio de Kensington, donde Guillermo y Catalina tienen sus oficinas, “pidió que ella pudiera recuperarse en privado”. Pero la publicación luego pasó a especular que habrían sido captadas el lunes por la mañana, poco después de que Catalina dejara a sus hijos en el colegio, ayudada por su madre, Carole Middleton.

Chris Ship, editor sobre la realeza de ITV News, se refirió a las imágenes en las redes sociales, pero declaró: “No las publicamos por respeto a su intimidad mientras se recupera de la operación en el plazo que nos dieron”.

El palacio de Kensington ha declarado que Catalina no volverá a sus obligaciones reales hasta después de Pascua. La semana pasada, envuelto en un remolino de conjeturas y teorías conspirativas después de que Guillermo se retirara abruptamente de un acto, reiteró esa declaración y dijo que solo proporcionaría “actualizaciones significativas”. Según un funcionario, la princesa seguía evolucionando favorablemente.

El martes, el palacio se negó a comentar las fotos, diciendo que no quería dar publicidad a TMZ. Los periódicos británicos han tratado con cautela las fotos de los paparazzi desde la muerte de la princesa Diana, madre de Guillermo, en un accidente automovilístico en París en 1997, tras una persecución a gran velocidad por parte de los fotógrafos.

“El recuerdo para la prensa británica sigue siendo nítido”, dijo Sands, quien era editora adjunta de The Daily Telegraph en el momento de la muerte de Diana. “Estaba llena de remordimientos. Las normas sobre privacidad y deber de protección cambiaron profundamente”.

Los tribunales británicos han dictaminado que el derecho a la intimidad se extiende a los miembros de la familia real, y el Código de Buenas Prácticas de los Editores, con el cual opera gran parte de la prensa británica, protege a todas las personas contra la intromisión injustificada en asuntos de salud física y mental.

Algunos críticos se mostraron menos generosos sobre los motivos de los medios de comunicación, sobre todo teniendo en cuenta que las imágenes son fácilmente accesibles para cualquiera con solo unos cuantos clics en un iPhone.

“Lo fascinante es cómo las tonterías sobre Kate en las redes sociales dan a los periódicos la oportunidad de escribir sobre algo sobre lo que no hay nada que escribir, mientras critican lo que hay en la red”, dijo Peter Hunt, antiguo corresponsal para la realeza de la BBC.

Es la segunda vez en cuatro meses que los medios de comunicación británicos se niegan a publicar detalles sobre la familia real, incluso después de que hayan circulado por las redes sociales. En noviembre, los periódicos no publicaron los nombres de Catalina y el rey Carlos III tras ser identificados, en la edición holandesa de un nuevo libro, como miembros de la familia que supuestamente habían preguntado por el color de la piel del hijo no nacido del príncipe Enrique y su esposa, Meghan.

Las compuertas se abrieron solo después de que Piers Morgan, un destacado presentador de televisión, revelara los nombres en su programa. El palacio de Buckingham dijo entonces que estudiaría la posibilidad de emprender acciones legales, pero no actuó.

Los mensajes contradictorios sobre la asistencia de Catalina a Trooping the Color pueden acabar siendo un simple caso de torpeza burocrática. El ejército dijo en su página web que Catalina, en su calidad de coronela de los guardias irlandeses, pasaría revista a los soldados que van a desfilar en la ceremonia del 8 de junio.

Pero un funcionario del palacio de Kensington dijo que era tarea del palacio confirmar la agenda de la princesa, y aún no lo ha hecho. Tampoco ha comentado la decisión de Goldsmith, hermano menor de Carole Middleton, de unirse al reparto de Celebrity Big Brother.

Goldsmith, de 58 años, antiguo empresario tecnológico, se declaró culpable en 2017 de agredir a su esposa, Julie-Ann Goldsmith.

En un video promocional del programa, un alegre Goldsmith decía: “Dar cuerda a la gente es probablemente mi pasatiempo favorito. Cada parte de mí está plagada de travesuras y peligros”.

Luego añadió: “Es una auténtica pesadilla vivir conmigo. Por algo he tenido cuatro esposas”.

Mark Landler es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Londres del Times. Cubre el Reino Unido así como la política exterior estadounidense en Europa, Asia y Medio Oriente. Es periodista desde hace más de tres décadas. Más de Mark Landler


El calentamiento global afecta en particular a las familias lideradas por mujeres, según la ONU

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El calor extremo está empobreciendo a algunas de las mujeres más pobres del mundo.

Esta es la cruda conclusión de un informe, publicado el martes, por la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura (FAO, por su sigla en inglés), basado en datos meteorológicos y de ingresos en 24 países de ingresos bajos y medianos.

El informe se suma a un conjunto de trabajos que muestran cómo el calentamiento global, impulsado por la quema de combustibles fósiles, puede magnificar y empeorar las disparidades sociales existentes.

El informe concluye que, aunque el estrés térmico es costoso para todos los hogares rurales, es significativamente más costoso para los hogares liderados por una mujer: los hogares encabezados por mujeres pierden un 8 por ciento más de sus ingresos anuales en comparación con otros hogares.

Es decir, el calor extremo aumenta la disparidad entre los hogares liderados por mujeres y los demás. Eso se debe a que están en juego disparidades subyacentes.

Por ejemplo, aunque las mujeres dependen de los ingresos agrícolas, solo representan el 12,6 por ciento de los propietarios de tierras en todo el mundo, según estimaciones del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo. Esto significa que los hogares encabezados por mujeres probablemente carezcan de acceso a servicios esenciales como préstamos, seguros de cosechas y servicios de extensión agraria que les ayuden a adaptarse al cambio climático.

El informe se basa en datos de encuestas de hogares entre 2010 y 2020, superpuestos con datos de temperatura y precipitaciones a lo largo de 70 años.

El efecto a largo plazo del calentamiento global también es patente. Los hogares liderados por mujeres pierden un 34 por ciento más de ingresos, en comparación con los demás, cuando la temperatura media a largo plazo aumenta 1 grado Celsius.

La temperatura media mundial ya ha aumentado aproximadamente 1,2 grados Celsius desde el inicio de la era industrial.

Según el informe, las inundaciones también reducen los ingresos de los hogares liderados por mujeres más que los de otros tipos de hogares, pero en menor medida que el calor.

“A medida que estos fenómenos sean más frecuentes, también se agravarán las repercusiones en la vida de las personas”, afirma Nicholas Sitko, autor principal del informe y economista de la FAO.

En los últimos años se ha prestado cada vez más atención a los daños desproporcionados de las condiciones meteorológicas extremas, a veces agravadas por el cambio climático, en los países de renta baja que producen muchas menos emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, por persona, que los países más ricos e industrializados.

Lo que se discute con menos frecuencia son las desigualdades dentro de los países. Las disparidades de género suelen ser las más difíciles de cuantificar.

“Las mujeres y las niñas se ven afectadas de manera desproporcionada por las catástrofes relacionadas con el clima, no solo por las disparidades socioeconómicas, sino también por las arraigadas normas culturales y la falta de acceso a los recursos y a los procesos de toma de decisiones”, afirma Ritu Bharadwaj, investigadora del Instituto Internacional de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo, quien no participó en el informe de la FAO, pero ha estudiado los efectos del género y el clima.

En algunos lugares, las condiciones meteorológicas extremas, como el calor y la sequía, pueden hacer que mujeres y niñas tengan que recorrer distancias más largas para conseguir agua, alimentos y combustible para cocinar. En otros lugares, la disminución de los ingresos puede llevar a las familias a sacar a las niñas de la escuela antes que a los niños. Cuando los hombres emigran a las ciudades en busca de trabajo, las mujeres se quedan cuidando la tierra.

Cuando los expertos en clima hablan sobre la necesidad de adaptarse al aumento de las temperaturas y a los fenómenos meteorológicos extremos, suelen referirse a la siembra de árboles para reducir los riesgos térmicos, la plantación de manglares costeros para reducir las mareas de tempestad o el desarrollo de variedades de cultivos que sean resistentes a la sequía.

Estos esfuerzos no abordan necesariamente las disparidades sociales subyacentes que hacen que el calentamiento global sea más difícil para las personas más vulnerables de una sociedad, como los hogares rurales encabezados por mujeres que destaca el informe del martes.

Se están probando otras estrategias, aunque todavía a pequeña escala.

En algunos lugares, las organizaciones humanitarias realizan transferencias de efectivo antes de que se produzcan fenómenos meteorológicos extremos, brindando a la gente dinero que puede utilizar —antes de que se produzca la catástrofe— con el fin de prepararse mejor para resistirla. En otros lugares, los seguros se activan cuando la temperatura alcanza un determinado umbral.

El nuevo informe también hace referencia a las escuelas de campo, donde los pequeños agricultores experimentan con técnicas y cultivos adaptados al clima. Cita un experimento realizado en Mozambique, donde el aumento del número de mujeres como agentes de extensión agraria animó a más mujeres para que adoptaran nuevas técnicas agrícolas.

En Malaui, añade el informe, los programas de comidas escolares redujeron la presión de las familias para sacar a las niñas de la escuela durante las malas sequías. El acceso al capital es crucial para quien carece de títulos de propiedad de la tierra. Y cuando la agricultura no proporciona los ingresos necesarios, el acceso al cuidado infantil puede ayudar a las mujeres a encontrar trabajo en otra parte.

“Las pruebas son claras: si no se abordan los efectos desiguales del cambio climático en la población rural, se intensificará la gran brecha entre los que tienen y los que no tienen y entre hombres y mujeres”, afirma el informe.

Somini Sengupta es la reportera de clima internacional del Times. Más de Somini Sengupta

Juicio contra Juan Orlando Hernández: los hondureños siguen el caso con atención

El caso penal contra el expresidente de Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández, que se está desarrollando en el Bajo Manhattan, apenas se registra en el vertiginoso ciclo de noticias de Nueva York.

Para los hondureños, es una oportunidad inusual de lograr justicia nacional.

El juicio a Hernández en el Tribunal Federal del Distrito de Manhattan, acusado de conspiración de importación de estupefacientes, ha conmocionado al pequeño país centroamericano y a sus expatriados, y ha atraído a una muestra representativa de los 40.000 hondureños que viven en la ciudad de Nueva York, así como a otros que se encuentran fuera del estado e incluso en la propia Honduras.

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“Llevó a nuestro país al infierno”, dijo Flavio Ulises Yuja, de 62 años, quien viajó de Honduras a Florida para pasar unas vacaciones, pero cambió de planes de manera abrupta y voló a Nueva York para asistir al juicio.

El juicio evidencia los problemas de un país asolado por la corrupción, la pobreza y la anarquía. Mientras los estadounidenses debaten sobre las deficiencias de su propia democracia y su sistema judicial, los hondureños ven en los tribunales estadounidenses una instancia para algo que no está disponible en su país: un juicio justo y una medida de justicia.

Los hondureños son una presencia cotidiana afuera del tribunal. Durante la primera semana del juicio, decenas de ellos se reunieron a pesar del frío, gritando consignas con megáfonos y marchando con banderas hondureñas y pancartas que denunciaban a Hernández. Una mujer de Brooklyn vendía sándwiches caseros de atún y pavo a 7 dólares que llevaba en una hielera.

Cada día, Hernández es trasladado a un juzgado abarrotado ante un escuadrón de reporteros hondureños que toman notas. Hernández dirigió al país por ocho años, hasta principios de 2022, cuando fue extraditado a Estados Unidos poco después de dejar el cargo.

En los numerosos juicios de alto perfil celebrados en este tribunal del Bajo Manhattan —incluidos los del expresidente Donald Trump y el de exempresario de criptomonedas Sam Bankman-Fried, quien fue condenado por fraude—, los equipos de grabación de las cadenas de televisión se reúnen en la entrada con camionetas de última generación equipadas con unidades de iluminación. En el juicio de Hernández, los reporteros han grabado los acontecimientos diarios en sus iPhone y han transmitido las noticias a través de las redes sociales.

El juicio que están cubriendo detalla una cultura de corrupción en Honduras, que permitió la entrada de enormes cantidades de cocaína en Estados Unidos. Hernández, quien ha negado haber cometido algún delito, fue acusado de dirigir un “narco-Estado” desde la capital de Honduras, Tegucigalpa, recibiendo millones de dólares de los cárteles violentos.

Es posible que Honduras sea conocida por los estadounidenses por su historia plagada de pobreza, inestabilidad política e intervención estadounidense. Eso incluye las guerras bananeras, que comenzaron a fines del siglo XIX para reforzar el poder político de las empresas fruteras, y la presencia del ejército estadounidense que en la década de 1980 fue desplegado para apoyar a la guerrilla de la Contra, que combatía a los dirigentes nicaragüenses.

En la década de 2000, los narcotraficantes que gozaban de protección política contribuyeron para convertir a Honduras en una privilegiada vía de llegada para los cargamentos de cocaína procedentes de Sudamérica, gran parte de la cual se dirigía a Estados Unidos para satisfacer su voraz apetito por la droga.

Shannon K. O’Neil, experta en América Latina del Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores, afirmó que era improbable que el juicio lograra cambiar la corrupción en Honduras de la noche a la mañana, pero un proceso judicial estadounidense podría ser disuasorio.

“Es importante que alguien poderoso comparezca ante la justicia”, dijo. “Ver cómo un presidente es confrontado y posiblemente acabe en una prisión de máxima seguridad en Estados Unidos puede tener un efecto amedrentador en otros dirigentes y élites, ya sea en Honduras o en otros países latinoamericanos”.

Muchos hondureños culpan a Hernández de impulsar el declive de su país, y cuando fue extraditado se hicieron celebraciones.

En la primera fila en el tribunal, sentadas junto a los periodistas, las hermanas Eugenia Brown, de 69 años, y Aurora Martinez, de 64, asentían con la cabeza ante las historias de asesinatos, narcotráfico y corrupción. Resoplaron durante el testimonio de que Hernández le ordenó a su jefe de policía que asesinara a rivales.

Las hermanas, migrantes hondureñas, dijeron que habían viajado desde Nueva Jersey y el Bronx para ver cómo por fin se hacía justicia.

“Es vergonzoso para Honduras, pero a la misma vez es bueno para nosotros porque queremos justicia”, dijo Brown.

Martha Rochez, de 60 años, otra migrante hondureña que ahora vive cerca, en Chinatown, salió de la corte visiblemente alterada y se apoyó contra una pared.

“Quiero verlo en la cárcel. Nos ha hecho sufrir. Hizo sufrir a mi familia”, dijo.

A unos 3200 kilómetros de distancia, en Honduras, cuya población de 10 millones de habitantes apenas supera a la de la ciudad de Nueva York, el caso causa conmoción desde la región de la costa de Mosquitos hasta Tegucigalpa. Se estima que la mitad de la población vive en la pobreza, la violencia de las bandas es endémica y el producto interno bruto per cápita del país es de solo unos 3400 dólares, frente a los 83.000 de Estados Unidos.

Suyapa Mendez, de 63 años, quien vende verduras en un mercado de Tegucigalpa, dijo que aunque el expresidente sea encontrado culpable en Estados Unidos, “el daño al país” ya estaba hecho.

Algunos residentes de la capital hacían apuestas sobre qué figuras de los mundos del crimen y el gobierno del país podrían ser llamadas a declarar. Algunos aliados políticos de Hernández calificaron el caso de venganza por su falta de cooperación con las autoridades de EE. UU. y expresaron su escepticismo ante la posibilidad de que pudiera tener un juicio justo.

Pero Mario Sierra, un carpintero de 69 años que ha seguido el juicio por televisión en su taller, dijo que los hondureños estaban “agradecidos” de su extradición y su juicio, porque en Honduras no pasaría “nada”.

La ciudad de Nueva York es aproximadamente un tercio hispana, pero los hondureños —dispersos por zonas del Bronx, Queens y Brooklyn— solo representan aproximadamente el 0,5 por ciento de la población total, una cifra que palidece en comparación con otros grupos como los puertorriqueños y los dominicanos y, en años más recientes, los mexicanos y ecuatorianos.

Décadas de corrupción, delincuencia y desempleo también han hecho que numerosos hondureños lleguen a Estados Unidos, lo que ayuda a explicar el afiche que llevaba un manifestante frente al tribunal recientemente: los narcogobiernos obligan al pueblo a emigrar.

Victor Velasquez, de 47 años, se quedó observando y fotografiando todo. Dijo que manejó toda la noche con su esposa y su hijo adolescente desde Virginia para llevar a un amigo, que también es un migrante hondureño, a una audiencia de asilo en el Bajo Manhattan.

“Son juicios que no podemos tener en nuestros países; demuestra el nivel de corrupción que tenemos ahí, que otros países deben intervenir”, dijo Velasquez, quien añadió que la corrupción del gobierno hondureño había ahuyentado a la organización sin ánimo de lucro en la que trabajaba, lo que le costó su trabajo.

Afuera, Alex Laboriel, de 41 años, de Brooklyn, calificó de difícil —incluso vergonzoso— presenciar el juicio al expresidente de su país natal.

“Es indignante, lamentable”, dijo. “Es un dolor”, añadió, que “se vive”.

“Sería mejor que esto estuviese pasando en nuestro país”, añadió.

Rommel Gómez, de 40 años, periodista de Radio Progreso, calificó el juicio como una prueba para todos los hondureños.

“No únicamente Juan Orlando Hernandez está en juicio”, dijo. “El Estado también”.

Joan Suazo colaboró con reportería desde Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Corey Kilgannon es un periodista del Times que escribe sobre la delincuencia y la justicia penal en Nueva York y sus alrededores, así como sobre noticias de última hora y otros reportajes. Más de Corey Kilgannon