The New York Times 2024-03-15 01:24:32


Middle East Crisis: At Least 20 Awaiting Food Killed in Attack, Gazan Authorities Say

Gazan authorities said that more than 100 people waiting for food were also injured.

At least 20 people were killed and more than 100 injured while waiting for food aid in Gaza City on Thursday night, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health.

Videos of the aftermath posted to social media, which could not be immediately verified, showed bodies lying motionless on the ground. It was not immediately clear what caused the bloodshed. The ministry did not specify the weaponry used in the attack, and news reports differed in their descriptions.

The bloodshed took place near the Kuwait Roundabout in Gaza City, a site where crowds are known to gather to receive desperately sought food aid, according to the Gazan ministry.

The circumstances could not be immediately verified. A statement from the Gazan ministry called it a “targeted” attack by Israeli forces, but the Israeli military categorically denied it had attacked Gazans waiting for aid.

“The reports that the IDF attacked dozens of Gazans at an aid distribution point are false,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “As the IDF assess the incident with the thoroughness that it deserves, we urge the media to do the same and rely on credible information.”

The Gazan ministry statement said, “Dozens of martyrs and wounded after Israeli occupation forces targeted a gathering of civilians waiting for humanitarian aid.”

Some of the wounded, the ministry said, had been taken Shifa Hospital, once the enclave’s largest medical facility.

“Medical teams are unable to deal with the extent and type of injuries that are arriving at hospitals in northern Gaza due to the poor medical and human resources,” the ministry said.

Israel has bombarded and besieged Gaza since Hamas, the militant group than controls the territory, launched an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Food aid has been slow to enter the enclave amid disagreements over inspection protocols, increased lawlessness and accusations that Hamas is pilfering food from civilians for its fighters.

Thursday’s bloodshed echoed an incident on Feb. 29, in which hundreds of people were killed and injured amid a stampede and Israeli gunfire when a convoy of trucks tried to deliver aid in Gaza City last month.

Abbas’s choice seems to reject international pressure for a more independent prime minister.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority appointed a longtime insider within the authority’s top ranks as prime minister on Thursday, rejecting international pressure to empower an independent prime minister who could revitalize the sclerotic authority.

Mr. Abbas, who is 88 and has long ruled by decree, named Muhammad Mustafa, a close economic adviser, to take the prime minister’s spot, signing a document charging him with putting together a new government, according to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency. Mr. Mustafa has three weeks to do so, but can take an additional two weeks if needed, according to Palestinian law.

The document Mr. Abbas handed to Mr. Mustafa said the priorities of the government should include leading efforts to provide humanitarian aid to people in Gaza, reconstructing what has been destroyed during the war between Israel and Hamas, and putting forth plans and mechanisms to reunite Palestinian governing structures in the West Bank and the coastal enclave.

It also called for “continuing the reform process.”

Much of the Palestinian public sees the Palestinian Authority as tainted by corruption, mismanagement and cooperation with Israel.

As president, Mr. Abbas remains firmly in charge of the government. With no functional parliament, Mr. Abbas has long ruled by decree, and he exerts wide influence over the judiciary and prosecution system. There has been no presidential election in the Palestinian territories since 2005, and no legislative election since 2006.

In late February, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh tendered the resignation of his cabinet, citing the need for a new government that “takes into account the emerging reality in the Gaza Strip.” Mr. Shtayyeh’s government has continued in a caretaker capacity.

Hamas led a deadly assault from Gaza into Israel on Oct. 7, and Israel has answered with intense bombardment and an invasion, vowing to break the group’s grip on the enclave. But those events have raised difficult questions about how a postwar Gaza will be governed and rebuilt.

The Palestinian Authority has limited governing powers on the West Bank. It lost control of Gaza to Hamas in a 2007 power struggle.

The United States has been calling for overhauling the widely unpopular Palestinian Authority in recent months, hoping it could eventually assume the reins of governance in Gaza after the war. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has rejected any such role for the authority.

While the Biden administration did not tell Mr. Abbas whom to appoint as prime minister, it conveyed that it hoped for an independent figure who was acceptable to ordinary Palestinians, the international community and Israel, according to Western diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak with the media.

In the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister is supposed to oversee the work of ministries, but Mr. Abbas often intervenes in decision-making, according to analysts.

Nasser al-Qudwa, a former foreign minister whose name was floated as a possible prime minister, said before the announcement of Mr. Abbas’s choice that appointing Mr. Mustafa would represent “no real change.”

“It would be replacing one employee named Mohammed with another employee named Muhammad, while Abbas continues to hold all the cards. What’s the change?” said Mr. Qudwa, a fierce opponent of Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen. “Abu Mazen wants to keep the status quo. He wants to keep all of the power in his hands.”

In addition to serving as Mr. Abbas’s adviser, Mr. Mustafa, an economist educated at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., has been the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, whose board is appointed by the president of the authority. He has previously been the authority’s economy minister and deputy prime minister.

For weeks, Mr. Abbas has signaled his desire to appoint Mr. Mustafa. In January, he sent Mr. Mustafa to the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, where heads of state and foreign ministers gather to discuss global affairs.

At the conference, Mr. Mustafa said he thought the Palestinian Authority could improve its governance. “We don’t want to give any excuses for anyone,” he said in a wide-ranging discussion with Borge Brende, the forum’s president. “The Palestinian Authority can do better in terms of building better institutions.”

In his new position, Mr. Mustafa will likely face enormous challenges, which may include trying to reconstruct the devastated Gaza Strip and improving the credibility of the government.

Some analysts, however, said judgment on a new government should be reserved until the public learns the identities of its ministers, and how much authority and independence they can wield.

“We shouldn’t rush to say it will fail,” Ibrahim Dalalsha, the director of the Horizon Center for Political Studies and Media Outreach, a political analysis group based in Ramallah, West Bank. “We need to wait and see how it will perform.”

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

Questions persist as Israel signals it will help more aid get into Gaza.

Israel’s military on Thursday said it supported new initiatives to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza by land, air and sea, just hours after the military’s chief spokesman said it was trying to “flood” the enclave with sorely needed aid.

Israel has endorsed three new aid efforts over the past week — a ship carrying food approaching the coast off Gaza; airdrops by foreign countries; and an initial convoy of six trucks crossing directly from Israel into northern Gaza, where aid agencies say hunger is severest, for the first time since Oct. 7.

The public signaling from Israeli officials follows increasingly urgent calls from the United States and other allies for Israel to do more to alleviate the humanitarian crisis wrought by its invasion. The United Nations has warned parts of Gaza are on the brink of famine.

Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and a columnist at Haaretz, said that Israel is coming under pressure from all sides and that images emerging from Gaza of emaciated, starving children may have been “a tipping point” for policymakers. “There’s a limit to how much opprobrium Israel is willing to take and stand behind and say we are in the right,” she said.

Aid organizations and U.N. officials say the new efforts are too small and inefficient to meet the enormous needs of Gazan civilians. They have argued that it would be better for Israel to ease entry restrictions for trucks at established crossing points into the enclave, and do more to speed the delivery of goods inside Gaza.

Airdrops are ineffective and largely symbolic, these groups say, able to deliver just a fraction of the food that a truck convoy can haul. Setting up the infrastructure for aid deliveries by sea will be expensive and take time: U.S. officials have said that it could be weeks before a floating pier for maritime aid is up and running.

“Air and sea is not a substitute for land and nobody says otherwise,” Sigrid Kaag, the U.N. humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, said last week.

But overland deliveries also face challenges that critics say Israel needs to try to address.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has damaged the roads that aid trucks travel on. Civil order has broken down. Desperate Gazans have looted and pulled food from trucks. Convoys have come under fire.

In addition, humanitarian agencies have said that stringent Israeli inspections have created bottlenecks for aid trucks at the two open crossings into the enclave, which are both in the south, far from the north where the greatest food shortages are.

Israel has insisted throughout the war that it is committed to allowing as much aid into Gaza as possible. and it has blamed delays on the U.N. staffing and logistics.

“The issue isn’t the scanning and delivery of aid to Gaza, it’s how much the U.N. can collect and deliver within Gaza,” Col. Elad Goren, an official at the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, told reporters on Thursday.

The new aid efforts are not immune to some of the same logistical challenges. Israel has said it will continue to conduct strict inspections of supplies entering Gaza, arguing that Hamas could divert items for its use. Food being dropped by air or sea must still be distributed on the ground.

But Israel has appeared increasingly eager to demonstrate support for the initiatives. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited northern Gaza and viewed preparations for a new maritime humanitarian route, calling aid “a central issue,” according to a statement from the defense ministry. Then, the chief military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told reporters that Israel plans to “flood” northern Gaza with aid and scale up entry points, The Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, the Israeli military posted videos and photos of airdrops and trucks entering northern Gaza, saying it “continues to expand its efforts to enable the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip” by air, land and sea.

Ms. Scheindlin, the political analyst, said it’s striking how “all of a sudden, humanitarian aid became important.”

One reason is “certainly” the American calls for Israel to do more to protect civilians, she said. There is also a recent interim ruling from the International Court of Justice hanging over Israel. The court ordered Israel to take steps to prevent its troops from committing genocide in Gaza and to increase the amount of humanitarian aid reaching the territory’s civilians.

“There is an awareness that the international community is watching,” she said.

Adam Sella contributed reporting.

A correction was made on 

March 14, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Col. Elad Goren. He is an official at COGAT, not its head.


When we learn of a mistake, we acknowledge it with a correction. If you spot an error, please let us know at nytnews@nytimes.com.Learn more

Road, sea and air: How is aid entering Gaza?

The amount of aid reaching Gaza has fallen sharply since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas, leading to what humanitarian officials say is a catastrophe for the territory’s population of more than two million people. Gaza was subject to a blockade before the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, but around 500 trucks of food and other supplies a day were still crossing into the territory. That number has since fallen by around 75 percent, according to United Nations data.

Here is a look at the ways aid is getting into Gaza:

Road

Roads are by far the most important delivery route: More than 15,000 trucks of aid have entered the territory since Oct. 7 at two entry points in the enclave’s south. Most have entered through Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt. The other point is at Kerem Shalom, an Israeli crossing. Since January, protesters have sometimes blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing, arguing that Gaza should receive no aid while armed groups still hold captives taken on Oct. 7. Aid groups have called for more crossings to be opened.

Israel subjects all aid for Gaza to rigorous checks, saying that it is attempting to block items that could potentially be used by Hamas. Britain’s foreign minister, David Cameron, said this week that too many goods were being turned away on those grounds, echoing the stance of officials at aid agencies and the United Nations.

Col. Elad Goren, an official at Israel’s agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, told reporters on Thursday that almost all of the trucks that enter inspection are approved and only a tiny fraction are turned back because of the presence of “dual-use” items, or those with both civilian and military purposes.

Israeli officials say that there is no limit to the amount of aid that can enter Gaza by road, and that responsibility for bottlenecks lies with aid agencies. They say that they can inspect more aid deliveries than humanitarian organizations can process and distribute.

Even after supplies get into Gaza, aid groups have struggled to make deliveries because of security challenges — and particularly to transport goods to northern Gaza from entry points in the south. The north of the territory is on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program. This week, Israel allowed the agency to send an aid convoy with food for 25,000 people directly into northern Gaza through a crossing point that had not previously been used for aid during the war. The agency said it was the first time since Feb. 20 that it had delivered food in the north.

Sea

The United States, Britain, the European Union and other governments announced last week that they would establish a sea route for aid to Gaza from Cyprus, and the U.S. military has announced plans to build a floating pier to facilitate deliveries because Gaza does not have a functioning port.

A ship carrying 200 metric tons of aid from the charity group World Central Kitchen departed Cyprus for Gaza on Tuesday in what European officials called a pilot project for the new route. The group is building a makeshift jetty in Gaza to unload the aid, which had not yet arrived as of Thursday.

A second ship was being loaded in Cyprus on Thursday with 300 metric tons of aid, the World Central Kitchen said, but it was not clear when it would set sail.

U.S. officials have said it could take 30 to 60 days to build the floating pier. Aid groups and Gazan officials have said that sea shipments and airdrops are both slow and cannot come close to supplying as much as trucks.

Air

This week Germany became the latest country to announce plans to airdrop aid to Gaza, after the United States, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France. The Israeli military said Thursday that 1,000 aid packages had been airdropped into Gaza Strip over the past week. The drops could ease delivery to parts of Gaza out of reach of aid trucks. But aid officials say it is costly and ineffective as a means of delivering large quantities of supplies.

It is also risky for civilians on the ground. Local authorities said last week that at least five Palestinians were killed after airdropped aid packages fell on them in Gaza City.

Adam Sella contributed reporting from Kerem Shalom, Israel.

Senator Chuck Schumer calls Netanyahu an obstacle to peace.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, on Thursday delivered a pointed speech on the Senate floor excoriating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East and calling for new leadership in Israel, five months into the war.

Many Democratic lawmakers have condemned Mr. Netanyahu’s leadership and his right-wing governing coalition, and President Biden has even criticized the Israeli military’s offensive in Gaza as “over the top.” But Mr. Schumer’s speech amounted to the sharpest critique yet from a senior American elected official — effectively urging Israelis to replace Mr. Netanyahu.

“I believe in his heart, his highest priority is the security of Israel,” said Mr. Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States. “However, I also believe Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.”

Mr. Schumer added: “He has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows. Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah.”

The speech was the latest reflection of the growing dissatisfaction among Democrats, particularly progressives, with Israel’s conduct of the war and its toll on Palestinian civilians, which has created a strategic and political dilemma for Mr. Biden. Republicans have tried to capitalize on that dynamic for electoral advantage, hugging Mr. Netanyahu closer as Democrats repudiate him. And on Thursday, they lashed out at Mr. Schumer for his remarks.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said on the Senate floor that it was “grotesque and hypocritical” for Americans “who hyperventilate about foreign interference in our own democracy to call for the removal of the democratically elected leader of Israel.” He called Mr. Schumer’s move “unprecedented.”

“The Democratic Party doesn’t have an anti-Bibi problem,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname. “It has an anti-Israel problem.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called Mr. Schumer’s remarks “earth-shatteringly bad” and accused him of “calling on the people of Israel to overthrow their government.” And House Republicans, gathered in West Virginia for a party retreat, hastily called a news conference to attack Mr. Schumer for his comments and position themselves as the true friends of Israel in Congress.

Mr. Schumer’s remarks came a day after Senate Republicans invited Mr. Netanyahu to speak as their special guest at a party retreat in Washington. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, asked Mr. Netanyahu to address Republicans virtually, but he could not appear because of a last-minute scheduling conflict. Ambassador Michael Herzog, Israel’s envoy to the United States, spoke in his place and also addressed the House G.O.P. gathering on Thursday.

In his speech at the Capitol, Mr. Schumer, who represents a state with more than 20 percent of the country’s Jewish population, was careful to assert that he was not trying to dictate any electoral outcome in Israel. He prefaced his harsh criticism of Mr. Netanyahu with a long defense of the country, which he said American Jews “love in our bones.”

Mr. Schumer said there had been an “inaccurate perception” of the war that lays too much blame on Israel for civilian deaths in Gaza without focusing enough on how Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields. And he acknowledged how difficult it was for traumatized Israelis to contemplate the possibility of a two-state solution at this time.

But he was unsparing in his criticism of Mr. Netanyahu, calling the prime minister one of the top obstacles to achieving peace in the Middle East, along with Hamas, “radical right-wing Israelis” and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, who he also said should be replaced.

“The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after Oct. 7,” Mr. Schumer said, referring to the day of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. “The world has changed — radically — since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

Mr. Schumer said the only solution to the decades-old conflict was a two-state solution: “a demilitarized Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in equal measures of peace, security, prosperity and dignity.” He said Mr. Netanyahu, who has rejected the idea of Palestinian statehood, was jeopardizing Israel’s future.

“At this critical juncture, I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government,” Mr. Schumer said, adding that he believed a majority of the Israeli public “will recognize the need for change.”

“As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice. There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after Oct. 7.”

Mr. Schumer gave White House officials advance notice that he would be making the speech.

“We fully respect his right to make those remarks and to decide for himself what he’s going to say on the Senate floor,” said John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman. “He obviously feels strongly about this. We understand and respect that. This wasn’t about approval or disapproval or anything in any way, but he did give us a heads-up that he was going to do it.”

Mr. Schumer’s speech was the second time since Oct. 7 that he has taken to the Senate floor to address the Israeli-Hamas war. The conflict has prompted him to think more deeply and speak more openly about his Jewish faith and heritage, as well as the moral and political dilemmas the war has presented for Jews in Israel and the United States.

In November, Mr. Schumer made a deeply personal speech condemning the rise of antisemitism in America that has flared since Israel began retaliating against Hamas for its attack. Those remarks appeared to be mostly directed at members of his own party; he warned that some liberals and young people were “unknowingly aiding and abetting” antisemitism in the name of social justice. Mr. Schumer has since spoken to publishers about writing a book on antisemitism.

On Thursday, his speech was aimed squarely at Mr. Netanyahu and far-right members of his governing coalition, who Mr. Schumer said were falling short of Jewish values.

Mr. Herzog had a stern response. “Israel is a sovereign democracy,” he wrote on social media. “It is unhelpful, all the more so as Israel is at war against the genocidal terror organization Hamas, to comment on the domestic political scene of a democratic ally.”

In his remarks, Mr. Schumer said that Mr. Netanyahu refused to “disavow Ministers Smotrich and Ben-Gvir and their calls for Israelis to drive Palestinians out of Gaza and the West Bank.”

“He won’t commit to a military operation in Rafah that prioritizes protecting civilian life,” Mr. Schumer said. “He won’t engage responsibly in discussions about a ‘day after’ plan for Gaza, and a longer-term pathway to peace.”

Mr. Schumer said that if Mr. Netanyahu and his current coalition remained in power, “then the United States will have no choice but to play a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course.”

Underscoring how contentious the issue of Israel is in American politics, Mr. Schumer’s speech was criticized by both the right and the left.

Layla Elabed, the campaign manager for Listen to Michigan, an antiwar group of activists who voted “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic presidential primary, said that “Senator Schumer is beginning to shift but far too slowly and with little substance for what actions Biden can take now to stop the outrageous civilian death toll in Gaza.”

Nicholas Fandos and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

Netanyahu’s allies reject Schumer’s criticism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allies swiftly criticized a pointed speech by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, calling the Israeli leader an obstacle to peace, with the Israeli ambassador to the United States characterizing such claims as “counterproductive.”

Mr. Schumer’s comments, which included a call for new leadership, amounted to some of the strongest yet by an elected American official. They demonstrated the rising tensions between the U.S. government and Israel, as many Democrats grow increasingly angry over the humanitarian crisis unleashed by Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

The Israeli ambassador, Michael Herzog, called the comments “unhelpful” in a post on social media and said they were “counterproductive to our common goals.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, said, “Israel is not a banana republic, but a proud independent democracy that elected Prime Minister Netanyahu” and that it was “expected that Senator Schumer respects Israel’s government and does not undermine it.”

The Israeli leader has struck a defiant tone against international criticism of the way his country has conducted its war to oust Hamas.

President Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have sparred this month, with Mr. Biden asserting that the Israeli leader was “hurting Israel” more than he was helping. This week, a group of Democratic senators urged Mr. Biden to stop providing offensive weapons to Israel for the war against Hamas until it lifted restrictions on U.S.-backed humanitarian aid going into Gaza.

Mr. Biden has become more forceful in recent days about the plight of civilians in Gaza, where the United Nations and aid agencies have warned of looming famine, and has urged Mr. Netanyahu not to proceed with his stated plans to launch a major ground offensive in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza without a plan to protect the masses of people sheltering there.

More than a million Gazans have sought refuge in the city, many of whom were displaced by fighting or Israeli military orders to move into so-called safe zones.

While visiting soldiers in northern Israel on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with the plans to move into Rafah, which Israel says is the last major stronghold of Hamas.

“There is international pressure to prevent us from entering Rafah and completing the work,” he said. “As prime minister of Israel, I reject this pressure.”

Mr. Netanyahu is also grappling with politics at home. A new American intelligence assessment this week raised doubts about his ability to stay in power, with distrust rising among the Israeli public and Israel likely to struggle to eradicate Hamas. And Israel’s wartime emergency government is showing strains: On Tuesday, the hawkish New Hope party announced that it would leave the fragile two-party alliance led by Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet, in frustration that Rafah had not already been invaded.

The Israeli opposition leader, Yair Lapid, said on Thursday that Mr. Schumer’s speech showed that Netanyahu was “losing Israel’s greatest supporters in the U.S.” Mr. Lapid has said that he would join an Israeli government led by the right as long as it excluded Mr. Netanyahu and some of his hard-line partners.

“Netanyahu is causing great damage to the national effort to win the war and safeguard Israel’s security,” Mr. Lapid said.

The State Department imposes new sanctions on Israeli settlers over West Bank violence.

The State Department on Thursday imposed new sanctions on three Israeli settlers in the West Bank, saying they are responsible for “extremist violence” against Palestinians and that their actions “undermine peace, security, and stability” in the region.

In a statement, the department said it was freezing any assets that the three Israelis may hold in the United States, and barring them from entry into the United States. It is unclear whether any of them have such assets.

The action marks the second time the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, whose aggressive actions Biden officials have repeatedly called a threat to short-term stability and long-term peace.

Roughly 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, where the Israeli military rules over roughly 2.7 million Palestinians. Much of the Israeli right believes Israel should control the West Bank in perpetuity, while Palestinians see the area as integral to their aspirations for an independent state.

Tensions have soared there since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on Israel prompted all-out war in Gaza. Over 400 Palestinians, including over 100 minors, have been killed in “conflict-related incidents” across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the start of the war, according to the United Nations.

American officials fear a recent surge in attacks by Israeli settlers could set off even wider violence, making an already combustible situation worse.

Canada’s equal funding to help Israeli and Palestinian victims of sexual violence draws Israeli fire.

Canada’s government pledged this week to make equal contributions to groups supporting either Israeli or Palestinian women who have been sexually abused during the continuing war in the Gaza Strip.

Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, said on social media on Tuesday that Canada would give 1 million Canadian dollars — about $743,000 — to groups assisting Palestinian women who have been victims of sexual violence.

“Allegations on sexual and gender-based violence against them must be investigated, and Palestinian women must be supported,” Ms. Joly wrote on Tuesday, a day after she said that an identical amount of money would flow to groups aiding Israeli women who have been sexually abused.

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, castigated Ms. Joly in a response on social media, warning that Canada was creating a “false moral equivalence” that would “fuel rising antisemitism” in the country.

A 23-page U.N. report, released earlier this month, found signs that sexual violence was committed against Israeli women during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and against hostages held captive in Gaza.

In an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council held on March 4, diplomats uniformly condemned sexual violence against Israeli women, but many also expressed concern about U.N. reporting that Palestinian women and men had been subjected to sexual violence and threats of rape by Israeli forces in detention and during house raids.

Ms. Joly, visiting the Middle East this week as part of a diplomatic tour of the region, also said on Monday that the Canadian government had offered to make the Royal Canadian Mounted Police available to investigate allegations of sexual assaults in the region.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

A correction was made on 

March 13, 2024

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the American equivalent of 1 million Canadian dollars. It is about $743,000, not $743 million.


When we learn of a mistake, we acknowledge it with a correction. If you spot an error, please let us know at nytnews@nytimes.com.Learn more

Russia’s 2024 Presidential Vote: What to Know


  • Why does this vote matter?

  • Does Putin face any serious challengers?

  • Will the Kremlin manipulate the results?

  • Can Russians protest?

  • Can Putin remain president for life?

  • When will the results be known?

  • Where can I find more information?

The presidential vote in Russia, which began Friday and lasts through Sunday, features the trappings of a horse race but is more of a predetermined, Soviet-style referendum.

President Vladimir V. Putin, 71, will undoubtedly win a fifth term, with none of the three other candidates who are permitted on the ballot presenting a real challenge. The main opposition figure who worked to spoil the vote, Aleksei A. Navalny, a harsh critic of Mr. Putin and the Ukraine war, died in an Arctic prison last month.

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Orban Endangers Hungary’s Status as an Ally, U.S. Diplomat Says

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is jeopardizing Hungary’s position as a trusted NATO ally, the U.S. ambassador to Budapest warned on Thursday, with “its close and expanding relationship with Russia,” and with “dangerously unhinged anti-American messaging” in state-controlled media.

The ambassador, David Pressman, has for months criticized Mr. Orban for effectively siding with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over the war in Ukraine, but his latest remarks sharply ratcheted up tensions and indicated that trust in Hungary among NATO allies had collapsed.

Hungary is “an ally that behaves unlike any other” and is “alone on the defining issue of European security of the last quarter century, Russia’s war in Ukraine,” Mr. Pressman said in a speech in Budapest marking the 25th anniversary of Hungary’s admission to the Western military alliance.

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Ukraine, Stalled on the Battlefield, Targets Russia’s Oil Industry

With its army short of ammunition and troops to break the deadlock on the battlefield, Ukraine has increasingly taken the fight behind Russian lines, attacking warships, railways and airfields in an attempt to diminish Moscow’s military operations.

Most recently, that campaign has focused on oil infrastructure, hitting refineries deep in Russian territory and driving home the country’s vulnerability to such attacks.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Ukrainian drones hit four Russian refineries, officials on both sides said, adding to a series of recent attacks that have set fire to depots, fuel tanks and other oil infrastructure across Russia. Since the beginning of the year, Ukraine has claimed responsibility for nearly a dozen such assaults, and local Russian authorities have reported five more.

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Dozens of Migrants Die After Their Dinghy Deflates in the Mediterranean

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A European humanitarian aid group said on Thursday that about 50 migrants died after their small boat deflated during an attempt to cross the central Mediterranean Sea.

A ship belonging to the charity, SOS Mediterranee, spotted the deflating rubber dinghy on Wednesday, in international waters under the Libyan rescue jurisdiction. Twenty-five dehydrated and exhausted migrants were on board.

The survivors told the charity that they had been adrift for four days, since the engine on their dinghy broke. Some 50 other people were with them when they departed from the Libyan port of Zawiya, they told the rescuers, including two infants and four women. There were only male survivors, half of them boys, the charity said.

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New U.K. Extremism Policy Raises Concerns Over Free Speech

Britain’s government published a new definition of extremism on Thursday that it intends to use to cut ties or funding to groups deemed to have crossed the line, but which critics fear could curtail campaigners’ rights and curb free speech.

Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister, said in a statement that the move was intended to “protect democratic values” by being “clear and precise in identifying the dangers posed by extremism.”

Some advocacy groups and legal experts greeted the announcement with concern, warning that it could affect the rights of those deemed by the government to meet the definition. The only way to challenge such a decision is likely to be through the courts.

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Slovakia Presidential Election 2024: What You Need to Know


  • Why does this election matter?

  • Who is running for president?

  • Who is expected to win?

  • When will we learn the result?

  • Where can I find more information?

The Slovak presidency is a largely ceremonial post but can play an important role when, as has been the case for the last five months, the president and prime minister represent opposing political camps.

The outgoing president, Zuzana Caputova, an outspoken liberal, has used her limited powers and the bully pulpit to resist the agenda of Prime Minister Robert Fico, a pugnacious veteran politician who returned to power in October after years in the political wilderness. He resigned in disgrace as prime minister in 2018 amid a swirl of corruption accusations after the murder of an investigative journalist who had been looking into government graft.

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Why Everything Changed in Haiti: The Gangs United

Even as gangs terrorized Haiti, kidnapped civilians en masse and killed at will, the country’s embattled prime minister held on to power for years.

Then, in a matter of days, everything changed.

In the midst of political upheaval not seen since the country’s president was assassinated in 2021, Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, agreed to step down. Now, neighboring countries are scrambling to create a transitional council to run the country and plot a course for elections, which once seemed a distant possibility.

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Snakes in the Grass — and Under the Piano, by the Pool and in the Prison

Natasha Frost spent two days trailing snake catchers on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

The phone rings. It’s the local prison. There’s a snake in a cell. Within a few hours, snakes have also been spotted at a school, beneath a piano stored in a private garage and near a lagoon-like swimming pool at a retirement home. Customers want them gone.

Business has never been so good for Stuart McKenzie, who runs a snake-catching service in the Sunshine Coast, a verdant enclave along miles of pristine beach in the vast Australian state of Queensland. On the busiest days, he can receive more than 35 calls about troublesome snakes.

Queensland is home to the largest number of snake species in Australia — about 120. Of those, two-thirds are venomous and a handful are deadly. Throughout Australia, fatalities from snake bites remain extremely rare — about two a year — and in Queensland, the reptiles are simply a part of life.

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Dancing and Jumping Over Fire, Iranians Use Holiday to Defy Rules

Iranians have looked for opportunities in recent months to display defiance against the rules of the clerical government. In Tuesday night’s annual fire festival, many found a chance.

Across Iran, thousands of men and women packed the streets as they danced wildly to music and jumped joyfully over large bonfires, according to videos on social media and interviews with Iranians. The police said the crowds were so large in Tehran and other cities that traffic came to a standstill for many hours and commuters had difficulty reaching public transportation, according to Iranian news reports.

Dancing, especially for men and women together, is banned in public in Iran and has long been a form of protest.

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Zimbabwe, After Expelling U.S. Officials, Accuses Them of Promoting ‘Regime Change’

The government of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe detained, interrogated and deported officials and contractors working for the United States government last month, and this week accused them publicly of promoting “regime change” in their country.

The incident is the latest in the Zimbabwean government’s aggressive efforts to thwart both domestic and international challenges to its authority. The incumbent government claimed victory in a chaotic election last year that several independent observer missions said lacked fairness and credibility.

But it also points to a deeper tension over the United States’ proclaimed efforts to promote democracy around the globe. Some nations, including Zimbabwe, have accused America of meddling in their affairs and attempting to impose its values — as well as of hypocrisy, given the threats at home to its own democracy.

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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.

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

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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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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

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

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

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

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Por qué cambió todo en Haití: las bandas criminales se unieron

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

Incluso cuando las bandas delictivas aterrorizaban a Haití, secuestraban civiles en masa y mataban a discreción, el primer ministro del país se aferró al poder durante años.

Luego, en cuestión de días, todo cambió.

En medio de una agitación política inédita desde el asesinato del presidente del país en 2021, el primer ministro de Haití, Ariel Henry, aceptó renunciar. Ahora, los países vecinos se apresuran a crear un consejo de transición para dirigir el país y trazar el camino hacia las elecciones, que antes parecían una posibilidad lejana.

Según los expertos, este momento es distinto debido a que las pandillas se unieron, obligando al líder del país a renunciar al poder.

“El primer ministro Ariel no dimitió por política, ni por las manifestaciones callejeras masivas en su contra a lo largo de los años, sino por la violencia que han ejercido las bandas”, dijo Judes Jonathas, un consultor haitiano que ha trabajado durante años en el suministro de ayuda humanitaria. “Ahora, la situación ha cambiado totalmente, porque ahora las bandas trabajan juntas”.

No está claro cuán sólida es la alianza, ni si va a durar. Lo que es evidente es que las bandas delictivas están tratando de capitalizar su control de Puerto Príncipe, la capital, para convertirse en una fuerza política legítima en las negociaciones en las que están mediando gobiernos extranjeros, entre ellos Estados Unidos, Francia y países del Caribe.

A principios de marzo, Henry viajó a Nairobi a fin de ultimar un acuerdo para el despliegue en Haití de una fuerza de seguridad dirigida por Kenia. Los grupos delictivos aprovecharon la ausencia de Henry, que es muy impopular. En pocos días, las pandillas cerraron el aeropuerto, saquearon puertos marítimos, atacaron una decena de comisarías de policía y liberaron a unos 4600 presos.

Exigieron la renuncia de Henry, amenazando con agravar la violencia si se negaba. Según los analistas, desde que aceptó dimitir, las pandillas parecen centrarse principalmente en obtener inmunidad penal y evitar ir a la cárcel.

“Su mayor objetivo es la amnistía”, afirmó Jonathas.

El aliado político más destacado de los delincuentes es Guy Philippe, antiguo comandante de policía y líder golpista que cumplió seis años en una prisión federal estadounidense por lavado de dinero procedente del narcotráfico antes de ser deportado a Haití a finales del año pasado. Philippe ha liderado las presiones para que Henry dimita.

Ahora pide abiertamente que se otorgue amnistía a las bandas.

“Tenemos que decirles: ‘Dejen las armas o van a tener que enfrentarse a graves consecuencias’”, dijo Philippe a The New York Times en una entrevista en enero, refiriéndose a las pandillas. “Si dejan las armas, van a tener una segunda oportunidad. Tendrán una especie de amnistía”.

Philippe no forma parte del consejo de transición designado para dirigir Haití. Pero está utilizando sus conexiones con el partido político Pitit Desalin para llevar esas demandas a la mesa de negociaciones en Jamaica, donde funcionarios caribeños e internacionales se reúnen para forjar una solución a la crisis en Haití, según tres personas familiarizadas con las discusiones.

Lo más probable es que la decisión de los líderes de las bandas de unirse estuviera motivada por el deseo de consolidar su poder después de que Henry firmó el acuerdo con Kenia para llevar 1000 agentes de policía a Puerto Príncipe, según William O’Neill, experto de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas en derechos humanos en Haití.

Muchos miembros de pandillas en Haití son adolescentes, dijo, que buscan que se les pague pero que probablemente tienen poco interés en entrar en una guerra con una fuerza policial bien armada.

Las bandas respetan “el miedo y la fuerza”, dijo O’Neill. “Temen a una fuerza más fuerte que ellos”.

Aunque muchos dudan de que la fuerza keniana aporte una estabilidad duradera, su llegada representaría el mayor desafío al control territorial de las pandillas en años.

“Las bandas llevan años oyendo hablar de esta fuerza dirigida por Kenia”, dijo Louis-Henri Mars, director ejecutivo de Lakou Lapè, una organización que trabaja con pandillas haitianas. “Entonces vieron que por fin llegaba, así que lanzaron un ataque preventivo”.

La violencia desatada por las bandas cerró gran parte de la capital e impidió que Henry pudiera regresar a su país.

Este fue el punto de inflexión: Estados Unidos y los líderes caribeños consideraron que la situación de Haití era “insostenible”. Las autoridades estadounidenses llegaron a la conclusión de que Henry ya no era un socio viable y redoblaron sus llamados para que avanzara rápidamente hacia una transición de poder, según afirmaron funcionarios implicados en las negociaciones políticas.

Desde entonces, los líderes de las pandillas han estado hablando con periodistas, celebrando conferencias de prensa, prometiendo la paz y exigiendo un asiento en la mesa.

Jimmy Chérizier, un poderoso líder de la banda también conocido como Barbecue, se ha convertido en uno de los rostros más conocidos de la nueva alianza de bandas, conocida como Living Together.

La G-9, la banda de Chérizier, un exagente de policía conocido por su crueldad, controla el centro de Puerto Príncipe y ha sido acusada de atacar barrios aliados con partidos políticos de la oposición, saquear casas, violar mujeres y matar gente al azar.

Sin embargo, en sus conferencias de prensa, Chérizier ha pedido disculpas por la violencia y ha culpado a los sistemas económico y político de Haití de la miseria y la desigualdad del país. Philippe se ha hecho eco de este pensamiento.

“Esas chicas jóvenes, esos chicos jóvenes, no tienen otra oportunidad: morir de hambre o tomar las armas”, dijo Philippe al Times. “Eligieron tomar las armas”.

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

Natalie Kitroeff es la jefa de la corresponsalía del Times para México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff

Frances Robles es una reportera de investigación que cubre Estados Unidos y América Latina. Es periodista desde hace más de 30 años. Más de Frances Robles


El ascenso de las escuelas superestrictas en Inglaterra

Cuando el profesor empezó su cuenta regresiva, los alumnos descruzaron los brazos, agacharon la cabeza y completaron el ejercicio en un instante.

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“Tres. Dos. Uno”, enunció el maestro. Las plumas de todo el salón se posaron y todas las miradas se dirigieron de vuelta al profesor. De acuerdo con una política llamada “Slant” (la sigla en inglés para sentarse, inclinarse hacia adelante, plantear y responder preguntas, asentir con la cabeza y poner atención al orador), los estudiantes, de 11 y 12 años de edad, no tenían permitido apartar su mirada.

Cuando sonó una campana digital (los relojes tradicionales “no son suficientemente precisos”, según la directora) los alumnos caminaron rápido y en silencio hacia la cafetería en una sola fila. Ahí, gritaron un poema —“Ozymandias”, de Percy Bysshe Shelley— al unísono, luego comieron durante 13 minutos mientras debatían el tema obligatorio para el almuerzo del día: cómo sobrevivir a un caracol asesino superinteligente.

En la década transcurrida desde que la Michaela Community School abrió sus puertas en Londres, la escuela secundaria de financiamiento público, pero gestionada de manera independiente, se ha posicionado como líder de un movimiento que está convencido de que los niños de contextos desfavorecidos necesitan una disciplina estricta, aprendizaje memorístico y ambientes controlados para tener éxito.

“¿Cómo pueden alcanzar el éxito los niños que vienen de condiciones pobres? Pues, tienen que trabajar más duro”, señaló la directora, Katharine Birbalsingh, quien tiene una figura de cartón de Russell Crowe en la película Gladiador en su oficina con la frase: “Mantener la línea”. En sus perfiles de redes sociales, se autodenomina: “La directora más estricta del Reino Unido”.

“Lo que se necesita es mantenerlos a raya”, agregó. “Los niños anhelan la disciplina”.

Aunque algunos críticos se refieren al modelo de Birbalsingh como opresivo, su escuela tiene la tasa más alta de progreso académico en Inglaterra, según un parámetro del gobierno que mide el avance de los pupilos entre los 11 y 16 años de edad, y su método se está volviendo cada vez más popular.

En un número cada vez mayor de escuelas, los días están marcados por rutinas estrictas y castigos por infracciones leves, como olvidar un estuche de lápices o tener el uniforme desarreglado. Los pasillos son silenciosos porque los alumnos tienen prohibido hablar con sus compañeros.

Quienes abogan por las políticas sin excepciones en las escuelas, como Michael Gove, un influyente secretario de Estado que antes fungió de ministro de Educación, argumentan que los métodos progresistas enfocados en los niños que se popularizaron en la década de 1970 causaron una crisis conductual, mermaron el aprendizaje y obstaculizaron la movilidad social.

Su perspectiva está vinculada a una ideología política conservadora que enfatiza la determinación individual, y no los elementos estructurales, como lo que encauza la vida de las personas. En el Reino Unido, los políticos del Partido Conservador gobernante, que lleva 14 años en el poder, apoyan esta corriente educativa, que se basa en las técnicas de las escuelas subvencionadas de Estados Unidos y de educadores que se volvieron prominentes a finales de los años 2000.

Tom Bennett, consejero del gobierno en materia de conducta escolar, declaró que los ministros de Educación partidarios habían contribuido a este “impulso”.

“Muchas escuelas están haciendo esto ahora”, afirmó Bennett. “Y consiguen resultados fantásticos”.

Desde que Rowland Speller se convirtió en director de The Abbey School en el sur de Inglaterra, ha reprimido la mala conducta e implementado rutinas formularias, inspiradas en los métodos de la secundaria Michaela. Speller sostiene que un ambiente regulado es reconfortante para los alumnos que tienen una vida inestable en casa.

Si a un estudiante le va bien, los demás aplauden dos veces luego de que un maestro o maestra dice: “Dos aplausos a la cuenta de dos: uno, dos”.

“Podemos celebrar a muchos niños muy rápido”, indicó Speller.

En noviembre, Mouhssin Ismail, otro líder escolar que fundó una escuela de alto rendimiento en una zona desfavorecida de Londres, publicó una foto en redes sociales que mostraba pasillos escolares con estudiantes que caminaban en filas. “Se puede oír hasta una mosca volar cuando los alumnos se forman en silencio en la escuela”, escribió.

Los comentarios detonaron una reacción negativa, pues algunos críticos compararon las fotografías con una película de ciencia ficción distópica.

Birbalsingh argumenta que los niños ricos pueden darse el lujo de perder el tiempo en la escuela porque “sus padres los llevan a museos y a galerías de arte”, comentó, mientras que, para los niños de contextos más pobres, “la única manera de aprender sobre la historia de Roma es en la escuela”. Aceptar la más mínima conducta indebida o adaptar las expectativas a las circunstancias de los estudiantes, dijo, “se traduce en una movilidad social nula para estos niños”.

En su escuela, muchos estudiantes expresaron gratitud cuando se les preguntó sobre sus experiencias, incluso elogiaron los castigos que recibieron, y repitieron con gusto los mantras de la escuela sobre la mejora personal. El lema de la escuela es: “Trabaja duro y sé amable”.

Leon, de 13 años, relató que, al principio, no quería ir a la escuela, “pero ahora agradezco haber ido porque, si no, no sería tan inteligente como soy ahora”.

Sin embargo, algunos docentes han expresado preocupación acerca del método más amplio de cero tolerancia, señalando que controlar la conducta de los estudiantes tan minuciosamente quizá genera excelentes resultados académicos, pero no fomenta la autonomía ni el pensamiento crítico. También afirman que los castigos draconianos por infracciones menores pueden causar estragos psicológicos.

“Es como si hubieran leído 1984 y lo hubieran interpretado como un manual a seguir en lugar de una sátira”, dijo Phil Beadle, galardonado profesor de secundaria y autor británico.

Según Beadle, el tiempo libre y el debate son igual de importantes para el desarrollo infantil que los resultados académicos favorables. Le preocupa que un “ambiente parecido a un culto que exija una sumisión total” pueda privar a los niños de su infancia.

Los promotores del modelo estricto y algunos padres de familia dicen que a los niños con necesidades educativas especiales les va muy bien en los ambientes estrictos y predecibles, pero otros vieron que sus hijos con dificultades de aprendizaje tuvieron problemas en estas escuelas.

Sarah Dalton mandó a su hijo de 12 años con dislexia a una escuela estricta y obtuvo excelentes resultados académicos. Pero su miedo a ser castigado por pequeños errores le creó un estrés insoportable, por lo que empezó a mostrar señales de depresión.

“Tenía miedo de ser castigado”, narró la madre. “Su salud mental empezó a deteriorarse”.

Cuando lo cambió a una escuela más relajada, su hijo comenzó a sanar, afirmó Dalton.

En Inglaterra, los datos del gobierno del año pasado mostraron que decenas de escuelas superestrictas suspendían a alumnos en una proporción mucho más alta que el promedio nacional. (La secundaria Michaela no era una de ellas).

Lucie Lakin, la directora de la Carr Manor Community School en Leeds —que no sigue el modelo de cero tolerancia— contó que se dio cuenta de que este método se estaba difundiendo más cuando un mayor número de estudiantes se inscribió en su escuela tras ser expulsados. Su escuela obtiene altos puntajes académicos, pero ella señaló que ese no es el único objetivo de una educación.

“¿Estamos hablando de que los resultados de la escuela sean exitosos o de tratar de formar adultos exitosos?”, preguntó Lakin. “Debemos elegir ese camino”.

Emma Bubola es periodista del Times y trabaja en Londres, desde donde cubre noticias en toda Europa y alrededor del mundo. Más de Emma Bubola


Enfermedades, operaciones y un escándalo fotográfico: cronología de los meses recientes de la monarquía británica

Durante meses, casi todas las miradas se han centrado en los altibajos de la familia real británica, con el rey Carlos III y Catalina, la princesa de Gales, en el centro de la atención por temas de salud.

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Pero, recientemente, la prolongada ausencia de Catalina, también conocida como Kate, de la escena pública ha propiciado una oleada de rumores sobre su paradero, lo que, en última instancia, ha hecho que el público busque respuestas.

A continuación, ofrecemos una cronología breve de los momentos clave en la vida reciente de la princesa para que puedas ponerte al día.

25 de diciembre de 2023

La última aparición pública oficial de Kate fue el día de Navidad, cuando asistió a una ceremonia religiosa en la iglesia de Santa María Magdalena en Sandringham, Norfolk, Inglaterra.

Fue fotografiada vestida de azul real de pies a cabeza mientras caminaba hacia la iglesia junto a su marido, el príncipe Guillermo, y sus tres hijos, el príncipe Jorge, la princesa Carlota y el príncipe Luis, como hacen habitualmente cada Navidad. Toda la familia iba de azul y verde.

17 de enero de 2024

Poco más de tres semanas después, el 17 de enero, el palacio de Kensington anunció que Kate había sido ingresada en la Clínica de Londres para someterse a una operación abdominal. Los funcionarios dieron pocos detalles sobre su salud, pero dijeron que la operación había sido un éxito y que su estado “no era canceroso”. Se esperaba que permaneciera hospitalizada hasta dos semanas.

Horas después, el palacio de Buckingham anunció que el rey Carlos III recibiría tratamiento por un agrandamiento de próstata.

18 de enero de 2024

Al día siguiente, Guillermo fue fotografiado alejándose en coche del hospital, donde Kate se recuperaba de una operación abdominal.

29 de enero de 2024

Casi dos semanas después, Kate regresó a su casa de Windsor, a las afueras de Londres. Funcionarios del palacio de Kensington dijeron que convalecería en casa durante dos o tres meses y que no reanudaría sus funciones públicas hasta después de Semana Santa, a fines de marzo.

A diferencia de su suegro, el rey Carlos III, quien fue fotografiado saliendo de la Clínica de Londres tras su intervención, no había fotografías de Kate saliendo de la clínica.

5 de febrero de 2024

Funcionarios del palacio de Buckingham anunciaron a principios de febrero, pocos días después de que Carlos se sometiera a un tratamiento para el agrandamiento de la próstata, que al rey le habían diagnosticado cáncer.

El palacio no comunicó qué tipo de cáncer padece Carlos, pero un funcionario del palacio dijo que no era cáncer de próstata. Los médicos habían descubierto el cáncer durante la intervención previa.

4 de marzo de 2024

El incesante interés del público por información sobre el paradero y la recuperación de Kate alcanzó su punto álgido durante la primera semana de marzo. Por esas fechas, TMZ publicó una foto granulada de un paparazzi en la que se veía a Kate en un coche conducido por su madre.

Era la primera vez que se veía a la princesa desde su hospitalización. A pesar de que la fotografía circuló por internet, los periódicos y las cadenas británicas no volvieron a publicarla, alegando la petición de Kate de mantener su privacidad durante su convalecencia, aunque sí informaron sobre el hecho de que había sido vista.

10 de marzo de 2024

Con motivo del Día de la Madre en el Reino Unido, casi dos meses después de su operación abdominal, el palacio de Kensington difundió una fotografía oficial en la que se veía a Kate sonriente rodeada de sus tres hijos, Jorge, Carlota y Luis. El palacio no dio muchos detalles sobre la foto, salvo que fue tomada por Guillermo la semana pasada en Windsor, donde la familia vive en Adelaide Cottage, en los terrenos del castillo de Windsor.

Aunque la foto pretendía destacar a una familia feliz durante las vacaciones y acallar los rumores, se convirtió en objeto de un intenso escrutinio después de que The Associated Press, y varias otras agencias fotográficas, emitieran una “orden de eliminación”, pidiendo a sus clientes que la retiraran de todas las plataformas ante la preocupación de que hubiera sido manipulada. The New York Times, que utilizó inicialmente la foto en un artículo, también la retiró.

11 de marzo de 2024

El lunes, Kate asumió la culpa y se disculpó por el fiasco de la foto del Día de la Madre.

“Como muchos fotógrafos aficionados, de vez en cuando experimento con la edición”, dijo en las redes sociales. “Quería expresar mis disculpas por cualquier confusión que haya causado la fotografía familiar que compartimos ayer”.

La afición de Kate por la fotografía es muy conocida, y a menudo el palacio distribuye sus fotos familiares. Funcionarios del palacio subrayaron que Kate hizo pequeños ajustes en lo que pretendía ser una foto familiar informal tomada por Guillermo.

Derrick Bryson Taylor es reportero de información general. Anteriormente trabajó en PageSix.com de The New York Post y en la revista Essence. Más de Derrick Bryson Taylor

Aparecen en EE. UU. nuevos sitios de noticias falsas vinculados a Rusia

En las últimas semanas han surgido, en medio de la crisis del periodismo estadounidense, una serie de sitios web cuyos nombres sugieren un énfasis en las noticias cercanas: D. C. Weekly, New York News Daily, Chicago Chronicle y, una publicación hermana más reciente, Miami Chronicle.

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En realidad, no son organizaciones de noticias locales. Son creaciones rusas, según investigadores y funcionarios gubernamentales, diseñadas para imitar a las organizaciones de noticias reales con el fin de difundir la propaganda del Kremlin intercalándola en una mezcla a veces extraña de historias sobre delincuencia, política y cultura.

Aunque Rusia lleva mucho tiempo buscando maneras de influir en el discurso público de Estados Unidos, estas recientes organizaciones de noticias falsas —al menos cinco, hasta ahora— representan un salto tecnológico en sus intentos de encontrar nuevas plataformas para embaucar a lectores estadounidenses desprevenidos. Según los investigadores y las autoridades, estos sitios podrían ser los cimientos de una red en línea preparada para difundir desinformación antes de las elecciones presidenciales estadounidenses de noviembre.

Patrick Warren, codirector del Centro Forense de Medios de la Universidad de Clemson que ha revelado las actividades furtivas de desinformación rusa, afirmó que los avances en inteligencia artificial y otras herramientas digitales “han facilitado aún más esta tarea y han hecho que los contenidos sean aún más específicos”.

El sitio web del Miami Chronicle apareció por primera vez el 26 de febrero. Su eslogan afirma falsamente haber ofrecido “las noticias de Florida desde 1937”.

Entre algunas noticias verdaderas, el sitio publicó la semana pasada una nota sobre una “grabación de audio filtrada” de Victoria Nuland, subsecretaria de Estado para asuntos políticos de Estados Unidos, en la que habla de un cambio en el apoyo estadounidense a la asediada oposición rusa tras la muerte del disidente ruso Alexéi Navalny. La grabación es una burda falsificación, según funcionarios de gobierno que solo aceptaron hablar de manera anónima para poder comentar temas de inteligencia.

La campaña, según expertos y funcionarios, parece implicar a restos del imperio mediático controlado en su momento por Yevgeny Prigozhin, un antiguo socio del presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, cuya fábrica de troles, la Agencia de Investigación de Internet, interfirió en las elecciones presidenciales de 2016 entre Donald Trump y Hillary Clinton.

Prigozhin murió en un accidente aéreo a las afueras de Moscú en agosto tras liderar un breve levantamiento militar contra el ejército ruso, pero la continuidad de sus operaciones subraya la importancia que el Kremlin otorga a sus batallas informativas en todo el mundo. No está claro quién ha tomado el timón de esa operación.

“Putin sería un completo idiota si dejara que la red se desmoronara”, señaló Darren Linvill, socio de Warren en la Universidad de Clemson. “Necesita la red Prigozhin más que nunca”.

Los investigadores de Clemson revelaron las conexiones rusas detrás del sitio web D. C. Weekly en un informe en diciembre. Tras su revelación, empezaron a aparecer narrativas rusas en otro sitio que se había creado en octubre, Clear Story News. Desde entonces, han aparecido nuevos medios.

Los sitios web del Chicago Chronicle y del New York News Daily, cuyo nombre evoca claramente al famoso tabloide de la ciudad Daily News, se crearon el 18 de enero, según la Corporación de Internet para la Asignación de Nombres y Números, que supervisa los dominios.

Todos los medios utilizan el mismo software de WordPress para crear sus sitios y, por lo tanto, tienen diseños similares.

Los logotipos y nombres de los medios evocan una época pasada del periodismo estadounidense, en un intento por crear una apariencia de autenticidad. Un periódico real llamado The Chicago Chronicle funcionó de 1895 a 1907, antes de desaparecer por una razón muy familiar para los periódicos de la actualidad: no fue rentable.

Además, se actualizan periódicamente con las principales noticias de última hora, creando a primera vista la impresión de actualidad. Un artículo sobre la decisión de la Corte Suprema acerca de la elegibilidad de Trump para permanecer en la papeleta de las primarias en Colorado apareció en el sitio del Miami Chronicle pocas horas después de la decisión.

En otros aspectos, los sitios web están mal construidos, incluso incompletos en algunas secciones. Por ejemplo, la sección “Acerca de” del Miami Chronicle está llena de “Lorem ipsum”, el texto en latín que se utiliza como relleno estándar. Algunas imágenes del sitio tienen nombres de archivo del ruso original. (Ninguno de los sitios publica información de contacto que funcione).

El objetivo no es engañar a un lector perspicaz para que profundice en el sitio web y mucho menos que se suscriba, explicó Linvill. El objetivo es dar un aura de credibilidad a las publicaciones en las redes sociales que difunden la desinformación.

La labor sigue un patrón que el Kremlin ha utilizado antes: blanquear afirmaciones que aparecen primero en línea a través de organizaciones de noticias menores. Esas informaciones se difunden de nuevo en internet y aparecen en otras organizaciones de noticias, incluidas las agencias de noticias estatales y las cadenas de televisión rusas.

“La página solo está ahí con el fin de parecer lo suficientemente realista como para engañar a un lector ocasional haciéndole creer que está leyendo un artículo genuino, de marca estadounidense”, aseguró Linvill.

Según el estudio de Clemson, D. C. Weekly publicó varias narrativas del Kremlin a partir de agosto. Una de ellas incluía la falsa afirmación de que la esposa del presidente de Ucrania, Volodímir Zelenski, había comprado joyas con un valor de más de 1,1 millones de dólares en la tienda Cartier de Nueva York durante su visita a las Naciones Unidas en septiembre.

El sitio afirma contar con una plantilla de 17 periodistas, pero parecen ser personajes inventados. La biografía de la autora de esa nota, llamada Jessica Devlin, utilizó como imagen de perfil una fotografía de Judy Batalion, autora de un libro exitoso sobre mujeres judías que lucharon contra los nazis. Batalion dijo que nunca había oído hablar del sitio ni de la autora hasta que los verificadores de hechos se pusieron en contacto con ella.

Otros artículos que aparecen en los sitios parecen haber sido tomados de organizaciones de noticias reales, como Reuters y Fox News, o de agencias de noticias en inglés de medios de comunicación estatales rusos, como RT. Algunas historias han incluido por descuido instrucciones o respuestas de uno de los chatbots de OpenAI, según escribieron Linvill y Warren en el estudio.

Los artículos suelen recibir cientos de publicaciones en diversas plataformas, como X, antes conocida como Twitter; Facebook, y Telegram, así como Reddit, Gab y Truth Social, aunque es difícil medir el alcance exacto. En conjunto, en teoría podrían llegar a miles de lectores, incluso millones.

“Esto es sin duda un preludio del tipo de interferencia que veremos en el ciclo electoral”, concluyó Linvill. “Es barato, muy selectivo y obviamente eficaz”.

Jeanne Noonan DelMundo colaboró con este reportaje.

Steven Lee Myers cubre temas de desinformación para The New York Times. Ha trabajado en Washington, Moscú, Bagdad y Pekín, donde contribuyó a los artículos que ganaron el Premio Pulitzer por servicio público en 2021. También es autor de The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. Más de Steven Lee Myers

La ciudad natal de Gabriel García Márquez espera su último libro y más visitantes

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

Estatuas y murales llevan su imagen. Escuelas y bibliotecas tienen su nombre. Hoteles, barberías, clubes nocturnos y tiendas de reparación de bicicletas hacen referencias a su obra.

En la sofocante ciudad montañosa de Aracataca, en Colombia, es imposible caminar por una sola calle sin ver alusiones al más renombrado de sus viejos residentes: Gabriel García Márquez, el ganador del Premio Nobel de Literatura de 1982.

Por toda la ciudad se ven mariposas amarillas, un guiño a una de sus famosas imágenes literarias. La casa donde vivió de niño se ha convertido en un museo lleno de sus muebles originales, incluida la cuna donde dormía.

La biblioteca, llamada Biblioteca Pública Municipal Remedios La Bella, en honor al personaje Remedios, la bella, de su novela Cien años de soledad, tiene una vitrina que exhibe sus libros traducidos a varios idiomas.

Aracataca, que antes era una ciudad remota y pequeña de 40.000 habitantes asolada por el desempleo y la falta de servicios básicos, se ha transformado por su conexión con García Márquez, el autor más famoso de Colombia y uno de los titanes literarios del mundo.

Hace diez años, la ciudad no tenía mucho que ofrecer a los turistas y hacía poco por promocionar su conexión con el autor, más allá de un museo y una sala de billar que se denominaba a sí mismo como Billar Macondo, por el nombre de la ciudad ficticia de Cien años de soledad.

Pero desde la muerte de García Márquez, en 2014, ha aumentado el interés por él y por su ciudad natal, la cual inspiró algunas de sus obras más conocidas.

Muchos se refieren al escritor por su apodo, Gabo, y la ciudad se ha convertido en una especie de Gabolandia.

Si caminas por cualquier calle, encontrarás referencias evidentes al autor: carteles con su nombre, murales, estatuas, señales de tránsito y un montón de puestos que venden distintos productos, desde gorras de béisbol hasta tazas de café con la imagen de García Márquez.

Con la reciente publicación de su libro póstumo, En agosto nos vemos, los funcionarios y residentes de Aracataca tienen grandes esperanzas de que la nueva publicidad atraiga aún más turistas.

“Sí, se han visto cambios en todos los aspectos”, dijo Carlos Ruiz, director de un museo en el que el padre de García Márquez trabajó como operador de telégrafos. Él ha estado trabajando junto con el gobierno regional para impulsar el turismo literario en la ciudad.

“A través de Gabo lo que queremos es que Aracataca se fortalezca”, dijo Ruiz, y añadió que el año pasado la visitaron 22.000 turistas, frente a los 17.500 de 2019.

La ciudad celebra el cumpleaños de García Márquez todos los 6 de marzo, pero las festividades de este año fueron mayores, con más participantes y más actividades.

La celebración incluyó un concurso de relatos cortos y poesía y un espectáculo de danza a cargo de un grupo de niñas vestidas de mariposas amarillas. Una bibliotecaria se disfrazó de García Márquez para leer a los niños fragmentos de Cien años de soledad. Por la noche, un grupo de teatro representó El amor en los tiempos del cólera.

García Márquez no quería que se publicara su último libro, cuyos méritos literarios ya se están debatiendo. Pero, en su ciudad natal, la publicación ha generado un gran entusiasmo.

“Hay una expectativa grande, sobre todo porque en esta obra es una mujer la protagonista”, dijo Claudia Aarón, una maestra de escuela de 50 años.

“Qué bueno que la podamos disfrutar”, añadió, “que el gran nobel, nuestro maestro, todavía nos deja disfrutar su obra hasta después de fallecido”.

Aarón, quien iba vestida de amarillo chillón como muchos de los asistentes al concurso de poesía, recordó la última vez que el escritor vino a Aracataca, en 2007, y recorrió la ciudad en un carruaje de caballos.

“Eso fue apoteósico”, dijo. “Él con la esposa iban saludando como reina de pueblo y la gente se agolpaba”.

“Tantas cosas nos ayudan y nos motivan a seguir viviendo aquí, a luchar por esta cultura”, dijo Rocío Valle, de 52 años, otra maestra que asistió al concurso de poesía. “Gracias a Dios y gracias a Gabo”.

García Márquez nació en Aracataca en 1927 y fue criado por sus abuelos maternos hasta los ocho años, antes de mudarse a Sucre a vivir con sus padres.

Aunque su estancia en Aracataca fue relativamente breve, la ciudad se convirtió en la inspiración para la ciudad ficticia de Macondo. (En 2006 se realizó un referéndum para cambiar el nombre de Aracataca por el de Macondo, pero finalmente fracasó).

En sus memorias Vivir para contarla, el novelista recordaba que cuando regresó a Aracataca de joven “la reverberación del calor era tan intensa que todo se veía como a través de un vidrio ondulante”.

Hoy en día, en Aracataca, las obras de García Márquez se enseñan desde el preescolar, y se pide a los niños que hagan dibujos basados en sus cuentos, los cuales se leen en voz alta, dijo Aarón.

El miércoles, un grupo de adolescentes reunidos frente a una tienda dijeron que el legado del Premio Nobel de García Márquez los había inspirado a ser creativos e imaginativos en clase. También debatieron sobre cuál de sus obras era su favorita: La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y de su abuela desalmada o Relato de un náufrago.

Alejandra Mantilla, de 16 años, dijo que se sentía orgullosa de ver a turistas de lugares tan lejanos como Europa y China visitar la ciudad, sobre todo porque Colombia sigue luchando por superar su reputación relacionada a las drogas y la violencia.

“Colombia es, de pronto, uno de los países que está como muy alejado por todo lo del narcotráfico y todo eso”, dijo. “Entonces, qué bueno que le dé una buena imagen al país”.

Iñaki Otaoño, de 63 años, y su esposa, que viven en España, se aseguraron de visitar Aracataca durante su viaje de un mes por Colombia. Otaoño dijo que ha leído todas las obras de García Márquez.

“Somos un poco monomaníacos de este señor”, dijo. “Había que conocer el sitio de lo que sale en el libro”.

También mencionó que pensaban comprar su nuevo libro cuando llegaran a Bogotá.

“Pues mejor comprarlo aquí en su país, ¿no?”, dijo.

El gobierno regional ha estado trabajando para reactivar un ferrocarril que pasa por Aracataca, que actualmente funciona solo para movilizar carbón, para transportar pasajeros como parte de una “ruta Macondo”. Además, se está construyendo un gran hotel con piscina y panadería.

El aumento del turismo ha proporcionado más oportunidades económicas.

Cuando Jahir Beltrán, de 39 años, perdió su empleo como minero del carbón, trabajó brevemente en construcción y agricultura, hasta que un amigo le sugirió trabajar como guía turístico.

Entonces empezó a estudiar la obra de García Márquez y contrató a un sastre que le hizo un uniforme para poder disfrazarse del coronel Aureliano Buendía, uno de los personajes más importantes de Cien años de soledad.

“Todo esos conocimientos, tanto del escritor como de la vieja Aracataca, me han servido para transmitírselo a los turistas”, dijo Beltrán, quien ahora trabaja a tiempo completo como guía turístico independiente.

Fernando Vizcaíno, banquero jubilado de 70 años, tuvo la idea de convertir su casa en un hostal hace unos seis años, cuando vio que empezaban a llegar un mayor número de visitantes. Lo bautizó como Casa Turística Realismo Mágico, y él y su esposa la decoraron con colores brillantes y muchas referencias a García Márquez.

Vizcaíno dijo que su padre era amigo de la familia del autor y llevaba y traía las cartas que los padres de García Márquez se escribían cuando eran jóvenes y perseguían un amor prohibido. Ese noviazgo inspiró El amor en los tiempos del cólera.

“Aquí en Aracataca es una persona que está viva todavía”, dijo.