The New York Times 2024-03-26 10:11:09


U.N. Security Council Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire in Gaza as U.S. Abstains

The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip during the remaining weeks of Ramadan, breaking a five-month impasse during which the United States vetoed three calls for a halt to the fighting.

The resolution passed with 14 votes in favor and the United States abstaining, which U.S. officials said they did in part because the resolution did not condemn Hamas. In addition to a cease-fire, the resolution also called for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and the lifting of “all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel immediately criticized the United States for allowing the resolution to pass, and ordered a delegation scheduled to go to Washington to hold high-level talks with U.S. officials to remain in Israel instead. President Biden had requested those meetings to discuss alternatives to a planned Israeli offensive into Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where more than a million people have sought refuge. American officials have said such an operation would create a humanitarian disaster.

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Ukrainians Dismiss Kremlin Suggestions Their Country Was Behind Moscow Attack

Ukrainians have reacted with a mixture of concern and mockery to the narrative pushed by the Kremlin and Russian state media that Ukraine was behind the terrorist attack Friday on a Moscow concert hall, a claim made despite the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility.

For some Ukrainians — officials and citizens alike — the accusations were typical of a Kremlin playbook, blaming Ukraine to justify Moscow’s violence against their country. That includes the false claim that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia used to begin the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, stating that the country was run by neo-Nazi leaders and that the aim of the war was to denazify the country.

“It’s typical for Russia,” Iryna Blakyta, 24, a resident of Kyiv, said on Monday, adding that she expected Mr. Putin to use the attack on the concert hall to rally Russians after more than two years of war. “He needs to mobilize people,” Ms. Blakyta said; “he needs to show who the enemy is.”

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Young Opposition Candidate Set to Become Senegal’s President

With the concession of his main rival, a young political outsider backed by a powerful opposition figure has won a surprise outright victory in Senegal’s presidential election only 10 days after being released from jail.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye is the anointed candidate of Senegal’s popular and controversial opposition politician Ousmane Sonko. Mr. Faye’s main rival, the governing party candidate Amadou Ba, conceded in a statement congratulating his rival on Monday for winning in the first round.

Mr. Faye, who celebrated his 44th birthday on Monday, will become the West African country’s youngest ever president, and the youngest elected president currently serving in Africa. (There are younger leaders, but they came to power by force.) He had been jailed on charges of defamation and contempt of court, and was awaiting trial.

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Israeli Soldier’s Video Undercuts Medic’s Account of Sexual Assault

New video has surfaced that undercuts the account of an Israeli military paramedic who said two teenagers killed in the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Oct. 7 were sexually assaulted.

The unnamed paramedic, from an Israeli commando unit, was among dozens of people interviewed for a Dec. 28 article by The New York Times that examined sexual violence on Oct. 7. He said he discovered the bodies of two partially clothed teenage girls in a home in Kibbutz Be’eri that bore signs of sexual violence.

The Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post reported similar accounts from a military paramedic who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Middle East Crisis: U.N. Security Council Passes Resolution for Immediate Cease-Fire

The United States, after vetoing earlier resolutions, abstained.

The United Nations Security Council on Monday passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, breaking a five-month impasse during which the United States vetoed several calls for ending the war, while the humanitarian toll of Israel’s military offensive climbed higher.

The resolution passed with 14 votes in favor. The United States abstained, allowing the resolution to pass. The chamber broke into applause after the vote.

“Finally, finally, the Security Council is shouldering its responsibility,” said Algeria’s ambassador to the U.N., Amar Bendjama, the only Arab member of the Council. “It is finally responding to the calls of the international community.”

Israel immediately criticized the United States for allowing the resolution to pass. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel’s office called the move “a retreat from the consistent American position since the beginning of the war,” and said the U.S. abstention “harms the war effort as well as the effort to liberate the hostages.”

In response, Mr. Netanyahu said he would not send an Israeli delegation to Washington to hold high-level talks with U.S. officials on a planned operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah — a public rebuke to President Biden, who had asked for the meetings.

A State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, called that decision “a bit surprising and unfortunate.”

The United States did not vote for the resolution because it did not condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on Israel and because of other concerns about the wording, he said at a briefing in Washington. But other aspects of the resolution “were consistent with our long-term position — most importantly, that there should be a cease-fire and that there should be a release of hostages, which is what we understood also to be the government of Israel’s position.”

The breakthrough resolution, which was put forth by the 10 nonpermanent members of the Council, was being negotiated intensely until the last minute. The United States asked for a change in the text that replaced “permanent cease-fire” in the war between Israel and Hamas with “lasting cease-fire,” according to diplomats, and it wanted language calling for both sides to create conditions allowing a halt in fighting to be sustained.

It calls for a cease-fire for the rest of the holy month of Ramadan, which has two weeks remaining.

While Security Council resolutions are considered international law and carry significant political and legal weight, the Council does not have the means to enforce them. The Council can take punitive measures such as sanctions against violators, but even that could run into obstacles if a veto-holding member opposes the measure. Israel is currently in violation of a 2016 resolution that demands it stop expanding settlements in the West Bank.

Over the years, the United States has vetoed dozens of Security Council resolutions critical of Israel; it has rarely abstained, and when it does, analysts say, it marks a clear signal of Washington’s displeasure with Israeli action or policy.

In 2009, in the final days of the George W. Bush presidency, the United States abstained on a 2009 cease-fire resolution on a previous war in Gaza. Under President Barack Obama, it abstained on the 2016 resolution on West Bank settlements. And it abstained again on a resolution three months ago on humanitarian aid for Gaza.

“The crucial variable is that the Biden administration is obviously not happy with Israel’s military posture now, and allowing this resolution to pass was one relatively soft way to signal its concern,” said Richard Gowan, an expert on the United Nations at the International Crisis Group. “But the abstention is a not-too-coded hint to Netanyahu to rein in operations, above all over Rafah.”

As images of starving children, carnage and vast destruction of civilian infrastructure from Gaza have circulated, global anger has mounted against Israel, along with pressure on the U.S. to reconsider its staunch support of Israel and use its leverage to end the conflict.

“When such atrocities are being committed in broad daylight against defenseless civilians, including women and children, the right thing to do, the only thing to do morally, legally and politically is to put an end to it,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, to the Council.

The resolution adopted on Monday demands the unconditional and immediate release of all hostages, but it does not make its demands for a cease-fire conditional on hostage release — one of Israel’s stated objections.

Since the start of the war in October, pressure has been building on the Security Council to call for a cease-fire. Its members, particularly the United States, have been criticized sharply for failing to uphold peace and stability in the world.

The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the adopted resolution fell in line with diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar and Egypt to broker a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages held in Gaza. She said the U.S. abstained because it did not agree with everything in the resolution, including its failure to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.

“A cease-fire of any duration must come with the release of hostages — this is the only path,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said.

The U.S. had vetoed three previous resolutions calling for a cease-fire, agreeing with Israel’s position that it had a right to defend itself and that a permanent cease-fire would benefit Hamas. Those vetoes infuriated many diplomats and U.N. officials as the civilian death toll in the war rose inexorably. The U.S. position also created rifts even with some of its staunch European allies, including France.

Russia and China then vetoed two alternative resolutions put forth by the United States, the most recent one last Friday, because, they said, those documents did not clearly demand a cease-fire.

It remained unclear whether Israel or Hamas would heed the resolution’s call for a halt in hostilities.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, accused the Council of being biased against Israel because it had taken no action on helping secure hostages held captive in Gaza. He said all Council members should have voted “against this shameful resolution.”

The resolution passed on Monday also calls for ensuring access to Gaza for humanitarian aid. It also requires both sides to “comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain.”

The Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel killed roughly 1,200 people, according to authorities there; about 250 were taken hostage, about half of whom have been released.

In Gaza, more than 32,000 people have been killed by the Israeli bombardment and ground offensive, a majority of them women and children, the Gazan Health Ministry says. Israel’s airstrikes have also laid waste to vast areas of Gaza.

The U.S.-backed resolution that failed on Friday also condemned Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and called for U.N. member states to restrict funding to the Palestinian armed group. The new resolution is far more concise. It deplores “all attacks against civilians” and “all acts of terrorism,” specifically singling out the taking of hostages.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

After the U.N. vote, Israel called off meetings with the U.S. about Rafah, as relations grow more tense.

For the increasingly tense U.S.-Israel relationship, the fallout from passage of the U.N. cease-fire resolution was immediate, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he would not send a planned high-level delegation to Washington for meetings with U.S. officials.

President Biden had requested the meetings to discuss alternatives to a planned Israeli offensive into Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million people have sought refuge, an offensive that American officials have said would create an humanitarian disaster.

The United States had vetoed three previous U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for an end to the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, agreeing with Israel’s argument that it would leave Hamas intact and in control of the enclave after it carried out the Oct. 7 assault on Israel.

But on Monday, when the Security Council took up a less strongly worded resolution, calling for a cease-fire for the holy month of Ramadan, the U.S. representative abstained, allowing the measure to pass.

Mr. Netanyahu, in a statement, denounced the abstention as “a retreat from the consistent American position since the beginning of the war,” one which “gives Hamas hope that international pressure will enable them to achieve a cease-fire without freeing the hostages.”

In response, he said, the Israeli delegation that was to discuss Rafah would not go to Washington. The practical impact of his decision may be limited — Mr. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that although he would hear out the White House position, the offensive would proceed — but it is still a sharp, public rebuke of Israel’s closest and most powerful ally.

Briefing reporters at the White House, John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, insisted there had been no change in the American position, and said that the United States had abstained, rather than vote for the U.N. measure, chiefly because “this resolution text did not include a condemnation of Hamas.”

“The prime minister’s office seems to be indicating through public statements that we somehow changed here,” Mr. Kirby said. “We haven’t.”

As for the canceled Israeli delegation, he added: “We were looking forward to having an opportunity to speak to a delegation later this week on exploring viable options and alternatives to a major ground offensive in Rafah.”

“We felt we had valuable lessons to share,” Mr. Kirby said.

He noted that Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, was in Washington and was still meeting with President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Monday, and would be meeting with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.

Mr. Gallant, before meeting with Mr. Sullivan, gave no sign Israel would agree to a cease-fire. “We will operate against Hamas everywhere — including in places where we have not yet been,” he said. He added, “We have no moral right to stop the war while there are still hostages held in Gaza.”

Mr. Gallant and Mr. Austin will discuss Israel’s planning for Rafah when they meet on Tuesday, said Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, and Israel’s request for more American weapons. He reiterated the administration’s position that before going into Rafah, Israel must have a detailed plan to protect, shelter and feed the civilians there.

“A ground invasion, especially without any type of credible plan, is a mistake given the large number of people, displaced people, that are there at the moment,” General Ryder told reporters.

The U.N. resolution and the American role in it drew angry responses from far-right elements of Israel’s government. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, called the move “proof that President Biden is not prioritizing Israel and the free world’s victory over terrorism, but rather his own political considerations.” The resolution, he said in a statement, should prompt Israel to intensify rather than moderate its military campaign.

Israel has faced intense international criticism over its conduct of the war in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack — a bombing campaign and ground invasion that have killed some 30,000 people, displaced most of Gaza’s population and reduced much of the territory to ruins.

President Biden and other U.S. officials have become increasingly, openly critical of the war effort, saying that Israel should do more to avoid civilian casualties and allow more aid into Gaza — an unusually stark breach between the two nations.

Hamas is holding more than 100 hostages seized during the Oct. 7 attack, and negotiations have been underway for the release of hostages in return for Israel freeing Palestinian inmates in its prisons. The U.N. resolution calls for the immediate release of hostages.

Hamas welcomed the U.N. Security Council resolution in a statement on Telegram, adding that the Palestinian armed group was willing “to immediately engage on a prisoner exchange process that would lead to the release of prisoners on both sides.”

“Hamas calls upon the Security Council to pressure Israel to comply with a cease-fire and end the war, the genocide and ethnic cleansing against our people,” the group said.

Eric Schmitt, David E. Sanger and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

Trump urges Israel to ‘finish up your war.’

Former President Donald J. Trump, in an interview with a conservative Israeli news outlet that was published on Monday, exhorted Israel “to finish up your war,” mixing bellicose support for the government of Israel with harsh warnings that the Jewish state was losing international support by providing “a very bad picture for the world.”

But while Mr. Trump had typically harsh words for President Biden — he called Mr. Biden “dumb” — he offered no prescriptions for what the United States should do, or for what he would do, if elected, to bring the war in Gaza to an end or to advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The interview with Israel Hayom, a publication started by the conservative American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, was released on the same day that the Biden administration allowed the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza.

It also came as former members of Mr. Trump’s administration have become more outspoken on policies that diverge sharply from President Biden’s. Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a former senior White House adviser who led the Trump administration’s diplomatic efforts in the Middle East, took heat last week for calling the war in Gaza “a little bit of an unfortunate situation,” then adding, “but from Israel’s perspective I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up.”

And David M. Friedman, who was ambassador to Israel during Trump’s administration, critiqued Vice President Kamala Harris on social media over the weekend for saying as many as 1.5 million Palestinians crowded into the southern Gaza city of Rafah had nowhere to go if Israel attacks. Mr. Friedman suggested that Gaza’s Palestinians could always emigrate.

“She ‘studied the maps’ and concluded that the people in Rafah have no place to go,” Mr. Friedman wrote. “It must have been an awfully small map — obviously left out Egypt and other Arab countries.”

Mr. Trump did not embrace the rhetoric of expulsion, but he told the Israeli interviewers that he planned to meet with Mr. Friedman to listen to his pitch that the United States recognize Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

Mr. Trump’s main thrust, however, was a more mixed prescription for the Israeli right: Israel should finish the war in Gaza — “You have to get it done,” he said — and then move on quickly to “peace,” in some form, because “Israel is in trouble.”

“Israel has to be very careful, because you’re losing a lot of the world, you’re losing a lot of support,” Mr. Trump warned. “You have to finish up, you have to get the job done. And you have to get on to peace, to get on to a normal life for Israel, and for everybody else.”

The former president also delivered what appeared to be a critique of Israel’s propaganda efforts.

Asked how he would counter a rise in antisemitism during the Gaza War, he answered, “I think Israel made a very big mistake.” He continued, “These photos and shots, I mean, moving shots of bombs being dropped into buildings in Gaza. And I said, ‘oh, that’s a terrible portrait. It’s a very bad picture for the world.’”

Mr. Trump appeared to fault Israeli military officials for releasing such images of destruction. “Every night, I would watch buildings pour down on people,” he told Israel Hayom.

“It would say it was given by the Defense Ministry,” he said, adding: “I think Israel wanted to show that it’s tough, but sometimes you shouldn’t be doing that.”

Israel’s defense minister meets with senior U.S. officials in Washington.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, met with senior U.S. officials in Washington on Monday to discuss efforts to release Israeli hostages and the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, as ties between Israel and the Biden administration have frayed over the high civilian death toll in the enclave.

Mr. Gallant said his visit was focused on preserving Israel’s military edge in Gaza, especially in the air. The United States provides Israel with billions of dollars annually in military assistance and also sends weapons.

He held discussions on Monday with Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, at the White House, as well as with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. On Tuesday, he is expected to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, who was in Doha, Qatar, last week to participate in the continuing cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas.

President Biden has voiced “deep concerns” over Israeli plans for a ground invasion of Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip where over one million Palestinians have taken shelter, and other top U.S. officials have urged Israel to seek an alternative.

Israeli leaders have said that even if a deal on a temporary cease-fire is reached, they intend to eventually proceed with a military offensive in Rafah to root out Hamas’s remaining forces there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said that civilians would be evacuated from combat zones in the event of an Israeli operation there. But Palestinians who have followed previous Israeli orders to flee have often found themselves in places that were engulfed in fighting or subject to airstrikes.

In a statement, Mr. Gallant said his meeting with Mr. Sullivan lasted 90 minutes and that their discussions, along with the efforts related to the hostages, addressed the measures needed to destroy Hamas.

“The outcomes of this war will impact the region for decades to come, and will signal the common enemies of both countries,” Mr. Gallant said.

Mr. Blinken, in his meeting with Mr. Gallant, stressed both U.S. support for “ensuring the defeat of Hamas, including in Rafah,” and also U.S. opposition to a major ground operation in Rafah, citing the danger to the vast numbers of Palestinian civilians sheltering there, according to a statement issued by a State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller.

Mr. Blinken “underscored that alternatives exist to a major ground invasion that would both better ensure Israel’s security and protect Palestinian civilians,” the statement said, noting that Mr. Blinken had also pressed for Israel to “immediately surge and sustain additional humanitarian assistance” for Gaza’s civilians.

The meeting on Tuesday with Mr. Austin was similarly expected to focus on Israel’s military planning for its Rafah operation, facilitating more aid into Gaza, and efforts to release the remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas, according to Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

In recent weeks, international mediators have redoubled efforts to reach a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. Qatar, a key mediator, has voiced cautious optimism but on Monday, Hamas said that Israel’s latest proposal did not meet its demands.

The Palestinian armed group said it continued to demand a comprehensive cease-fire, the return of displaced people to their homes, an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and “a true prisoner exchange.”

“Netanyahu and his extremist government are completely responsible for causing all of the negotiating efforts to fail,” the group said on Telegram.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, said last week that the group had moderated its demands somewhat, consenting to a phased Israeli withdrawal rather than an immediate one. He also said that Hamas was discussing the possibility of releasing some hostages before the declaration of a permanent cease-fire.

The biggest sticking point in the cease-fire talks in recent days has been the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released, in particular those serving extended sentences for violence against Israelis, according to two U.S. officials and an Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

During the talks in Doha last week, the U.S. delegation — led by Mr. Burns — proposed a compromise to try to bridge the gap between Israel and Hamas, according to the Israeli official and another person familiar with the negotiations. Israel has accepted the U.S. compromise, both people said. However, Hamas’s statement on Monday signaled that, for now, any breakthrough in cease-fire talks remained distant.

The slow pace of the talks and the continued fighting in the strip are causing many in Gaza to lose hope. Mohammad Iqtifan, a 36-year-old taxi driver from Gaza City who has been sheltering in Rafah with his wife and three children, said that with their savings dwindling, he was desperate to leave the enclave.

“They have put us in a cage of death,” Mr. Iqtifan said, referring to Israel’s military operations and the mounting civilian toll.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Israeli forces surround a hospital in Gaza and continue their raid on another.

The Israeli military said on Monday that its forces had surrounded a hospital in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza while pressing on with their raid on Al-Shifa Hospital in the north for an eighth day.

The Palestine Red Crescent said Israeli forces had forced patients and medical staff to evacuate Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis on Sunday amid heavy fighting and gunfire. It added in a statement on Monday that Israeli forces had bulldozed streets around the hospital and put up earthen barriers at its entrances.

The Red Crescent, which runs Al-Amal, said two people there had been killed, including one of the organization’s own staff, and three others had been wounded when Israeli forces opened fire as they were being evacuated. It added that the Israeli military had used drones with loudspeakers to issue a demand “that all those present in Al-Amal Hospital leave naked, as they forced them to leave by shooting directly at the displaced people and workers.”

Neither the Red Crescent’s account nor the Israeli military’s statements about its actions at the hospitals could be independently verified.

Little is known about the situation at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, which is about a mile from Al-Amal and which the Red Crescent said had also been besieged by the Israeli military. Dr. Mohammad Zaqut, a spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said on Monday that the hospital was surrounded and coming under fire from Israeli troops.

Israel has long accused Hamas, the armed group that led an attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7, of using hospitals in Gaza for military purposes, a claim that Hamas and hospital administrators have denied. The Israeli military has provided evidence that Hamas had constructed a lengthy tunnel under Al-Shifa.

A later analysis by The New York Times found that Hamas had used the Shifa complex for military purposes. The Israeli military, however, has struggled to prove its claim that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under it.

The Israeli military said in a statement on Monday that its forces were continuing “precise targeted raids on terror infrastructure” at Al-Amal “after encircling the area.” It added that it had killed more than 20 people it referred to as terrorists in the area. It did not mention an operation at Nasser.

The military also said that it was continuing its raid at Al-Shifa in Gaza City, the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital, where its forces had detained around 500 people and found weapons.

Israel’s assault on Al-Shifa, one of Israel’s longest hospital raids of the war in Gaza, began last Monday. The military said it was aimed at senior officials of Hamas, whose assault prompted the start of the war in Gaza.

Residents near Al-Shifa have described a relentless daily soundtrack of gunshots, airstrikes and explosions in the area. Witnesses have reported interrogations and detentions of Palestinian men by Israeli forces at the hospital, and a persistent lack of food and water.

Hamas said in a statement on Monday that Israel was “expanding its fascist war against the health sector and hospitals in the Gaza Strip.” Its assaults “confirm the occupation’s insistence on continuing the war of extermination against our people,” it said.

UNRWA claims Israel has banned it from bringing aid to northern Gaza.

The U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians said that Israeli authorities will no longer allow it to run convoys of food to northern Gaza, the center of the enclave’s humanitarian crisis. Israel’s military on Monday rejected the agency’s claim and said it has not impeded aid.

Any ban on aid convoys sent by the agency, known as UNRWA, to northern Gaza could worsen the situation for the hundreds of thousands of people there who lack access to food, clean water and medicine. António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, over the weekend called conditions in Gaza a “moral outrage.”

On Monday, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, called the Israeli decision “outrageous.” Speaking on social media, he accused the Israeli authorities of intentionally obstructing “lifesaving assistance during a man made famine.”

Juliette Touma, the agency’s spokeswoman, said Israel’s military has repeatedly denied in recent weeks UNRWA requests to run convoys to the north and did so again on Thursday and Friday. She said that the military, while meeting Sunday with the agency’s Gaza field assistance team, told UNRWA that it would decline all future authorization. She said the military had not offered a reason.

A spokesman for the Israeli military, Maj. Nir Dinar, said on Monday that Israel “does not block anyone from delivering aid,” but he declined to answer further questions.

It was not immediately possible to square the contradictory accounts, but they appeared to reflect a dispute over not only responsibility for the crisis, but the status of UNRWA itself.

In January, the Israeli government accused at least 12 of the agency’s employees of participating in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed about 1,200 people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel then called for the agency to be closed. UNRWA suspended the staff members and opened an investigation, but some of its biggest donors have since suspended funding.

While UNRWA has for decades provided food to Gaza’s more than two million residents, and has organized schools, hospitals and other services, its deliveries of aid to northern Gaza have slowed to a trickle in recent months.

UNRWA last delivered aid to northern Gaza at the end of January, Ms. Touma said. Several times in recent months, she said, convoys have been hit by gunfire, including once, in February, by the Israeli navy, when more than 100 people were killed amid Israeli fire, Gazan health authorities said. The Israeli military has said that most of the people died in a stampede and that some were run over by the trucks.

Israeli airstrikes have devastated northern Gaza, and even before starting a ground invasion of the territory in late October, Israel’s military told civilians there to flee south. But many people remained, and some who evacuated to the south have returned.

In addition, the invasion has effectively toppled much of Hamas’s governing structure in the north, leaving chaos and lawlessness. The overwhelming majority of aid trucks in Gaza have entered from the south, with only a few permitted to continue on to the north.

The United States, Jordan, France and other governments have dropped aid by air, and the aid group World Central Kitchen towed a barge carrying aid to the area from Cyprus.

Aid groups say, however, that the most efficient means of delivering aid to the territory is by truck. The number of trucks carrying food and other aid going into the territory has fallen since Oct. 7 by around 75 percent, according to U.N. data, in part because of stringent Israeli checks on the cargo.

The Israeli authorities, however, blame the United Nations for the crisis, and say that its officials can process more aid than the U.N. is able to distribute.

Adam Sella contributed reporting

Here’s how a disaster relief group built a jetty to get aid into Gaza.

Just a few hours before sunset in mid-March, World Central Kitchen workers scrambled to put the final touches on a makeshift jetty built out of rubble, as the ship carrying the first aid to reach the Gaza Strip by sea in nearly two decades backed toward the shore.

The crew from World Central Kitchen, the disaster relief nonprofit, still had to cover the jetty’s sharp edges and poking rebar, reminders that the rubble used to build the structure in northern Gaza had come from bombed buildings. Using square pieces of debris, they created a vertical concrete wall to meet the ship.

“Running any sort of construction project in Gaza at this current time has got a ridiculous amount of challenges,” said Sam Bloch, the director of emergency response for World Central Kitchen, which was founded by the renowned Spanish chef José Andrés. Mr. Bloch, who oversaw the building of the jetty and the arrival of the shipment, described the scene by phone from Oakland, Calif., after leaving Gaza.

The arrival of the ship, which had sailed from Cyprus after the aid was inspected there, was a milestone in a venture that Western officials hope will play a part in easing the enclave’s food deprivation. The operation has been described as a pilot project for the broader opening of a maritime corridor to supply the territory.

Once the food was unloaded, it was distributed in Gaza by truck — including in the north, where experts say famine is imminent. International aid agencies have largely stopped operations in the area, citing Israeli restrictions, security issues and poor road conditions.

At least two attempts to deliver food aid to desperate Palestinians in northern Gaza have ended in bloodshed in recent weeks, with Palestinian and Israeli officials blaming each other for the deadly scenes.

The Israeli military helped World Central Kitchen’s operation, providing security and coordination, according to an Israeli official who requested anonymity to speak about a sensitive matter. Every step was carried out with permission from the Israeli military, Mr. Bloch said.

“It was a lot of stop and go,” he said, and progress “was definitely not consistent or predictable.”

The construction of the World Central Kitchen jetty took six days, with the job site sometimes running around the clock as the jetty slowly extended into the sea, one rubble-filled truck at a time. “Using rubble was a big challenge,” Mr. Bloch said, “but it is the only resource that is plentiful enough in Gaza at the moment.”

The rubble was brought mostly from southern Gaza, but also from around the work site. The head contractor, who had lost two of his homes to bombings about one mile away from the jetty, went with his dump trucks and heavy machinery to collect what remained of his destroyed homes, Mr. Bloch said.

Most of the construction equipment, including front-end loaders, dump trucks, flatbed trucks, cranes and a fuel truck, came from southern Gaza, Mr. Bloch said. But one piece of equipment, a movable light tower that allowed construction to continue through the night, had to be retrieved from a bombed-out warehouse in the north.

In coordination with the Israeli military, a small convoy, accompanied by heavy machinery to clear the roads, was sent to a warehouse in Gaza City, where local contractors had identified what they believed was the only light tower left in Gaza, Mr. Bloch said.

To unload the ship, which contained just under half a million meals, a large crane at the end of the jetty transferred food pallets onto eighteen-wheeler trucks that had been carefully backed down the jetty.

By the time the shipment was unloaded, it was nearing midnight. World Central Kitchen decided to send the trucks to a warehouse in Deir al Balah, a few miles south of the jetty, and distribute the aid during daylight.

A few days later, the trucks moved up Salah al-Din road, the main artery through central Gaza, to the southern edge of Gaza City, where hungry families collected food directly off the trucks. Nobody was hurt during the distribution, according to Mr. Bloch.

In the future, World Central Kitchen hopes to speed up the process by sending food directly from the jetty to communities in northern Gaza, Mr. Bloch said. The organization is also working to develop community kitchens that will serve as distribution points.

Building community kitchens is the bread and butter of World Central Kitchen. The group already has 68 in southern Gaza that provide most of the hot meals to civilians there, Mr. Bloch said.

World Central Kitchen has loaded a larger ship in Cyprus that, as of Monday, was still waiting for the right weather conditions before departing for Gaza.

Missing people under Gaza’s rubble make for a shadow death toll.

Gaza has become a 140-square-mile graveyard, each destroyed building another jagged tomb for those still buried within.

The most recent health ministry estimate for the number of people missing in Gaza is about 7,000. But that figure has not been updated since November. Gaza and aid officials say thousands more have most likely been added to that toll in the weeks and months since.

The piles of debris have been multiplying ever since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials. Israel began its retaliatory war, and the number of search-and-rescue operations also soared.

After airstrikes, a small crowd of would-be rescuers gathers. In Instagram videos, the searchers can be seen clambering over and onto the dusty wreckage of homes and buildings to dig.

But hopes dwindle quickly. The people they are looking for are usually found dead beneath the wreckage — days, weeks or even months later.

The buried make up a shadow death toll in Gaza, a leaden asterisk to the health ministry’s official tally of more than 31,000 dead, and an open wound for families who hope against hope for a miracle.

Most families have accepted that their missing are dead, and it is unclear how much of the estimate of those unaccounted for is already reflected in the official death toll. The continuing shelling, crossfire and airstrikes often make it too dangerous to sift through the wreckage for the bodies. Other times, relatives are too far away to do so, having separated from the rest of their families in the search for somewhere safer to go.

Photographs that have emerged of Gaza’s rubble heaps testify to families’ intention to recover the dead someday: “Omar Al Riyati and Osama Badawi are under the rubble,” reads the spray paint on a tarp draped across the door of one blown-out building.

When a multistory building collapses, it is impossible to comb the hill of debris without heavy machines or fuel to power them. Often, neither is available.

Gaza has been under a debilitating blockade jointly enforced by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took control of the strip in 2007, and the types of equipment typically used to rescue people after earthquakes and other events of mass destruction are largely forbidden to enter the territory.

Calling 101, the Gaza equivalent of 911, is of little use either. Communications networks are weak, erratic or nonfunctional.

Nada Rashwan contributed reporting from Cairo.

Video: Bolsonaro, Facing Investigations, Hid at Hungarian Embassy

Jack NicasChristoph KoettlLeonardo Coelho and

Jack Nicas and Leonardo Coelho reported from Rio de Janeiro, Christoph Koettl from New York, and Paulo Motoryn from Brasília.

On Feb. 8, Brazil’s federal police confiscated former President Jair Bolsonaro’s passport and arrested a pair of his former aides on accusations that they had plotted a coup after Mr. Bolsonaro lost the 2022 presidential election.

Four days later, Mr. Bolsonaro was at the entrance to the Hungarian Embassy in Brazil, waiting to be let in, according to the embassy’s security-camera footage, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The former president appeared to stay at the embassy for the next two days, the footage showed, accompanied by two security guards and waited on by the Hungarian ambassador and staff members. Mr. Bolsonaro, a target of various criminal investigations, cannot be arrested at a foreign embassy that welcomes him, because they are legally off-limits to domestic authorities.

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U.K. Accuses China of Cyberattacks Targeting Voter Data and Lawmakers

The British government on Monday accused China of cyberattacks that compromised the voting records of tens of millions of people, a sharp rebuke that underlined the hardening of Britain’s stance toward China since its leaders heralded a “golden era” in British-Chinese relations nearly a decade ago.

The deputy prime minister, Oliver Dowden announced sanctions against two individuals and one company linked to a state-affiliated group implicated in the attacks, which he said targeted both an elections watchdog and lawmakers. The Foreign Office summoned China’s ambassador to Britain for a formal diplomatic dressing down.

“This is the latest in a clear pattern of hostile activity originating in China,” Mr. Dowden said in Parliament. “Part of our defense is calling out this behavior.”

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The First Flight of Their Lives: An Airlift After Agony in Gaza

Shaymaa Shady, 5, had her first amputation in January, after an explosion by her family’s house in Gaza, where she and her relatives had been resting.

Sarah Yusuf, also 5, suffered burns and broke her leg and pelvis when Israel bombarded her town in November.

Abdel Rahman Mady, 19, fractured his spine, partly paralyzing him, during an attack that killed more than two dozen members of his family.

They were three of 16 young people, all but one younger than 15, who were taken out of Gaza and airlifted to hospitals in Italy.

The First Flight of Their Lives: An Airlift After Agony in Gaza

Nariman El-Mofty and

Nariman El-Mofty spent eight days with a group of Gazan children and their caretakers and joined them on an Italian military flight from Cairo to Rome, then to Pisa, Italy. She traveled with two families in ambulances to a hospital in Bologna, Italy, where the children are receiving treatment.

Each of the children survived horrors. Each lost relatives in the strikes that injured them. All have struggled with the emotions of what they went through and what they face ahead.

The evacuees make up only a tiny fraction of the thousands of civilians, including many children, who have suffered grievous injuries over the course of Israel’s monthslong campaign against Hamas and its bombardment of Gaza. Health officials in the territory say that more than 31,000 Gazans have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, in response to the attack that Hamas led against Israel. Experts say that children are particularly vulnerable to burns and serious injuries from high-intensity attacks, especially in a crowded, urban environment like Gaza.

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Putin Acknowledges ‘Radical Islamists’ Committed Moscow Attack

President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday acknowledged for the first time that the bloody assault on a concert hall near Moscow was executed by “radical Islamists,” but he insisted that Ukraine could still have played a role despite the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility.

As Russians grieved, bringing flowers and candles to makeshift memorials across the country, Mr. Putin said that the tragedy was likely ordered by Ukraine, a statement that shifted attention from his government’s security failure and could also help his war effort.

“The question is: Who benefited from it?” Mr. Putin said, referring to the worst attack in the capital in two decades, during a publicly broadcast meeting with government officials. “This atrocity can be just an element in a series of attempts of those who have been at war with our country since 2014,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian government.

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For Once, the British Tabloids Held Back. It Didn’t Make a Difference.

Days before Catherine, Princess of Wales, ended the wild speculation over her absence from public life by revealing that she is battling cancer, a top royal journalist appeared on British national television and delivered a stark message to the media: Knock it off.

“I think everyone just needs to give her a little bit of space,” Roya Nikkhah, royal editor of The Sunday Times of London, said on “Good Morning Britain.” “This is a woman who’s been in the public eye since she was in her early 20s, and she’s barely put her foot wrong. I think we should all lay off a little bit.”

The idea of an editor at a Rupert Murdoch-owned publication scolding other journalists for nosiness may strike some as a bit rich. After all, London newspapers pioneered the celebri-fication of the House of Windsor, famously hounding the previous Princess of Wales, Diana, and exposing the most microscopic details of her and her children’s private lives.

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To Live Past 100, Mangia a Lot Less: Italian Expert’s Ideas on Aging

Most members of the band subscribed to a live-fast-die-young lifestyle. But as they partook in the drinking and drugging endemic to the 1990s grunge scene after shows at the Whiskey a Go Go, Roxy and other West Coast clubs, the band’s guitarist, Valter Longo, a nutrition-obsessed Italian Ph.D. student, wrestled with a lifelong addiction to longevity.

Now, decades after Dr. Longo dropped his grunge-era band, DOT, for a career in biochemistry, the Italian professor stands with his floppy rocker hair and lab coat at the nexus of Italy’s eating and aging obsessions.

“For studying aging, Italy is just incredible,” said Dr. Longo, a youthful 56, at the lab he runs at a cancer institute in Milan, where he will speak at an aging conference later this month. Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations, including multiple pockets of centenarians who tantalize researchers searching for the fountain of youth. “It’s nirvana.”

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The Brutality of Sugar: Debt, Child Marriage and Hysterectomies

Archana Ashok Chaure has given her life to sugar.

She was married off to a sugar cane laborer in western India at about 14 — “too young,” she says, “to have any idea what marriage was.” Debt to her employer keeps her in the fields.

Last winter, she did what thousands of women here are pressured to do when faced with painful periods or routine ailments: She got a hysterectomy, and got back to work.

This keeps sugar flowing to companies like Coke and Pepsi.

The two soft-drink makers have helped turn the state of Maharashtra into a sugar-producing powerhouse. But a New York Times and Fuller Project investigation has found that these brands have also profited from a brutal system of labor that exploits children and leads to the unnecessary sterilization of working-age women.

Young girls are pushed into illegal child marriages so they can work alongside their husbands cutting and gathering sugar cane. Instead of receiving wages, they work to pay off advances from their employers — an arrangement that requires them to pay a fee for the privilege of missing work, even to see a doctor.

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Pope Lets Silence Speak for Him as He Skips a Palm Sunday Speech

As tens of thousands of faithful holding palm fronds in St. Peter’s Square looked on, the moment arrived in the Palm Sunday Mass for Pope Francis to deliver his homily in a service marking the beginning of Holy Week, one of the most demanding and significant on the Christian calendar.

“And now we hear the words of the Holy Father,” said the commentator on the Vatican’s media channel.

Instead, the crowd outside and all of those tuning in heard Francis breathing and the wind blowing over the square, as the pope, 87, decided at the last moment to forgo the homily, the sermon that is central to the service, and remain silent.

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Police Say They’ve Cracked Rio de Janeiro’s Most Notorious Murder Mystery

“Who killed Marielle Franco?” That has been the question haunting Rio de Janeiro for the past six years, ever since a gunman assassinated the Black, gay, feminist councilwoman who had fought the city’s entrenched corruption and powerful gangs.

But now her family and the thousands of supporters who have taken to the streets in Ms. Franco’s name appear to have an answer.

Brazilian police officers on Sunday morning arrested Chiquinho and Domingos Brazão — two brothers who once served on Rio’s City Council, as did Ms. Franco — on accusations that they ordered her 2018 murder to silence her battles against corruption, according to court documents.

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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.

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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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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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Insooni Breaks Racial Barrier to Become Beloved Singer in South Korea

When she took the stage to perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 107 Korean War veterans, the singer Kim Insoon was thinking of her father, an American soldier stationed in South Korea during the postwar decades whom she had never met or even seen.

“You are my fathers,” she told the soldiers in the audience before singing “Father,” one of her Korean-language hits.

“To me, the United States has always been my father’s country,” Ms. Kim said in a recent interview, recalling that 2010 performance. “It was also the first place where I wanted to show how successful I had become — without him and in spite of him.”

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An American Who Has Helped Clear 815,000 Bombs From Vietnam

On a visit to the former battlefield of Khe Sanh, scene of one of the bloodiest standoffs of the Vietnam War, the only people Chuck Searcy encountered on the broad, barren field were two young boys who led him to an unexploded rocket lying by a ditch.

One of the youngsters reached out to give the bomb a kick until Mr. Searcy cried out, “No, Stop!”

“It was my first encounter with unexploded ordnance,” Mr. Searcy said of that moment in 1992. “I had no idea that I would be dedicating my life to removing them.”

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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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‘Get Ready to Scream’: How to Be a Baseball Fan in South Korea

In the United States, many Major League Baseball games feature long periods of calm, punctuated by cheering when there’s action on the field or the stadium organ plays a catchy tune.

But in South Korea, a baseball game is a sustained sensory overload. Each player has a fight song, and cheering squads — including drummers and dancers who stand on platforms near the dugouts facing the spectators — ensure that there is near-constant chanting. Imagine being at a ballpark where every player, even a rookie, gets the star treatment.

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

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

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La filial del EI vinculada al atentado de Moscú tiene ambiciones globales

Este mes se cumplen cinco años desde que una milicia kurda y árabe respaldada por Estados Unidos expulsó a los combatientes del Estado Islámico de un pueblo del este de Siria, el último reducto territorial del grupo.

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

Desde entonces, la organización que en su día se autoproclamó califato en Irak y Siria se ha convertido en un grupo terrorista más tradicional: una red clandestina de células que, desde África Occidental hasta el Sudeste Asiático, se dedican a cometer atentados de guerrilla, ataques con bomba y asesinatos selectivos.

Ninguna de las filiales del grupo ha sido tan implacable como el Estado Islámico de Jorasán, que tiene operaciones en Afganistán, Pakistán e Irán y ha puesto la mira en atacar Europa y más allá. Las autoridades estadounidenses afirman que el grupo realizó el atentado cerca de Moscú del viernes que mató a decenas de personas e hirió a muchas otras.

En enero, el Estado Islámico de Jorasán, o ISIS-K, por su sigla en inglés, llevó a cabo dos atentados en Irán que causaron decenas de muertos y centenares de heridos en un servicio en memoria del exgeneral iraní Qasem Suleimani, quien cuatro años antes fue blanco de un ataque estadounidense con drones.

“La amenaza del EI”, dijo Avril Haines, directora de inteligencia nacional, ante un panel del Senado este mes, “sigue siendo una preocupación significativa contra el terrorismo”. La mayoría de los atentados “realizados globalmente por el EI se han producido en realidad por partes del EI que están fuera de Afganistán”, dijo refiriéndose al Estado Islámico, conocido en inglés como ISIS.

Michael Kurilla, general jefe del Mando Central del ejército, declaró el jueves ante una comisión de la Cámara de Representantes que el ISIS-K “conserva la capacidad y la voluntad de atacar intereses estadounidenses y occidentales en el extranjero en un plazo de tan solo seis meses sin apenas previo aviso”.

Especialistas estadounidenses en antiterrorismo rechazaron el domingo la insinuación del Kremlin de que Ucrania estuviera detrás del ataque del viernes cerca de Moscú. “El modus operandi era clásico del EI”, dijo Bruce Hoffman, un estudioso del terrorismo en el Consejo de Relaciones Exteriores.

El asalto fue el tercer lugar de conciertos en el hemisferio norte que el Estado Islámico ha atacado en la última década, dijo Hoffman, después de un ataque contra el teatro Bataclan en París en noviembre de 2015 (como parte de una operación más amplia contra otros objetivos en la ciudad) y un atentado suicida en un concierto de Ariana Grande en el Manchester Arena, Inglaterra, en mayo de 2017.

El Estado Islámico de Jorasán, fundado en 2015 por integrantes insatisfechos de los talibanes paquistaníes, irrumpió en la escena yihadista internacional después de que los talibanes derrocaron al gobierno afgano en 2021. Durante la retirada militar estadounidense del país, ISIS-K, llevó a cabo un atentado suicida en el aeropuerto internacional de Kabul en agosto de 2021 en el que murieron 13 efectivos militares estadounidenses y hasta 170 civiles.

Desde entonces, los talibanes luchan contra el ISIS-K en Afganistán. Hasta ahora, los servicios de seguridad de los talibanes han impedido que el grupo se apodere de territorio o reclute a un gran número de antiguos combatientes talibanes, según funcionarios estadounidenses de antiterrorismo.

Pero la trayectoria ascendente y el alcance de los atentados del ISIS-K han aumentado en los últimos años, con ataques transfronterizos en Pakistán y un número creciente de complots en Europa. La mayoría de esos complots europeos fueron frustrados, lo que llevó a los servicios de inteligencia occidentales a considerar que el grupo podría haber alcanzado el límite de sus capacidades letales.

El pasado mes de julio, Alemania y los Países Bajos coordinaron las detenciones de siete individuos tayikos, turcomanos y kirguizos vinculados a una red del ISIS-K sospechosos de planear atentados en Alemania.

Tres hombres fueron detenidos en el estado alemán de Renania del Norte-Westfalia por presuntos planes para atentar contra la catedral de Colonia el último día de 2023. Las redadas estaban relacionadas con otras tres detenciones en Austria y una en Alemania el 24 de diciembre. Al parecer, las cuatro personas actuaban en apoyo del ISIS-K.

Funcionarios antiterroristas estadounidenses y de otros países occidentales afirman que estos complots fueron organizados por operativos de bajo nivel que fueron detectados y desbaratados con relativa rapidez.

“Hasta ahora, el EI de Jorasán ha recurrido principalmente a agentes sin experiencia en Europa para intentar cometer atentados en su nombre”, dijo Christine Abizaid, directora del Centro Nacional Antiterrorista, ante una comisión de la Cámara de Representantes en noviembre.

Pero hay indicios preocupantes de que el ISIS-K está aprendiendo de sus errores. En enero, asaltantes enmascarados atacaron una iglesia católica en Estambul, matando a una persona. Poco después, el Estado Islámico, a través de Amaq, su agencia oficial de noticias, reivindicó el atentado. Las fuerzas del orden turcas detuvieron a 47 personas, en su mayoría ciudadanos de países de Asia Central.

Desde entonces, las fuerzas de seguridad turcas han lanzado operaciones masivas dirigidas a sospechosos de pertenecer al EI en Turquía, Siria e Irak. Varias investigaciones europeas arrojaron luz sobre la naturaleza global e interconectada de las finanzas del EI, según un informe de Naciones Unidas de enero, que identificaba a Turquía como centro logístico de las operaciones del ISIS-K en Europa.

Los atentados en Moscú e Irán demostraron una mayor sofisticación, según funcionarios de la lucha antiterrorista, lo que sugiere un mayor nivel de planificación y la capacidad de valerse de las redes extremistas locales.

“El ISIS-K ha estado obsesionado con Rusia durante los dos últimos años”, criticando con frecuencia al presidente Vladimir Putin en su propaganda, dijo Colin Clarke, analista antiterrorista del Soufan Group, una consultora de seguridad con sede en Nueva York. “ISIS-K acusa al Kremlin de tener sangre musulmana en sus manos, haciendo referencia a las intervenciones de Moscú en Afganistán, Chechenia y Siria”.

Una parte significativa de los integrantes de ISIS-K son de origen centroasiático, y hay un gran contingente de cetroasiáticos que viven y trabajan en Rusia. Algunos de estos individuos pueden haberse radicalizado y estar en condiciones de desempeñar una función logística, almacenando armas, dijo Clarke.

Daniel Byman, especialista en antiterrorismo de la Universidad de Georgetown, dijo que “ISIS-K ha reunido a combatientes de Asia Central y el Cáucaso bajo su ala, y pueden ser responsables del atentado de Moscú, directamente o a través de sus propias redes”.

Al parecer, las autoridades rusas e iraníes no se tomaron suficientemente en serio las advertencias públicas y privadas más detalladas de Estados Unidos sobre la inminente trama de atentados del ISIS-K, o se distrajeron con otros problemas de seguridad.

“A principios de marzo, el gobierno de Estados Unidos compartió información con Rusia sobre un ataque terrorista planeado en Moscú”, dijo el sábado Adrienne Watson, portavoz del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional. “También emitimos un aviso público a los estadounidenses en Rusia el 7 de marzo. El EI es el único responsable de este ataque. No hubo participación ucraniana en absoluto”.

Las autoridades rusas anunciaron el sábado la detención de varios sospechosos del atentado del viernes. Pero altos funcionarios estadounidenses dijeron el domingo que seguían investigando los antecedentes de los atacantes y tratando de determinar si habían sido desplegados desde el sur o el centro de Asia para este ataque en particular o si ya estaban en el país como parte de la red de simpatizantes que el ISIS-K luego contrató e incitó.

Especialistas en antiterrorismo expresaron el domingo su preocupación por la posibilidad de que los atentados de Moscú e Irán envalentonen al ISIS-K para redoblar sus esfuerzos por atentar en Europa, especialmente en Francia, Bélgica, Gran Bretaña y otros países que han sufrido ataques intermitentes durante la última década.

El informe de la ONU, que utiliza un nombre diferente para Estado Islámico de Jorasán, afirma que “algunos individuos de origen norcaucásico y centroasiático que viajan desde Afganistán o Ucrania hacia Europa representan una oportunidad para ISIL-K, que busca proyectar ataques violentos en Occidente”. El informe concluía que había pruebas de “complots operativos actuales e inacabados en suelo europeo dirigidos por ISIL-K”.

Un alto funcionario de los servicios de inteligencia occidentales identificó tres factores principales que podrían inspirar a los operativos del ISIS-K a llevar a cabo atentados: la existencia de células latentes en Europa, las imágenes de la guerra en Gaza y el apoyo de personas de habla rusa que viven en Europa.

Un acontecimiento importante de este verano tiene en vilo a muchos responsables de la lucha antiterrorista.

“Me preocupan los Juegos Olímpicos de París”, dijo Edmund Fitton-Brown, ex alto funcionario de la ONU en materia antiterrorista y ahora asesor principal del Counter Extremism Project. “Serían un objetivo terrorista de primer orden”.


Eric Schmitt es corresponsal de seguridad nacional para el Times y se centra en asuntos militares estadounidenses y antiterrorismo en el extranjero, temas sobre los que ha informado durante más de tres décadas. Más de Eric Schmitt

El nuevo objetivo de un cártel del narcotráfico de México: personas mayores y sus tiempos compartidos

Al principio, el cártel comenzó con el tráfico de drogas. Luego pasó a aguacates, bienes raíces y constructoras. Ahora, una organización criminal mexicana conocida por su crueldad está haciendo la transición hacia adultos mayores y sus tiempos compartidos.

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La operación es relativamente sencilla. Personas que trabajan para el cártel que se hacen pasar por representantes de ventas llaman a los dueños de las propiedades de tiempo compartido, ofreciéndoles comprar sus inversiones por sumas generosas de dinero. Luego exigen pagos por adelantado para cualquier cosa, desde la publicación de anuncios hasta el pago de supuestas multas gubernamentales. Los falsos representantes convencen a sus víctimas de que les transfieran grandes cantidades de dinero a México —en ocasiones hasta cientos de miles de dólares— y luego desaparecen.

Esta estafa ha hecho que el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación gane cientos de millones de dólares en la última década, según funcionarios estadounidenses que no estaban autorizados para hablar públicamente sobre este tema, a través de decenas de centros de llamadas en México que buscan sin descanso a propietarios estadounidenses y canadienses de tiempos compartidos. Incluso sobornan a empleados en resorts mexicanos para que filtren información de los huéspedes, según afirmaron los funcionarios estadounidenses.

Esta estafa representa la evolución más reciente del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, un grupo que está arraigado en sectores legales e ilegales de la economía. Con poco más que un teléfono y un guion convincente, los trabajadores del cártel están victimizando a personas en diferentes países.

Incluso esos mismos trabajadores son vulnerables a la crueldad del cártel.

En mayo del año pasado, se descubrieron los restos de ocho jóvenes mexicanos que trabajaban en un centro de llamadas del cártel en decenas de bolsas de plástico que fueron tiradas en un barranco en las afueras de Guadalajara, la capital del estado de Jalisco.

Por lo general, el cártel busca aprovecharse de personas mayores retiradas que quieren dejarle todo el dinero posible a sus familiares a través de la venta de bienes. Varias víctimas entrevistadas por The New York Times dijeron que el dinero que perdieron excedía el valor de su inversión inicial en propiedades vacacionales de tiempo compartido en Jamaica, California y México.

“Soy viejo, al igual que estos clientes”, dijo Michael Finn, fundador de Finn Law Group en San Petersburgo, Florida, que ha representado a miles de personas que han lidiado con diversas formas de estafas con tiempos compartidos. “Tendemos a confiar cuando alguien nos llama y nos vende estos sueños”.

Finn comprendió la gravedad de este tipo de fraude hace unos 4 años, cuando recibió una llamada de una mujer desesperada que había transferido 1,2 millones de dólares, la totalidad de sus ahorros, a México, para vender su tiempo compartido.

La industria de las propiedades vacacionales de tiempo compartido está en auge, con 10.500 millones de dólares en ventas en 2022, un incremento del 30 por ciento en comparación con el año anterior, según la Asociación Estadounidense de Desarrolladores de Complejos Turísticos. Cerca de 10 millones de hogares estadounidenses poseen tiempos compartidos, informó la asociación, gastando un promedio de alrededor de 22.000 dólares por su inversión además de tarifas anuales de unos 2000 dólares. La mayoría de los tiempos compartidos son complejos turísticos de playa.

El crecimiento del sector coincide con un incremento del 79 por ciento en los últimos cuatro años en las denuncias de fraudes con tiempos compartidos recibidas por el FBI. Pero, para poder investigar las estafas que se originan en México, el FBI debe contar con la cooperación de las autoridades locales. Además, las firmas de abogados no pueden introducir demandas civiles porque no tienen jurisdicción en México.

En los últimos cinco años, a dueños estadounidenses de propiedades de tiempo compartido les han estafado unos 288 millones de dólares, según el FBI, a través de varios tipos de fraudes, lo que incluye los esquemas gestionados por el cártel. La cifra real está probablemente alrededor de los 350 millones de dólares, ya que cerca del 20 por ciento de los estafados no interponen una demanda.

“Las víctimas no quieren denunciar porque están avergonzadas y le ocultan la situación a sus familias”, afirmó Finn.

En octubre de 2022, una pareja retirada —James, de 76 años, y su esposa, Nicki, de 72— dijeron que habían recibido una llamada de un supuesto agente de bienes raíces en Worry Free Vacations en Atlanta, que les ofreció negociar la venta de su tiempo compartido en el lago Tahoe, California, a un empresario millonario mexicano. La pareja pidió que no se publicaran sus apellidos porque estaban “muy avergonzados” de haber sido estafados.

A medida que sus hijas fueron creciendo, dejaron de utilizar la propiedad vacacional que compraron en la década de 1990 por unos 8000 dólares, por lo que la pareja no dudó ante la oportunidad de vender.

La estafa comenzó con tarifas pequeñas, afirmó James, unos pocos miles de dólares aquí y allá destinados para pagar costos de registros con el gobierno mexicano para “transacciones transfronterizas”. Las tarifas fueron aumentando a medida que le decían que estaba siendo multado por las autoridades mexicanas debido a varias infracciones, y que podía ser extraditado por romper la ley a menos que pagara las multas. En un punto, contó James, los estafadores incluso lo convencieron de que invirtiera en una nueva propiedad comercial en México.

Después de unos 20 pagos, la pareja había transferido casi 900.000 dólares a diferentes cuentas bancarias en México, según registros bancarios revisados por el Times.

Las estafas que llegan tan lejos no son poco comunes, según el FBI. La agencia afirmó que, por lo general, víctimas como James y Nicki, transfieren su dinero a cuentas bancarias de socios del Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

La pareja dijo que agotaron sus ahorros y que ahora estaban endeudados. Afirmaron que incluso pidieron prestado unos 150.000 dólares a una de sus hijas y vendieron la casa de infancia de James, pero no han recibido ni un solo centavo.

“Estoy seguro de que si les hubiera preguntado, me habrían dicho: ‘¿Cómo puedes ser tan idiota?’”, dijo James refiriéndose a sus hijas. “Y me pregunto lo mismo. Solía pensar que era muy inteligente”.

Los estafadores se identificaron como representantes de ventas y como un funcionario del banco central de México, según revelaron correos electrónicos revisados por el Times, y en todo momento prometieron que si pagaba solo “un monto más”, todo se resolvería y su dinero sería liberado.

Sin embargo, después de cada pago, una nueva tarifa aparecía.

En un comunicado, el banco central de México declaró que estaba al tanto de que se estaban cometiendo estafas con tiempos compartidos usando su nombre y advirtió a las personas para que no cayeran en el fraude.

A fines del año pasado, James comenzó a recibir mensajes desesperados de supuestos representantes que afirmaban que uno de sus colegas había sido encarcelado en México tras intentar resolver el caso, según llamadas grabadas y correos electrónicos revisados por el Times.

“Por favor, haz todo lo posible para que mi amigo/jefe regrese a casa. Extraña mucho a su familia y escucharlo es terrible, eres la única esperanza para que esto se solucione”, decía un correo electrónico reciente. “El monto pendiente de pago es: 157.786,61 dólares”.

James dijo que estaba pensando sacar una segunda hipoteca para pagar el monto, hasta que sus hijas lo detuvieron.

Si bien la estafa dirigida a los dueños de propiedades de tiempo compartido es financiera, en México puede ser mortal.

Los ocho mexicanos que fueron hallados muertos el año pasado trabajaban en un centro de llamadas en el centro de Guadalajara que estaba dirigido por el Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, según afirmaron funcionarios estadounidenses. Los fiscales locales dijeron que cuando registraron el centro, encontraron un trapeador con manchas rojas, pizarrones con nombres extranjeros y detalles de membresías de propiedades de tiempo compartido.

Cuando los periodistas de The New York Times visitaron recientemente el centro de llamadas, descubrieron que estaba cerrado, y un vehículo de la policía estaba estacionado afuera. El edificio estaba en un vecindario de clase alta, frente a un parque. Los padres pasaban, llevando a sus hijos a la escuela.

Héctor Flores, fundador del Colectivo Luz de Esperanza, una organización que realiza búsquedas por todo el estado de Jalisco en busca de los cuerpos de los desaparecidos, afirmó que sabía de unas 30 personas que habían desaparecido de centros de llamadas desde 2017. Sin embargo, dijo que con casi toda seguridad hay más porque muchas familias no hacen denuncias por miedo.

La fiscalía del estado no respondió a solicitudes de comentarios.

El Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, que fue fundado hace unos 15 años, ha crecido hasta ser uno de los cárteles más poderosos en México. En los últimos años, se ha expandido hacia sectores legales de la economía, como la venta de aguacates a Estados Unidos.

En Puerto Vallarta, un bastión del cártel y popular localidad costera, los trabajadores mexicanos de los hoteles son presionados de manera rutinaria por la organización criminal para que filtren información de los huéspedes, según James Barnacle, el subdirector asistente del FBI que monitorea los delitos financieros.

Barnacle afirmó que los hoteles y las compañías de propiedades de tiempo compartido en México estaban al tanto de las filtraciones y también dijo que el gobierno de Estados Unidos les ha hecho advertencias para que comiencen a tomar medidas drásticas.

Una preocupación en particular para los funcionarios estadounidenses es el Grupo Vidanta, una de las empresas de complejos turísticos de tiempo compartido más grandes del mundo con sede en México. Su dueño, Daniel Chávez Morán, es amigo y asesor del presidente de México. Muchos de los clientes de Vidanta han sido víctimas del fraude en propiedades de tiempo compartido, según un funcionario estadounidense que no tenía autorización para hablar públicamente.

Vidanta no respondió a las solicitudes de comentarios.

Pete Willard contó que compró su propiedad de tiempo compartido de Vidanta en 2015. Seis años después, recibió una llamada de una supuesta compañía de bienes raíces de Nueva York, la cual le ofrecía alrededor de medio millón de dólares por ella. Tras enviar varias transferencias de dinero a México, había perdido unos 100.000 dólares sin recibir nada a cambio, dijo Willard.

Cuando comprendió que nunca más iba a ver su dinero, Willard contactó al FBI.

“Me dijeron que no había mucho que pudieran hacer porque todo el dinero estaba en México”, afirmó.

Willard intentó introducir demandas con el Better Business Bureau y el fiscal de distrito en Nueva York contra las compañías que lo habían estafado. “Nunca obtuve una respuesta de nadie más allá de ‘lo siento, debió haber sido más diligente’”.

Barnacle admitió que las fuerzas de seguridad de Estados Unidos están básicamente de manos atadas para contrarrestar estos fraudes, más allá de emitir mensajes de advertencia a la población.

“La gente explota tus datos todo el tiempo”, dijo Barnacle. El cártel no “tiene que invertir en un producto que tienen; solo tienen que levantar el teléfono o enviar un correo electrónico a las personas y, ya sabes, engañarlos para que les den su dinero”.

Hasta el momento, el Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos ha impuesto sanciones a 40 compañías mexicanas y a alrededor de una decena de personas por fraude con propiedades de tiempo compartido, pero se han hecho pocos arrestos. Y apenas se clausura una compañía tapadera o una cuenta bancaria, surgen nuevas.

Los bancos mexicanos “tienen culpa en esto”, afirmó Spencer McMullen, un estadounidense que ejerce el derecho en Chapala, México, y añadió que por lo general no verifican si las cuentas gestionadas por el cártel están utilizando direcciones válidas y son negocios legítimos. “Ellos podrían congelar estas cuentas por actividad sospechosa”.

Durante las dos semanas en las que James, el dueño de la propiedad de tiempo compartido que perdió casi 900.000 dólares, estuvo hablando con el Times, comenzó a entender que nunca más iba a ver su dinero. Su esposa, Nicki, está furiosa, pues se lo había advertido desde el principio.

“Sabes, cuando trabajas durante tantos años y ahorras para poder disfrutar de tu vejez y luego te lo arrebatan”, dijo Nicki, “eso no está bien”.

Pasaron de comenzar su retiro de forma muy cómoda a preguntarse si ahora deberían aplicar a empleos de medio tiempo. Nicki está recuperándose de un cáncer y sus gastos se están acumulando.

“¿Voy a tener que trabajar en un Walmart ahora?”, dijo Nicki.

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega colaboró con este reportaje desde Ciudad de México.

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


¿Para qué los autócratas como Putin orquestan elecciones?

Las elecciones realizadas en Rusia este mes fueron tachadas de manera generalizada de ser una escenificación que estuvo entre la tragedia y la farsa. Pese a que el presidente Vladimir Putin cuenta con un apoyo significativo de la población, las votaciones se orquestaron para garantizar que fuera “reelegido” con más del 87 por ciento de los votos.

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Y el resultado fue arreglado incluso mucho antes de que los rusos llegaran a las mesas de votación: la oposición política ha sido aplastada sin piedad, los medios de comunicación independientes han sido silenciados y a quienes protestan en público les han asignado sentencias severas de cárcel. El político ruso de oposición más destacado, Alexéi Navalny, murió en prisión el mes pasado.

Todo lo cual plantea la interesante pregunta de por qué los líderes autócratas se molestan en organizar elecciones amañadas.

Puede resultar útil pensar que los comicios en los Estados autócratas son un ejercicio de propaganda dirigido a varios públicos. Manipular las votaciones puede ser una manera en que un titular como Putin demuestra el control que tiene sobre los resortes del poder: hay un valor en demostrar que las agencias burocráticas, los gobiernos locales, las fuerzas de seguridad y los medios son lo suficientemente leales (o amedrentados) como para participar en un proyecto tan significativo, costoso y complejo.

Esa escenificación de control también puede servir como una advertencia a la oposición y a cualquiera de sus posibles aliados y subrayar la aparente inutilidad de las protestas. “Si se tiene una victoria del 87 por ciento, es como ‘¿De verdad quiero morir, cuando es totalmente absurdo porque tiene un control tan férreo del poder?’”, señaló Brian Klaas, politólogo del University College de Londres y coautor del libro How to Rig an Election. “Parte de ello es, en esencia, mostrar una supremacía sobre el ámbito nacional y disuadir a la oposición”.

Puede que la población sepa que las elecciones han sido amañadas, pero qué tanto. Así que incluso unas elecciones manipuladas pueden contribuir a la imagen de la popularidad del dirigente, sobre todo si la prensa es sumamente leal, comentó Klaas.

Los espectadores extranjeros también tienen importancia. Así como los Estados que violan los derechos humanos a menudo instauran tribunales de justicia ficticios para crear la ilusión de que existe la rendición de cuentas y hacer que sea menos vergonzoso para los aliados seguir apoyándolos, los regímenes autócratas en ocasiones usan elecciones amañadas para que sus aliados puedan afirmar que están apoyando un gobierno “electo”.

Tal vez eso no se aplica tanto a Rusia, país al que Estados Unidos y sus aliados le impusieron fuertes sanciones después de que inició su invasión a gran escala de Ucrania en el año 2022 y el cual ahora está buscando el respaldo de otros países autócratas como China y Corea del Norte. Pero para los países que dependen más de la ayuda de los aliados demócratas, celebrar algún tipo de comicios puede ser un elemento fundamental para conservar su apoyo.

Las elecciones pueden ser también una fuente esencial de información. “Los dictadores son víctimas de su propia represión porque nadie les dice la verdad”, señaló Klaas. “Así que algo que los dictadores hacen es usar los comicios como un indicador de lo populares que son en realidad”.

Permitir que se desarrollen algunas campañas y que aparezcan algunos otros nombres en las boletas puede dar una idea del verdadero atractivo del líder, incluso si después el gobierno retoca los resultados para evitar que la verdadera información se vuelva pública.

Este proceso también puede ayudar a los líderes a identificar a las figuras de la oposición que podrían convertirse en una amenaza. Putin, por ejemplo, con el fin de concentrar más poder en sus propias manos, reprimió, mediante arrestos, exilios forzados y otros métodos represivos, los movimientos de protesta y la oposición incipientes que se formaron en torno a las elecciones de 2011 en Rusia.

Pero, en ocasiones, ese método puede ser contraproducente. Los investigadores descubrieron que el simple hecho de celebrar elecciones puede abrir la puerta a un posible cambio de régimen, incluso si su objetivo era hacer lo contrario.

Una investigación de Beatriz Magaloni, una politóloga de la Universidad de Stanford, muestra que a veces el robo de la elección puede dar lugar a “revoluciones civiles”, en las que el intento de manipulación da origen a protestas masivas, lo que luego hace que el Ejército y otros aliados de la élite se separen del régimen del titular y lo obliguen a abandonar el cargo. Eso es lo que ocurrió, por ejemplo en la Revolución Naranja de Ucrania en 2004 y en la Revolución de las Rosas de Georgia en 2003.

Desde luego que eso sigue siendo un resultado bastante poco frecuente. Ucrania y Georgia tenían una oposición política mucho más cuantiosa que Rusia, donde Putin ha impedido de manera implacable que figuras de la oposición como Navalny siquiera lleguen a las boletas. Los intentos de iniciar una revolución similar en Rusia después de los comicios de 2011 fracasaron y la represión a la disidencia que siguió hizo que fuera mucho más difícil que se formara un movimiento así.

A veces, si la oposición se une, una votación concebida como una actuación amañada puede convertirse en una contienda auténtica. Yahya Jammeh gobernó Gambia durante décadas, utilizando la represión y la tortura para silenciar a la disidencia y aplastar a la oposición política. Estaba acostumbrado a “ganar” elecciones con más del 70 por ciento de los votos y esperaba el mismo resultado en 2016. Pero perdió.

La oposición consiguió unirse en torno a un candidato, Adama Barrow, propietario de una empresa inmobiliaria. La gran diáspora gambiana en el extranjero proporcionó a su campaña los recursos que necesitaba, y algunos de los métodos de trampa electoral en los que aparentemente se apoyaba Jammeh fracasaron: un almacén que se creía contenía identificaciones falsas de votantes destinadas a facilitar la manipulación electoral fue incendiado justo antes de las elecciones, lo que dejó muy poco tiempo para fabricar más. Cuando quedó claro que el recuento de votos favorecía a la oposición, el jefe de la comisión electoral comunicó los resultados a pesar de las presiones del gobierno para que dejara de hacerlo.

Y, si bien los aliados extranjeros pueden estar dispuestos a hacer la vista gorda cuando se manipulan o amañan las elecciones, existen normas mucho más estrictas contra la anulación de resultados en sí. El llamamiento de Jammeh a otros líderes africanos para que lo mantuvieran en el cargo cayó en saco roto, y en su lugar apoyaron a Barrow. Pocas semanas después de las elecciones, tropas extranjeras de la CEDEAO, organización regional de naciones de África Occidental, entraron en el país para ayudar a forzar su destitución.

Klaas mencionó que las últimas décadas han constituido un periodo de “aprendizaje autoritario” en el cual los líderes autócratas se han vuelto cada vez más hábiles para manipular las elecciones.

“Solo los aficionados se roban la elección el día de los comicios”, comentó. “Los profesionales de hecho lo hacen antes mediante una serie de métodos mucho más inteligentes y sutiles”.

Amanda Taub es autora de The Interpreter, una columna y boletín que explica los sucesos internacionales. Reside en Londres. Más de Amanda Taub


Así se celebra el Holi, el festival de los colores, la tradición más vistosa de India

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Una neblina de arco iris recorre India, donde resuenan estridentes carcajadas mientras amigos y desconocidos se rocían, los unos a los otros, con los puños llenos de polvos de colores. Es la temporada de la antigua tradición hindú de Holi, una celebración anual de la primavera.

El 25 de marzo de 2024, nubes carmesí, esmeralda, añil y azafrán se ciernen sobre el país para celebrar una de sus fiestas más vibrantes, alegres y coloridas.

“Jugar al Holi”, como dicen los indios, se ha extendido mucho más allá de las fronteras de India.

También conocido como el “festival de los colores”, el Holi (que se pronuncia como santo en inglés, holy, con una hache inicial aspirada), comienza la noche de luna llena del mes phalguna del calendario hindú, que cae alrededor de febrero o marzo.

La celebración comienza con el encendido de las hogueras. La gente se reúne en torno a las llamas para cantar, bailar y rezar durante un ritual nocturno llamado Holika Dahan, que recrea la desaparición de Holika, una demonio hindú mítica.

Se arrojan al fuego todo tipo de cosas, como leña, hojas y comida, en una purga simbólica del mal y el triunfo del bien.

Archie Singhal, de 24 años, va de Delhi a visitar a su familia en Gujarat la víspera del Holi, cuando se enciende el fuego por la noche. A la mañana siguiente, Singhal se prepara para las ráfagas de polvo, llamadas gulal, aplicándose aceite en el cuerpo para que los colores no se le peguen a la piel. También se pone ropa vieja que no le importa descartar.

Las raíces del Holi se encuentran en el hinduismo. El dios Krishna, maldecido por un demonio de piel azul, se quejó con su madre preguntándole por qué Radha, su amada, era de piel clara y él no. Su madre, Yashoda, le sugiere juguetonamente que pinte la cara de Radha con los colores que desee. Entonces Krishna la pinta de colores para que ambos se parezcan.

El Holi es, en parte, una celebración del amor entre Krishna y Radha, que va más allá de las diferencias. Hoy en día, parte del gulal que se utiliza durante la festividad es sintético. Pero tradicionalmente los colores proceden de ingredientes naturales, como flores secas, cúrcuma, hojas secas, uvas, bayas, betabel y té.

“Hay un ambiente de libertad”, dijo Singhal, y añadió que ella no duda en lanzar colores sobre su hermano menor, sus padres, sus tíos y sus vecinos.

La antigua fiesta hindú evita las divisiones religiosas, sociales, políticas y de casta que apuntalan a menudo la sectaria sociedad india. Hindú o no, cualquiera puede ser salpicado con polvo de colores brillantes, o incluso con huevos y cerveza.

Algunos participan en el culto, llamado puja, ofreciendo plegarias a los dioses. Para otros, el Holi es una celebración de la comunidad. El festival involucra a todo el mundo, incluidos a los incautos transeúntes.

“La gente olvida sus malentendidos o enemistades durante esta ocasión y vuelven a ser amigos”, dice Ratikanta Singh, de 63 años, quien a veces escribe sobre Holi, en Assam, en el noreste de India.

Cuando no están lanzando gulal, amigos, familiares y vecinos participan en un bufé de platos y bebidas tradicionales. Entre ellos, gujiya, unos dulces fritos rellenos de frutos secos; dahi vada, unos buñuelos de lentejas fritos servidos con yogur; y kanji, bebida tradicional elaborada con zanahorias fermentadas en agua y especias.

Algunos celebran el Holi con thandai, un brebaje de leche verde claro, pétalos de rosa, cardamomo, almendras, semillas de hinojo y otros ingredientes. Desde hace miles de años, la bebida se adereza a veces con bhang, u hojas de marihuana trituradas, que contribuyen al ambiente de juerga.

La festividad está documentada desde hace siglos en textos hindúes. La tradición es observada por jóvenes y mayores, sobre todo en el norte de India y Nepal, donde se origina la mitología del festival.

El Holi también marca el inicio de las cosechas con la llegada de la primavera en India, donde más de la mitad de la población vive en zonas rurales.

Las celebraciones del Holi son tan diversas como el subcontinente indio. Son especialmente intensas en el norte de India, considerado el lugar de nacimiento del dios hindú Krishna, donde los festejos pueden durar más de una semana.

En Mathura, ciudad del norte donde se dice que nació Krishna, la gente recrea un relato hindú en el que Krishna visita a Radha para enamorarla y los amigos vaqueros de ella, ofendidos por sus insinuaciones, lo expulsan con palos.

En el estado oriental de Odisha se celebra un festival de un día de duración llamado Dola Purnima. Las grandes procesiones de gente que cargan al hombro carruajes ricamente decorados con estatuas de dioses hindúes son una parte importante de las festividades. Las procesiones están llenas del sonido de tambores, canciones, polvos de colores y pétalos de flores que se lanzan al aire.

En el sur de India, donde el Holi no se celebra tan ampliamente, muchos templos llevan a cabo ritos religiosos. En la comunidad tribal de Kudumbi, en el suroeste, los devotos de los templos cortan palmas de areca y transportan sus troncos al santuario en un ritual que simboliza la victoria del bien sobre el mal.

Holi se celebra en todo el mundo en donde haya ido la diáspora india. Más de 32 millones de indios y personas de origen indio están en el extranjero, la mayoría en Estados Unidos, donde residen 4,4 millones, según el gobierno indio.

También se disfruta mucho en países tan variados como Fiyi, Mauricio, Sudáfrica, el Reino Unido y otras partes de Europa.

El Holi se conoce como Phagwa en las comunidades indias del Caribe, como Guyana, Surinam y Trinidad y Tobago.

El gobierno indio también ha utilizado el festival para proyectar poder blando y rediseñar su imagen como parte de su campaña turística “India increíble”.

Durante el festival, “el mundo es una aldea global”, dijo Shubham Sachdeva, de 29 años, vecino de un suburbio del este de Delhi, quien añadió que sus amigos de Estados Unidos celebraban Holi con sus compañeros de piso, fueran o no indios. “Todo esto acerca el mundo a los demás”.

John Yoon es un reportero del Times afincado en Seúl que cubre noticias de última hora y de tendencia. Más de John Yoon

Hari Kumar cubre la India desde Nueva Delhi. Es periodista desde hace más de dos décadas. Más de Hari Kumar


París busca organizar los Juegos Olímpicos desde una visión ecológica

Somini Sengupta y

Somini Sengupta y Catherine Porter informaron sobre París y los suburbios del norte en Sena-Saint Denis.

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¿Cómo se organiza un evento deportivo internacional en el que millones de personas visitan una ciudad en la era del calentamiento global?

Esa es la prueba para los Juegos Olímpicos de París 2024 este verano.

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

Los organizadores afirman que están sometiendo a las olimpiadas a una dieta climática. Según ellos, estos Juegos Olímpicos no generarán más que la mitad de las emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero de los más recientes. Eso significa ser muy estrictos con todo lo que produce las emisiones que calientan el planeta: electricidad, alimentos, construcciones y transporte, incluido el combustible que quemarán los aviones que serán utilizados por los atletas y aficionados para viajar desde todas partes del mundo y llegar hasta la ciudad organizadora.

Por su naturaleza, un evento al que acuden 10.500 atletas y cerca de 15 millones de espectadores va a tener un costo en términos medioambientales. Y eso ha hecho que quienes adoran las olimpiadas pero odian la contaminación sugieran que el evento se reparta en las instalaciones ya existentes en todo el mundo con el fin de que no se necesiten tantas edificaciones nuevas y viajes en avión. Por esa razón, la cita deportiva de París está siendo vigilada con mucha atención.

La ciudad le está dando más espacio a las bicicletas y menos a los automóviles. Está eliminando los enormes generadores que funcionan con diésel, un elemento básico de los grandes eventos deportivos. Está planeando menús para los huéspedes cuyo cultivo y cocción no generen tanta contaminación como las típicas comidas francesas: con más vegetales y menos carne a la pimienta. También habrá paneles solares que floten de manera temporal sobre el río Sena.

Pero tal vez la medida más importante que han tomado los organizadores sea lo que no están haciendo: construir. Al menos, no tanto.

En vez de construir nuevas obras emblemáticas para las olimpiadas (lo que genera muchas emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero por la fabricación del concreto y el acero), se están reutilizando muchos de sus lugares de interés existentes, entre ellos el Gran Palacio, la plaza conocida como de la Concordia e incluso la piscina construida para los Juegos Olímpicos de París 1924.

Pero esto no ha ocurrido sin controversias.

Una importante iniciativa para la reducción de emisiones, la decisión de prescindir del aire acondicionado convencional en la villa olímpica, ha planteado preocupaciones. En su lugar, los edificios emplearán un sistema de enfriamiento que utiliza agua extraída del subsuelo. Varios equipos olímpicos están considerando llevar sus propios aparatos de aire acondicionado.

No obstante, la esperanza es que este tipo de experimentos sirvan como modelo para otros Juegos Olímpicos en el futuro y para otras ciudades de todo el mundo. Los pocos edificios nuevos que se están construyendo, entre ellos los que albergarán a los atletas, así como un complejo de piscinas y un estadio, están utilizando menos cemento y más madera. Cuentan con paneles solares y vegetación sobre sus azoteas.

También se espera que los nuevos edificios tengan una vida que vaya mucho más allá del evento deportivo. Están diseñados para que los residentes locales los usen en las próximas décadas y, según los dirigentes del comité organizador de París 2024, para revitalizar los suburbios de la ciudad. “Nos planteamos objetivos que nunca se habían planteado para ningún evento anterior, mucho menos a esta escala”, señaló Georgina Grenon, quien se encarga de los esfuerzos medioambientales de los Juegos Olímpicos.

Los críticos objetan que aunque es admirable gran parte de lo que está haciendo París, sobre todo las restricciones a nuevas construcciones, para combatir la crisis climática se requiere algo más que reducir emisiones aquí y allá. “Tenemos que replantearnos fundamentalmente estos megaeventos”, señaló Cesar Dugats, cofundador de un grupo de análisis climático llamado Eclaircies. “En vez de concentrar todos los eventos en una sola ciudad, podría considerarse distribuirlos en todo el mundo”.

Los Juegos Olímpicos se enfrentan a un riesgo más inmediato: el cambio climático en si mismo. El aumento de la temperatura global está haciendo que los veranos de París sean tan calurosos que impliquen un peligro. Eso ha incrementado las inquietudes sobre cómo proteger a los atletas y a los aficionados a fines de julio y principios de agosto.

Las autoridades de la ciudad afirmaron que durante los últimos años se han plantado miles de árboles para atenuar el calor del verano. Están erigiendo torres que emiten llovizna para que se esparza por el aire. Se pretende instalar amplias sombrillas debajo de las cuales puedan esperar los aficionados. “Tenemos soluciones, nos estamos preparando”, comentó Dan Lert, vicealcalde encargado de preparar la ciudad para el calor. “Es una gran prueba”.

Cuando se trata de emisiones, el transporte es otro dolor de cabeza. París ya ha estado restringiendo el espacio para los automóviles y le ha concedido áreas a las bicicletas, y está usando estos Juegos Olímpicos para acelerar ese cambio.

Pero las olimpiadas, con sus enormes multitudes, suscitan un problema para los medios de transporte usados por los parisinos y muchos están haciendo planes para irse de vacaciones y huir del evento.

Pierre Rabadan, un exjugador de rugby que ahora es vicealcalde en el área de deportes de la ciudad, se encogió de hombros para protegerse del viento y salió con paso enérgico de la parada del tranvía que está frente al nuevo estadio de baloncesto de la ciudad, sobre la calle de la Chapelle. Señaló una ciclovía casi terminada que corre a lo largo de la calle, construida en una amplia avenida que solía estar dedicada a los automóviles.

Desde la elección de Anne Hidalgo como alcaldesa en 2014, París ha añadido casi 600 kilómetros de carriles para bicicleta. Cerca del 10 por ciento se han denominado como “olimpistas”.

“El problema es que construimos la ciudad en torno a los automóviles”, explicó Rabadan.

Otro problema es que el sistema del metro de la ciudad está desbordado. Los vagones ya van repletos y los trabajadores se apresuran para terminar las nuevas ampliaciones de dos de las líneas con el fin de que estén listas para los Juegos Olímpicos.

Con el fin de brindarles espacio a los asistentes, las autoridades han exhortado a la población a no usar los vagones o a trabajar desde casa.

Según Grenon, los Juegos Olímpicos proporcionan “un laboratorio”, sobre todo en el caso de edificios diseñados desde cero.

Un nuevo centro acuático, al final de una autopista en el suburbio de Saint-Denis, al norte, es una obra emblemática de pino y abeto de Douglas. Su techo de 5000 metros cuadrados dibuja una curva como si fuera una ola: los arquitectos la diseñaron de ese modo para reducir el tamaño del edificio y disminuir la energía que se requiere para calentar el espacio.

La piscina tiene 5 metros de profundidad solo en la parte necesaria para clavados de mayor profundidad y es menos profunda donde no se necesita. Eso también ahorra agua y la energía que se requiere para calentarla. Parte de ese calor vendrá de un centro de datos cercano. Los 5000 asientos del recinto están fabricados con plástico reciclado.

El objetivo, según señaló la arquitecta Cécilia Gross, fue “hacer más con menos”.

Léontine Gallois colaboró con reportería desde París.

Somini Sengupta es la reportera internacional del equipo climático del Times. Más de Somini Sengupta

Catherine Porter es reportera internacional del Times y cubre Francia. Está radicada en París. Más de Catherine Porter