The New York Times 2024-04-10 01:20:36


Middle East Crisis: Grim Task After Gaza Hospital Battle: Collecting Human Remains

Workers comb devastated Al-Shifa Hospital for bodies.

United Nations workers and Gazan health officials returned to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday to begin burying the unidentified remains of scores of people who died there during a 12-day Israeli raid on the complex in March.

The raid pitted Israeli soldiers against Gazan gunmen and drew international condemnation, as did an earlier incursion into the hospital by Israeli forces in November.

But the battle in March reduced what was once the Gaza Strip’s largest health care facility to ruins. On Monday it was a scene of shattered concrete, buildings stripped of their facades, overturned cars and a half-crushed ambulance. In the air hung the stench of dead bodies.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday that aid workers had found bodies covered by only rough plastic sheets or partially buried under mounds of dirt. He said they were making sure that bodies found at the hospital “were given fuller burials on site or at a nearby area.”

“When the dead are buried properly, they can be identified later with forensic examinations, giving loved ones some consolation,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “This war is a moral failure of humanity.”

Israeli officials have said that their forces raided Al-Shifa last month because remnants of Hamas’s military wing had regrouped there after Israel’s withdrawal in January.

That reflects what some analysts have argued is a strategic failure: Israel has been unwilling to administer captured territory in Gaza, but has also been unwilling to turn it over to a non-Hamas Palestinian group. That has created the kind of power vacuum in which militant groups can thrive.

Gazan officials have said that hundreds of civilians were killed in the raid, an accusation that Israel has denied. It says the Israeli military killed about 200 fighters and captured 500 more. The New York Times has not been able to independently verify either account.

In a video posted online by Dr. Ghebreyesus, aid workers can be seen picking through the rubble of the hospital and removing at least two bodies.

Dr. Mustasem Salah, a Gazan medical official, says in the video that identifications have been done in part by using wallets or other identifying possessions found on the bodies.

“The psychological impact of the scene on the families is unbearable,” he says. “Seeing their children as decomposing corpses, and their bodies completely torn apart, is a scene that cannot be described.”

Active fighting has ebbed, but Gazans still face extreme hardship.

In early March, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began amid dashed hopes that negotiators would reach a deal for a pause in the fighting in Gaza.

On Tuesday, as weeks of fasting were drawing to a close, the pace of the war had slowed. But the prospect of relief and peace of any duration in the embattled territory remained elusive.

Cease-fire talks are still sputtering, Hamas has dismissed the likelihood of a deal and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has doubled down on his vow to invade Rafah, the final stretch of the Gaza Strip that his military has yet to push into.

“We will complete the elimination of Hamas’s battalions, including in Rafah,” he said on Tuesday. “No force in the world will stop us.”

For weeks, allies and the international community have been warning Israel that a move into Rafah would result in a humanitarian calamity. But Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks to military recruits on Tuesday — a day after proclaiming “there is a date” for the planned Rafah invasion — made clear he remained undeterred.

Hamas, in a statement on the messaging app Telegram early Tuesday, said it was reviewing the latest cease-fire proposal, even though its demands had not been met. Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been mediating the negotiations.

Active fighting in the 140-square-mile enclave has ebbed to its lowest point since November. Israel withdrew troops from southern Gaza over the weekend, allowing some people to return to survey their homes in the southern city of Khan Younis, only to find much of it annihilated.

Analysts said the pullback of troops signaled a new phase of the war rather than the likelihood of an enduring cease-fire. Israeli leaders said the withdrawal was a result of their military’s achievements on the battlefield.

Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan, will begin in Gaza on Wednesday. Under normal circumstances it’s a holiday filled with family visits, new clothes and sweet treats.

But this year, Gazans are facing Eid under the pall of widespread hunger and extreme shortages of basic necessities, on top of the destruction and death that have touched all corners of the enclave in six months of war. During the month of Ramadan, about 2,000 people were killed in the fighting, bringing the toll to more than 33,000 lives lost since the war began on Oct. 7, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its statistics.

COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for coordinating aid deliveries into Gaza, said 419 trucks with humanitarian aid had entered the territory on Monday, the largest number since the outbreak of the conflict. Before the war, an average of 500 commercial and aid trucks entered each day, the level that aid agencies say is needed.

On Monday, the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and France urged an immediate cease-fire in Gaza in a joint opinion essay published in The Washington Post and other publications, citing the “catastrophic humanitarian suffering” and “intolerable human toll” brought on by the war.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt together called for a two-state solution for the Palestinians, saying it was the only credible path to peace, and warned Israel against invading Rafah.

“Such an offensive would only bring more death and suffering, heighten the risks and consequences of mass displacement of the people of Gaza and threaten regional escalation,” they wrote in the essay.

Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

At the top U.N. court, Germany fights allegations of aiding genocide in Gaza.

Germany on Tuesday defended itself at the International Court of Justice against accusations that its arms shipments to Israel were furthering genocide in Gaza, arguing that most of the equipment it has supplied since Oct. 7 was nonlethal and that it has also been one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

At the U.N. court in The Hague, lawyers for Germany said that the allegations brought by Nicaragua had “no basis in fact or law” and rested on an assessment of military conduct by Israel, which is not a party to the case.

“Germany firmly rejects Nicaragua’s accusations,” Tania von Uslar-Gleichen, an official at Germany’s Foreign Ministry and lead counsel in the case, told the 15-judge bench, adding that Nicaragua had “rushed this case to court on the basis of flimsiest evidence.”

On Monday, Nicaragua had argued that Germany was facilitating the commission of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza by providing Israel with military and financial aid, and it asked for emergency measures ordering the German government to halt its support. The court is expected to decide within weeks whether to issue emergency measures.

The proceedings, which concluded Tuesday, were the third time in recent months that the U.N. court — usually a sleepy venue for disputes between nations — became a forum for nations to put pressure on Israel and support Palestinians.

Earlier this year, the court heard arguments by South Africa that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza and ordered the Israeli government to take steps to prevent such atrocities. The court has not ruled on whether genocide was in fact taking place, an allegation that Israel has strongly denied.

The latest case, brought by a Nicaraguan government that itself has been widely accused of repression and human rights violations, has placed a spotlight on Germany, Israel’s second-largest arms supplier after the United States. Germany’s leadership calls support for Israel a “Staatsräson,” a national reason for existence, as a way of atoning for the Holocaust.

But the mounting death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza have led some German officials to ask whether that backing has gone too far.

Lawyers for Germany urged the court to throw out the case. They argued that Germany has tried to balance the interests of both Israel and the Palestinians, and presented figures showing that Berlin was among the largest individual donors to the U.N. and other agencies that provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“Germany has always been a strong supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people,” Ms. von Uslar-Gleichen said. “This is, alongside Israel’s security, the second principle that has guided Germany’s response to the Middle East conflict in general, and to its current escalation in particular.”

In 2023, Germany approved arms exports to Israel valued at 326.5 million euros, or about $353.7 million, according to figures published by the economics ministry. That is roughly 10 times the sum approved the previous year.

Germany’s legal team argued on Tuesday that most of its exports were nonlethal support, such as protective gear, communications equipment and defense equipment against chemical hazards.

Christian Tams, a lawyer for Germany, denied Nicaragua’s claims that Berlin had increased weapons supplies to Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. He argued that since then, Germany had approved four export licenses for military equipment, with three of the licenses for training and testing matériel not suitable for combat. The fourth license was for 3,000 portable antitank weapons.

Critics have said that there is little distinction between the types of weapons provided to Israel while it is at war. On Monday, Carlos Jose Arguello Gomez, Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Netherlands, told the court that “it does not matter if an artillery shell is delivered straight from Germany to an Israeli tank shelling a hospital” or goes to replenish Israel’s stockpiles.

Pieter D. Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks global arms exports, said the German position is in line with typical arms exports to Israel.

“While they don’t do the killing directly, they are an essential part of the overall system, the armed forces of a country, which actually make it possible to engage in warfare,” he said.

Lawyers say that Germany is an easier target for a suit than is the United States, by far Israel’s main military supporter. Germany has granted full jurisdiction to the International Court of Justice. But the United States denies its jurisdiction, except in cases where Washington explicitly gives its consent.

Israel and the U.N. can’t agree on how much aid reached Gaza this week.

Israel said on Tuesday that it had increased the amount of aid it had allowed into the Gaza Strip over the previous 48 hours, arguing that it was complying with demands from the United States as well as the United Nations to address a hunger crisis that verges on famine.

But the main U.N. agency that helps civilians in Gaza, UNRWA, questioned that claim, saying there had only been a “modest increase” in aid flowing through the two main crossing points in southern Gaza lately — and no sign of the big push needed to alleviate hunger in the north of the territory, which is the epicenter of the crisis.

Israel’s agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said 741 trucks of humanitarian aid had entered Gaza on Sunday and Monday combined, calling that an “unprecedented number.” On Tuesday, the agency said another 468 humanitarian aid trucks had crossed into Gaza.

But the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, gave a lower figure, saying its data showed that over Sunday and Monday, only 326 aid trucks had entered Gaza through the two main crossings. A spokeswoman for UNRWA, Juliette Touma, stood by the agency’s figures, which are published daily, and said she had no explanation for the discrepancy.

Before the war, about 500 commercial and aid trucks supplied the enclave each day.

Shimon Freedman, a spokesman for COGAT, said he had no comment on when the country would open two more ways for aid to reach Gaza, as it promised to do last week in response to pressure from President Biden: a crossing at Erez in the north, and the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod.

Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. defense secretary, again urged Israel on Monday to significantly increase the amount of aid that flows into Gaza. On Tuesday, the American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, speaking at a news conference in Washington with the British foreign minister, said Israel had stepped up its aid to civilians in Gaza, with more than 400 trucks on Monday.

But Mr. Blinken warned that the increase in aid must be “sustained for as long as it takes to put in place something more permanent” after the war ends. He added the United States wants to see 350 trucks entering Gaza each day by later this week, a figure that is roughly triple the number that were entering each day earlier in the conflict.

Israel imposes stringent checks on incoming aid to keep out anything that might help Hamas, which it has pledged to eliminate. Humanitarian groups say this bottleneck, and a lack of security for aid convoys, have been the major barriers to distributing aid within Gaza.

But Israel says that there is no bottleneck, and that it is the fault of the U.N. and aid agencies if aid is not reaching people, because they are not providing it and handing it out quickly enough.

“The capabilities are there, so if they send more aid we are willing to inspect it and facilitate it into the Gaza Strip,” said Mr. Freedman.

UNRWA has consistently given lower figures than the Israeli authorities for the amount of aid reaching Gaza.

The situation for around 300,000 people living in northern Gaza was “definitely getting worse” because of a lack of aid, Ms. Touma said, blaming six months of Israeli restrictions. Israel’s decision to prevent UNRWA from delivering food to the north has not helped, she said.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

In Germany, discomfort with Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza is growing.

Even before the International Court of Justice this week heard arguments that Germany was aiding a genocide in Gaza by supplying weapons to Israel, there was growing concern in Berlin over its strong support for Israel during the war.

Some analysts have suggested that, as outrage at the civilian death toll in the war has grown around the world, the perception of Berlin’s unconditional support for Israel has damaged other important international relationships. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock recently said that Germany would send a delegation to Israel as a reminder of the duty to abide by international humanitarian law.

Stefan Talmon, a professor of international law at the University of Bonn, said that the initial news that Nicaragua would take Germany to the U.N. court in The Hague “put the plight of the Palestinians more in the sight of ordinary Germans.” The case, he said, has provided a rare opportunity for some Germans to discuss their discomfort with the Israeli offensive, which Gazan health authorities say has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians.

Debate over Israel’s war in Gaza has long been muted in Germany, where support for Israel is seen as an inviolable part of the country’s atonement for the Holocaust. Analysts say that Germans have historically been reluctant to question their country’s support for Israel publicly lest they be accused of being antisemitic.

“There is always this concern over how not to slide into antisemitism, but there shouldn’t be this atmosphere where we can’t have this debate at all,” said Sudha David-Whilp, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “This may not be unique to Germany but also many democracies who see a need to defend other democracies like Israel but at the same time want to make sure their values are respected.”

Still, it has been jarring for Germany to be taken to court to answer charges of abetting a genocide. German officials have long maintained that the country’s past crimes give it a special duty to protect against future genocides.

Although Germany strongly rejected the accusations from Nicaragua at the court on Tuesday, analysts say that the government is slowly toughening its stance toward Israel in any case, not because of the court case, but largely because of growing criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war from its main ally, the United States.

Some German news media said it was absurd that Germany should have to answer to accusations from Nicaragua, which is led by the President Daniel Ortega, an authoritarian whose government is widely accused of repression.

One opinion article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily newspaper noted that Mr. Ortega has often used heavy-handed tactics against perceived enemies. For instance, the newspaper said, Mr. Ortega shut down street celebrations of the victory of a Nicaraguan in the Miss Universe pageant over concerns that they could lead to a coup attempt.

“Ortega, of all people, now appears to want to campaign internationally for the observance of human rights,” the newspaper said.

A U.S. congressman says he’s ready to hold up an F-15 jet sale to Israel.

Representative Gregory Meeks, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday that he was willing to hold up an $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Israel unless the Biden administration can show him that Israel has given sufficient assurances it will no longer engage in what he called “indiscriminate bombing” of Palestinians in Gaza.

“I don’t want the kinds of weapons that Israel has to be utilized, to have more death,” he said in an interview with CNN. “I want to make sure that humanitarian aid gets in. I don’t want people starving to death. And I want Hamas to release the hostages.”

When asked if he would hold up the sale of the jets, he said, “I will make that determination once I see what those assurances are.”

If it goes forward, the order would be one of the largest weapons purchases by Israel from the United States in years, but the warplanes would not be delivered until 2029 at the earliest. Israel gets $3.8 billion each year from the U.S. government to buy American-made weapons and to bolster its missile defense systems because of a 10-year agreement that President Barack Obama approved in 2016.

The State Department gave two congressional committees, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, informal notification of the F-15 order in January. In the informal review process, those committees can ask the department questions about how Israel intends to use the jets.

The State Department usually follows the procedure of getting approval from the top Republican and Democratic member on each committee, known as the “four corners,” before moving forward to formal notification to Congress of the sale.

Mr. Meeks is the top Democrat on the House committee, so his position on the jets is significant. The top Republican members on each committee gave their approvals in January. Mr. Meeks and Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, who is the top Democrat on the Senate committee, had not given their approvals as of last week.

Mr. Meeks spoke about his reluctance to give his approval for the first time on Tuesday.

“I take things very seriously,” he said, adding that he would review Israel’s assurances in a secure room where he can look at classified information.

“I want to make sure that death stops now and hostages come home now,” he said.

Some Democratic lawmakers as well as centrist and liberal former officials have been pressing President Biden to place tough conditions on weapons aid to Israel to get the Israeli military to curb civilian deaths in Gaza. The Israeli military has killed about 33,000 Palestinians there since the war began, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The war began after Hamas led a terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 in which fighters killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, the Israelis say, and abducted about 240 others.

During the formal notification stage of an arms sale, Congress can block the sale by getting a supermajority to pass a joint resolution in both chambers, but that is extremely difficult to do, and the president could still veto the resolution.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

Turkey imposes export restrictions on Israel over the war in Gaza.

Turkey said on Tuesday that it would restrict exports to Israel until there is a cease-fire in Gaza, prompting threats of a tit-for-tat response from a government with which it has long had tense relations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has defended Hamas and lashed out at Israel over the war in Gaza, accusing it of deliberately attacking civilians. But his government had until Tuesday stopped short of taking concrete economic measures against Israel over the conflict.

Turkey’s Trade Ministry said it was imposing restrictions covering dozens of exports — including aluminum, steel products, cement and jet fuel — after Israel denied a Turkish government request to airdrop humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“This decision will remain in place until Israel declares a cease-fire in Gaza and allows the flow of a sufficient amount of uninterrupted aid to the Gaza Strip,” the ministry said in a statement.

The announcement drew an angry response from Israel’s foreign minister, who accused Mr. Erdogan of “sacrificing the economic interests” of Turkey’s people in the name of supporting Hamas.

“Israel will not capitulate to violence and blackmail and will not overlook the unilateral violation of the trade agreements and will take parallel measures against Turkey that will harm the Turkish economy,” the minister, Israel Katz, said in a statement.

Turkey’s exports to Israel were worth $5.4 billion in 2023, or 2.1 percent of its total exports, according to official data.

Turkey has long had turbulent relations with Israel, though in recent years there had been some signs of a thaw: In 2022, Turkey welcomed Israel’s president to Ankara, the first visit by an Israeli head of state since 2008. Mr. Erdogan met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for the first time last September.

Less than a month after that meeting, Hamas led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that set off the war in Gaza.

Under Mr. Erdogan, Turkey has often hosted members of Hamas, some of whose leaders were in the country for meetings on Oct. 7. The Turkish leader has strongly criticized Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, putting him sharply at odds with his NATO allies.

But the rising death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza have prompted increasing criticism from Israel’s allies over how the war is being conducted.

President Biden threatened last week to condition future U.S. support for Israel on how it addresses his concerns about civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis. This week, the foreign minister of France told French news media that imposing sanctions might be one way of putting more pressure on Israel to open humanitarian corridors to Gaza.

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

Defense secretary pushes back on protesters’ claims of genocide in Gaza.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told a Senate committee on Tuesday that the Pentagon had no evidence that Israel was carrying out a genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Austin made the comments in testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that was disrupted several times by demonstrators protesting U.S. support for Israel’s assault on Hamas. More than 33,000 people have died in Israeli bombardments on Gaza, according to Gazan health officials, and severe hunger is sweeping through the Palestinian enclave.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican, asked Mr. Austin to address the protesters’ concerns.

“Is Israel committing genocide in Gaza?” Mr. Cotton asked.

“We don’t have any evidence of genocide being created,” Mr. Austin replied.

“So that’s a no?” asked Mr. Cotton. “Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza?”

“We don’t have evidence of that, to my knowledge,” the defense secretary answered.

South Africa has brought a suit before the International Court of Justice contending that the Israeli military campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide, an accusation that Israel vehemently denies.

The court issued an interim ruling that Israel must take actions to prevent acts by its forces in Gaza that are banned under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The prohibited actions include indiscriminately killing Palestinians and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Critics who contend that the campaign is genocidal accuse Israel of indiscriminate bombings that have leveled civilian apartment blocks, public buildings and mosques. Many of the dead were women and children. They have also accused Israel of using hunger as a weapon by restricting the aid entering Gaza.

Israel has argued that its bombing campaign has been aimed at military targets, accusing Hamas of using civilians as shields. The Israeli military says Hamas has built hundreds of miles of tunnels underneath the heavily populated enclave’s buildings.

Israeli officials also deny they have unduly restricted the aid coming into the country and have accused United Nations agencies and other aid organizations of being inefficient in distributing assistance.

The hearing room was not the only scene of protest on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. The police arrested around 50 people who briefly shut down a cafeteria for senators, their aides and visitors to the Capitol.

Dozens of protesters, including clergy members and laypeople from different Christian denominations, peacefully occupied the cafeteria at peak lunch hour, chanting and singing to demand a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. arms transfers to Israel.

“The Senate and their staffers cannot eat until Gaza eats,” the protest’s organizers, led by Christians for a Free Palestine, declared.

The Capitol Police blocked off the cafeteria for around 30 minutes as it was cleared out. Staff members having lunch crowded into a nearby seating area, and then quickly returned to the cafeteria when it was reopened.

Kayla Guo contributed reporting.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

Blinken says Israel must keep aid flowing at higher rate.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Tuesday that the newly increased flow of aid from Israel into the Gaza Strip must be “sustained for as long as it takes to put in place something more permanent” after the war ends.

Mr. Blinken, speaking at news conference with the British foreign minister in Washington, said the United States wanted to see 350 aid trucks entering Gaza each day by later this week. That volume is roughly triple the number that was entering daily through much of the conflict. On Monday, Israel allowed more than 400 trucks into Gaza, and on Tuesday it allowed in 468 aid trucks, a single-day high since the start of the war, according to COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories.

The United Nations has warned that the food shortages in Gaza have become severe enough to risk famine there soon.

Mr. Blinken offered no new detail about the international talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire tied to the release of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. But he suggested that Hamas should be facing more pressure to accept an Israeli offer now on the table.

Hamas’s willingness to allow the conflict to continue, he said, “is a reflection of what it really thinks about the people of Gaza, which is not much at all.”

Noting that the Hamas militant group set off the Israeli invasion with its Oct. 7 attack, Mr. Blinken said, “It’s also extraordinary the sense in which Hamas has been almost erased from this story.”

He said he understood the anger at Israel over its devastating military offensive, which has left much of Gaza in ruins and has killed about 33,000 people, most of them civilians. But, he said, the attack on Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage, deserves condemnation as well.

“It would also be important that so much of the understandable passion, outrage and anger directed at Israel for the plight of Palestinian civilians in Gaza — that some of that might also be reserved and directed for Hamas,” Mr. Blinken said.

A Drone Strike in Odesa Shatters a Family’s Life

Reporting from Odesa, Ukraine

In the photograph, Anna Haidarzhy and her 4-month-old son, Tymofii, are barely visible under the bloodstained blanket. They lie in the rubble, at the feet of rescue workers in black and fluorescent uniforms. Just two arms, one from the mother, 31, one from her son, can be seen sticking out of the blanket.

“It looked like they were saying goodbye,” one of the rescuers, Serhii Mudrenko, said of the image.

Their bodies were found in the smoking ruins of an apartment block hit in a Russian drone attack in March in the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa that killed 12 people. The photograph, taken by Ukraine’s state emergency services, has circulated widely in Ukraine — and has been held up as a tragic symbol of the terrible toll exacted on civilians by Russia’s war.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

In Landmark Climate Ruling, European Court Faults Switzerland

Europe’s top human rights court said on Tuesday that the Swiss government had violated its citizens’ human rights by not doing enough to stop climate change, a landmark ruling that experts said could bolster activists hoping to use human rights law to hold governments to account.

In the case, which was brought by a group called KlimaSeniorinnen, or Senior Women for Climate Protection, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, said that Switzerland had failed to meet its target in reducing carbon emissions and must act to address that shortcoming.

The women, age 64 and up, said that their health was at risk during heat waves related to global warming. They argued that the Swiss government, by not doing enough to mitigate against global warming, had violated their rights.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Iran Smuggles Arms to West Bank, Officials Say, to Foment Unrest With Israel

Iran is operating a clandestine smuggling route across the Middle East, employing intelligence operatives, militants and criminal gangs, to deliver weapons to Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to officials from the United States, Israel and Iran.

The goal, as described by three Iranian officials, is to foment unrest against Israel by flooding the enclave with as many weapons as it can.

The covert operation is now heightening concerns that Tehran is seeking to turn the West Bank into the next flashpoint in the long-simmering shadow war between Israel and Iran. That conflict has taken on new urgency this month, risking a broader conflict in the Middle East, as Iran vowed to retaliate for an Israeli strike on an embassy compound that killed seven Iranian armed forces commanders.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Security Increased for Champions League Games After ISIS Threats

Sign up for Your Places: Global Update.   All the latest news for any part of the world you select.

Public safety officials in England, France and Spain said Tuesday that they would step up security for matches this week in the Champions League, Europe’s marquee soccer competition, after ISIS-related groups called for violent attacks on the contests.

The first of four quarterfinal matchups were scheduled in London and Madrid on Tuesday, and were to feature some of the top clubs in world soccer: Spain’s Real Madrid; the English giants Arsenal and Manchester City; and Germany’s Bayern Munich. Two other high-profile matches will take place on Wednesday in Paris and Madrid.

“We don’t know what location might be particularly targeted, neither in what conditions,” the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, told reporters in Paris. But he said he had spoken with police officials in Paris on Tuesday morning and had been assured that they “have considerably reinforced the security measures.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘He’s Always Been Hungry for This’: Meet Ireland’s Youngest Ever Leader

Simon Harris was three years into a university degree when he dropped out in 2008.

A job had come up as a parliamentary assistant to an Irish senator, and Mr. Harris, an ambitious 20-year-old from a coastal town in County Wicklow, south of Dublin, saw “an opportunity to try and make a difference,” he later told Hot Press, a Dublin-based magazine.

He never looked back. On Tuesday afternoon, at 37, he became the Republic of Ireland’s youngest ever head of government, the culmination of a swift political rise to a post he has long aspired to.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Xi Meets With Russia’s Foreign Minister, Reaffirming Ties

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, met in Beijing on Tuesday, in a session seen as laying the groundwork for an expected visit to China by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and pushing back against mounting pressure from the United States and its allies.

Mr. Lavrov’s visit came just days after Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned of “significant consequences” if Chinese companies provided material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. It also took place as President Biden was set to host the leaders of Japan and the Philippines on Wednesday to boost economic and security ties to counter China’s growing assertiveness in Asia.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and said the two sides had talked about deepening security ties to resist the West’s “anti-Chinese” and “anti-Russian orientation.” In a sign of the Kremlin’s continued deference to China, Mr. Lavrov reaffirmed Russia’s rejection of any “outside interference” over Beijing’s claims to the de facto independent island of Taiwan.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Mt. Etna Puffs Perfect Smoke Rings Into Sicilian Sky

For just over a week, Mt. Etna, one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, has been spewing circular, mostly white smoke rings into the skies over Sicily.

It’s not the first time Mt. Etna has enchanted onlookers with its puffing (it’s been dubbed the Gandalf of volcanoes, after the pipe-puffing wizard in “Lord of the Rings.”) But experts there say this month Etna “has broken all previous records” with the frequency of the rings, according to Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology of Catania, who posted about the phenomenon on Facebook.

The rings, known as volcanic vortex rings, appeared earlier this month after a small vent opened on the northwest border of the Southeast crater. The phenomenon occurs when enough pressure builds up so that magma inside the crater propels condensed gases, predominantly water vapor, through the vent.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Canada Wants to Regulate Online Content. Critics Say It Goes Too Far.

Sign up for Your Places: Global Update.   All the latest news for any part of the world you select.

Canada has waded into the contentious issue of regulating online content with a sweeping proposal that would force technology companies to restrict and remove harmful material, especially posts involving children, that appears on their platforms.

While the intent to better monitor online content has drawn widespread support, the bill has faced intense backlash over its attempt to regulate hate speech. Critics say the proposal crosses the line into censorship.

The bill would create a new regulatory agency with the power to issue 24-hour takedown orders to companies for content deemed to be child sexual abuse or intimate photos and videos shared without consent, often referred to as revenge porn.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

When Home Is Now the Front Line

Oleksandr Naselenko and

Emile Ducke spent a week traveling through Ukraine’s east and south, interviewing and photographing soldiers on the front line and citizens who stayed in the nearby towns and villages.

Two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the hourly artillery duels, airstrikes and pitched fighting in the country’s east and south have turned the more than 600-mile front line into a scarred frontier. Parts of it may be uninhabitable for years, if not decades. Villages and towns are destroyed. Fields are mined. Roads are barely recognizable.

But clinging to the wreckage of their homes, and hometowns, are residents who refuse to leave. Buoyed by volunteers who deliver aid and their own battle-hardened survival instincts, they carry on with their lives in an unending test of endurance. The reasons they stay are many: to care for disabled family members, to look after pets or livestock or, plainly, their love of home.

But in enclaves where the thuds of artillery serve as white noise, war is never far away.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

U.N. Inspectors Say Nuclear Plant in Ukraine Was Struck by Drones

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has condemned drone strikes at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, saying “such reckless attacks significantly increase the risk of a major nuclear accident and must be stopped immediately.”

At least three drones detonated at the plant on Sunday, according to inspectors from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency who are stationed at the facility. One strike left scorch marks on the roof of the containment building housing one of the plant’s six nuclear reactors, the agency said. Another hit outside a laboratory building. The location of the third drone strike was not included in the agency’s statement.

The facility, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, is precariously perched on the eastern banks of the Dnipro river near the frontline dividing the warring armies, and has been a source of concern almost since the start of the war. It is the first time that a nuclear facility has been occupied by an invading army and repeated crises at the plant have prompted global alarm over the rising risks of a radiological disaster.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Thirty Years After a Genocide in Rwanda, Painful Memories Run Deep

When the marauding militiamen arrived at her door on that morning in April 1994, Florence Mukantaganda knew there was nowhere to run.

It was only three days into the devastating 100-day genocide in Rwanda, when militiamen rampaged through the streets and people’s homes in a bloodshed that forever upended life in the Central African nation. As the men entered her home, Ms. Mukantaganda said her husband, a preacher, prayed for her and their two small children and furtively told her where he had hidden some money in case she survived.

He then said his final words to her before he was hacked to death with a hoe.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Four Takeaways From the Vatican’s Document on Human Dignity

Sign up for Your Places: Global Update.   All the latest news for any part of the world you select.

The document issued on Monday by the Vatican puts human dignity at the center of Catholic life, but in doing so, it broaches some of the most difficult and sensitive social issues, those that Pope Francis has spent his papacy avoiding.

On Monday, though, his church leaned hard into them in the document, called “Infinite Dignity.” It argued that the exploitation of the poor, the outcast and the vulnerable amounted to an erosion of human dignity. But it was the restating of the church’s rejection of abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia, and especially gender fluidity, transition surgery and surrogacy, that church liberals worried would be used as ammunition by the right.

Here are four takeaways.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

5-Star Bird Houses for Picky but Precious Guests: Nesting Swiftlets

With no windows, the gloomy, gray building looming four stories above the rice fields in a remote village in Indonesian Borneo resembles nothing more than a prison.

Hundreds of similar concrete structures, riddled with small holes for ventilation, tower over village shops and homes all along Borneo’s northwestern coast.

But these buildings are not for people. They are for the birds. Specifically, the swiftlet, which builds its nests inside.


Map shows the location of Perapakan in the Sambas Regency on Borneo, Indonesia.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Israeli Army Withdraws From Major Gaza Hospital, Leaving Behind a Wasteland

The journalists were among a small group of international reporters brought by the Israeli army to Al-Shifa Hospital on Sunday. To join the tour, they agreed to stay with the Israeli forces at all times and not to photograph the faces of certain commandos.

Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, once the fulcrum of Gaza’s health system and now an emblem of its destruction, stood in ruins on Sunday, as if a tsunami had surged through it followed by a tornado.

The emergency department was a tidy, off-white building until Israeli troops returned there in March. Two weeks later, it was missing most of its facade, scorched with soot, and punctured with hundreds of bullets and shells.

The eastern floors of the surgery department were left open to the breeze, the walls blown off and the equipment buried under mounds of debris. The bridge connecting the two buildings was no longer there, and the plaza between them — formerly a circular driveway wrapping around a gazebo — had been churned by Israeli armored vehicles into a wasteland of uprooted trees, upturned cars and a half-crushed ambulance.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

A Stork, a Fisherman and Their Unlikely Bond Enchant Turkey

Ben Hubbard and

Reporting from Eskikaraagac, Turkey

Thirteen years ago, a poor fisherman in a small Turkish village was retrieving his net from a lake when he heard a noise behind him and turned to find a majestic being standing on the bow of his rowboat.

Gleaming white feathers covered its head, neck and chest, yielding to black plumes on its wings. It stood atop skinny orange legs that nearly matched the color of its long, pointy beak.

The fisherman, Adem Yilmaz, recognized it as one of the white storks that had long summered in the village, he recalled, but he had never seen one so close, much less hosted one on his boat.


Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

The Japanese Sensei Bringing Baseball to Brazil

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro

Leer en español

Yukihiro Shimura always arrives first. He quietly puts on his baseball uniform. He rakes the dirt field meditatively. He picks up the coconut husks and dog poop. And, finally, when he finishes, he bows to Rio de Janeiro’s only baseball field.

Then his misfit team — including a geologist, graphic designer, English teacher, film student, voice actor and motorcycle delivery man — starts to form. Most are in their 20s and 30s, and some are still learning the basics of throwing, catching and swinging a bat.

It was not what Mr. Shimura envisioned when he signed up for this gig. “In my mind, the age range would be 15 to 18,” he said. “I should have asked.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Documentary Filmmaker Explores Japan’s Rigorous Education Rituals

The defining experience of Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s childhood left her with badly scraped knees and her classmates with broken bones.

During sixth grade in Osaka, Japan, Ms. Yamazaki — now a 34-year-old documentary filmmaker — practiced for weeks with classmates to form a human pyramid seven levels high for an annual school sports day. Despite the blood and tears the children shed as they struggled to make the pyramid work, the accomplishment she felt when the group kept it from toppling became “a beacon of why I feel like I am resilient and hard-working.”

Now, Ms. Yamazaki, who is half-British, half-Japanese, is using her documentary eye to chronicle such moments that she believes form the essence of Japanese character, for better or worse.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

From New England to Notre-Dame, a U.S. Carpenter Tends to a French Icon

Notre-Dame Cathedral sat in the pre-dawn chill like a spaceship docked in the heart of Paris, its exoskeleton of scaffolding lit by bright lights. Pink clouds appeared to the east as machinery hummed to life and workers started clambering around.

One of them, Hank Silver, wearing a yellow hard hat, stood on a platform above the Seine River and attached cables to oak trusses shaped like massive wooden triangles. A crane hoisted them onto the nave of the cathedral, which was devastated by fire in 2019.

Mr. Silver — a 41-year-old American-Canadian carpenter — is something of an unlikely candidate to work on the restoration of an 860-year-old Gothic monument and Catholic landmark in France. Born in New York City into an observant Jewish family, he owns a small timber framing business in rural New England and admits that until recently he didn’t even know what a nave was.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Adidas Stops Customization of Germany Jersey for Fear of Nazi Symbolism

The sports apparel giant Adidas abruptly stopped the sale of German soccer jerseys created with the player number “44” this week because the figure, when depicted in the official lettering of the uniform’s design, too closely resembled a well-known Nazi symbol.

The stylized square font used by Adidas for the jerseys, which will be worn by Germany’s team when it hosts this summer’s European soccer championships, makes the “44” resemble the “SS” emblem used by the Schutzstaffel, the feared Nazi paramilitary group that was instrumental in the murder of six million Jews. The emblem is one of dozens of Nazi symbols, phrases and gestures that are banned in Germany.

The country’s soccer federation, which is responsible for the design, said Monday any similarity to the logo created by the design’s numbering was unintentional.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Jorge Glas, el exvicepresidente ecuatoriano detenido en la embajada de México, está en coma

Las autoridades encontraron al exvicepresidente ecuatoriano Jorge Glas en un “coma profundo autoinducido” el lunes en la cárcel, unos días después de que fuera detenido por la policía en una captura dramática dentro de la embajada de México en Quito.

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

Glas ingirió antidepresivos y sedantes, según un informe policial, y estaba siendo trasladado a un hospital militar para su observación.

El exvicepresidente, que enfrenta una acusación de malversación de fondos en Ecuador, había buscado refugio en la embajada mexicana en un intento de evitar su detención. La semana pasada protagonizó un episodio de tensión diplomática cuando la policía entró en la embajada en Quito, lo detuvo y lo trasladó a un centro de detención.

Un tratado diplomático de 1961 determina que el gobierno del país anfitrión no puede ingresar a las embajadas extranjeras sin el permiso del jefe de la misión, una limitación que solo se ha transgredido en contadas ocasiones.

El nuevo presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, ha querido dar una imagen de firmeza frente a la delincuencia en medio de una creciente crisis de seguridad en la región, y ha defendido la decisión de detener a Glas, a quien califica de delincuente y no de preso político.

El lunes, cuando se conoció la noticia de la sobredosis de Glas, Noboa reiteró esta postura al afirmar que tenía la “obligación” de detener a personas como Glas o el país se enfrentaría al “riesgo inminente de su fuga”.

“Ecuador es un país de paz y de justicia”, continuó, “que respeta a todas las naciones y el derecho internacional”.

Los abogados de Glas, aliado del expresidente Rafael Correa, afirman que es objeto de una persecución política. Glas fue vicepresidente de Correa entre 2013 y 2017.

Thalíe Ponce colaboró con reportería desde Guayaquil, Ecuador, y Genevieve Glatsky desde Bogotá, Colombia.


Julie Turkewitz es jefa del buró de los Andes, ubicado en Bogotá, Colombia. Cubre Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador y Perú. Más de Julie Turkewitz

El Vaticano emite un documento que consterna a la comunidad LGBTQ

El Vaticano publicó el lunes un nuevo documento aprobado por el papa Francisco en el que se afirma que la Iglesia cree que las operaciones de cambio de sexo, la fluidez de género y la maternidad subrogada constituyen afrentas a la dignidad humana.

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

El sexo con el que nace una persona, según el documento, es un “don irrevocable” de Dios “de ahí que toda operación de cambio de sexo, por regla general, corra el riesgo de atentar contra la dignidad única que la persona ha recibido desde el momento de la concepción”. Toda persona que desea “disponer de sí mismo, como prescribe la teoría de género”, corre el riesgo de ceder “a la vieja tentación de que el ser humano se convierta en Dios”.

El documento también declara inequívocamente la oposición de la Iglesia católica a la maternidad subrogada, tanto si la mujer que gesta un bebé “se ve obligada a ello o decide libremente someterse”, porque el niño “se convierte en un mero medio al servicio del beneficio o el deseo arbitrario de otros”.

El documento pretendía ser una amplia declaración de la visión de la Iglesia sobre la dignidad humana, que incluía la explotación de los pobres, los inmigrantes, las mujeres y las personas vulnerables. Aunque lleva cinco años elaborándose, llega pocos meses después de que el papa Francisco disgustara a los sectores más conservadores de su Iglesia al permitir explícitamente que los católicos LGBTQ recibieran bendiciones de los sacerdotes y que las personas transgénero fueran bautizadas y actuaran como padrinos.

Si bien las enseñanzas de la Iglesia sobre temas de la guerra cultural, que Francisco ha evitado en gran medida, no son necesariamente nuevas, ahora era probable que su consolidación fuera abrazada por los conservadores por su línea dura contra las ideas liberales sobre el género y la maternidad subrogada.

También es probable que el documento cause profunda consternación entre los defensores de los derechos LGBTQ en la Iglesia, que temen que el documento será utilizado como un garrote para condenar a las personas transgénero, a pesar de que también advirtió de la “discriminación injusta”, especialmente en los países donde son criminalizadas y encarceladas y en algunos casos condenadas a muerte o se enfrentan y la agresión o la violencia.

“El Vaticano vuelve a apoyar y propagar ideas que conducen a un daño físico real a las personas transgénero, no binarias y otras personas LGBTQ+”, afirmó Francis DeBernardo, director ejecutivo de New Ways Ministry, un grupo con sede en Maryland que defiende a los católicos homosexuales. Añadió que la defensa de la dignidad humana por parte del Vaticano excluía “al segmento de la población humana que es transgénero, no binario o de género no conforme”.

DeBernardo dijo que el documento presentaba una teología obsoleta basada solo en la apariencia física y era ciega a “la creciente realidad de que el género de una persona incluye los aspectos psicológicos, sociales y espirituales naturalmente presentes en sus vidas”.

El documento, afirmó, mostraba una “asombrosa falta de conocimiento de la vida real de las personas transgénero y no binarias” y que sus autores ignoraban a las personas transgénero que compartían sus experiencias con la Iglesia y las tachaban “displicente” e incorrectamente de fenómeno puramente occidental.

Aunque el documento representa un claro revés para las personas LGBTQ y quienes las apoyan, el Vaticano se esforzó por encontrar un equilibrio entre la protección de la dignidad humana personal y la exposición clara de las enseñanzas de la Iglesia, lo que refleja la cuerda floja por la que Francisco ha intentado caminar en sus más de 11 años como papa.

Francisco ha convertido en una seña de identidad de su papado el reunirse con católicos homosexuales y transgénero, y ha hecho suya la misión de transmitir un mensaje a favor de una Iglesia más abierta y menos prejuiciosa. Pero se ha negado a ceder en lo que respecta a las normas y la doctrina de la Iglesia que muchos católicos homosexuales y transgénero consideran que les han alienado, lo que revela los límites de su campaña en favor de la inclusividad. La Iglesia enseña que “los actos homosexuales son intrínsecamente desordenados”.

El Vaticano reconoció que estaba tocando temas candentes, pero afirmó que, en una época de gran agitación en torno a estas cuestiones, era esencial, y esperaba beneficioso, que la Iglesia reafirmara sus enseñanzas sobre la centralidad de la dignidad humana.

El cardenal Víctor Manuel Fernández, que dirige el Dicasterio para la Doctrina de la Fe, escribió que algunos temas “serán fácilmente compartidos por distintos sectores de nuestras sociedades, otros no tanto”, en la introducción del documento, “Declaración Dignitas infinita sobre la dignidad humana”, que, según dijo el lunes, era de gran importancia doctrinal, a diferencia de la reciente declaración que permitía las bendiciones para los católicos del mismo sexo, y pretendía aportar claridad.

“Sin embargo, todos nos parecen necesarios”, escribió, “para que, en medio de tantas preocupaciones y angustias, no perdamos el rumbo y nos expongamos a sufrimientos más lacerantes y profundos”.

Aunque receptivo a los seguidores homosexuales y transgénero, el papa también ha expresado constantemente su preocupación por lo que él llama “colonización ideológica”, la noción de que las naciones ricas imponen arrogantemente puntos de vista ―ya sea sobre el género o la maternidad subrogada― a personas y tradiciones religiosas que no están necesariamente de acuerdo con ellos. El documento dice que en esa visión “ocupa un lugar central la teoría de género” y que su “consistencia científica se debate mucho en la comunidad de expertos”.

Utilizando el lenguaje “por un lado” y “por otro lado”, la oficina vaticana para la enseñanza y la doctrina escribe que “hay que denunciar como contrario a la dignidad humana que en algunos lugares se encarcele, torture e incluso prive del bien de la vida a no pocas personas, únicamente por su orientación sexual”.

“Al mismo tiempo”, continuaba, “la Iglesia destaca los decisivos elementos críticos presentes en la teoría de género”.

En su introducción, Fernández describió el largo proceso de redacción de un documento sobre la dignidad humana, que comenzó en marzo de 2019, para tener en cuenta los ”últimos desarrollos del tema en el ámbito académico y sus comprensiones ambivalentes en el contexto actual”.

En 2023, Francisco devolvió el documento con instrucciones para “destacar temas estrechamente relacionados con el tema de la dignidad, como la pobreza, la situación de los migrantes, la violencia contra las mujeres, la trata de personas, la guerra y otros temas”. Francisco firmó el documento el 25 de marzo.

El largo camino, escribió el cardenal Fernández, refleja un “considerable proceso de maduración”.


Jason Horowitz es el jefe del buró en Roma; cubre Italia, Grecia y otros sitios del sur de Europa. Más de Jason Horowitz

Elisabetta Povoledo es una reportera afincada en Roma que lleva más de tres décadas escribiendo sobre Italia. Más de Elisabetta Povoledo

Nicaragua lleva a Alemania a La Haya por proveer armas a Israel

Nicaragua, que apoya desde hace tiempo la causa palestina, está ampliando la batalla legal en torno al conflicto en Gaza en la Corte Internacional de Justicia al presentar una demanda contra Alemania, uno de los principales proveedores de armas a Israel.

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

En las audiencias que comenzaron el lunes en La Haya, Nicaragua argumentó que, al proporcionar ayuda militar y financiera a Israel, Alemania está facilitando que se cometa genocidio en Gaza y violando la Convención para la Prevención y Sanción del Genocidio.

Carlos José Argüello Gómez, embajador de Nicaragua en los Países Bajos, declaró ante el tribunal que “no importa si un proyectil se entrega directamente de Alemania a un tanque israelí que bombardea un hospital” o si se destina a reponer el arsenal de Israel.

“El hecho es que la garantía de suministros y remplazo de armamento es clave para que Israel prosiga con los ataques en Gaza”, dijo al tribunal, y afirmó que Alemania es consciente del “grave riesgo de que se cometa un genocidio”.

Nicaragua pidió al tribunal que emitiera órdenes de emergencia y señaló que, como parte en la Convención sobre el genocidio, Alemania debe suspender inmediatamente la ayuda militar a Israel y garantizar que los suministros que ya tiene en el país no se utilicen de manera ilegal.

Una portavoz de la cancillería alemana, Christine Hoffman, dijo a los periodistas la semana pasada que el gobierno rechazó las acusaciones de Nicaragua. Se espera que Alemania responda al caso el martes por la mañana.

El propio gobierno de Nicaragua se enfrenta a sanciones por sus políticas represivas en el país. Un informe especial de las Naciones Unidas de febrero señaló que los numerosos abusos del gobierno, incluyendo el encarcelamiento y deportación de figuras de la oposición, así como de clérigos católicos, eran “equivalentes a crímenes de lesa humanidad”.

El caso presentado por Nicaragua el lunes en La Haya plantea nuevas interrogantes sobre la responsabilidad de los países que han suministrado armas a Israel para la guerra en Gaza.

Los abogados afirman que Alemania —el segundo mayor proveedor de armas de Israel, después de Estados Unidos— es un objetivo más fácil para una demanda que Estados Unidos. Alemania ha concedido plena jurisdicción a la Corte Internacional de Justicia, el más alto tribunal de las Naciones Unidas. Pero Estados Unidos niega su jurisdicción, salvo en los casos en que Washington da explícitamente su consentimiento.

El caso de Nicaragua es el tercero que se presenta este año ante el tribunal en relación con el conflicto palestino-israelí.

Sudáfrica fue el primero en solicitar medidas de emergencia al tribunal, alegando que Israel corría el riesgo de cometer genocidio, una afirmación que el tribunal consideró plausible pero que Israel ha negado rotundamente. El tribunal ordenó a Israel que garantizara que sus ciudadanos y soldados no violan la Convención sobre el genocidio, que Israel ha firmado. La Convención prohíbe las acciones destinadas a destruir, total o parcialmente, a un grupo nacional, étnico, racial o religioso.

Sudáfrica también ha presentado una petición ante la CIJ por el hambre en Gaza y ha obtenido una nueva sentencia que ordena a Israel permitir la entrega de alimentos, agua y otros suministros vitales “sin demora”. A pesar de la autoridad del tribunal, este no dispone de medios para obligar a Israel a cumplir sus órdenes. Israel ha negado rotundamente las acusaciones de hambruna deliberada en Gaza.

En febrero, el tribunal también se ocupó de un caso solicitado por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas sobre la legalidad de la ocupación israelí de los territorios palestinos. En esas audiencias, previstas mucho antes de la guerra, participaron más de 50 países, la mayoría de los cuales expresaron su indignación y frustración por los ataques de Israel contra Gaza y el creciente número de víctimas entre la población civil.

El caso presentado por Nicaragua tiene un alcance mucho más amplio que el sudafricano, ya que invoca tanto violaciones a los Convenios de Ginebra como de la Convención sobre el genocidio, y exige la protección de los civiles. También acusa a Israel de otras conductas “ilegales” en los territorios ocupados.

El tribunal aún no ha admitido el caso, pero está obligado a reaccionar con rapidez ante las solicitudes de medidas urgentes, como este.

Israel, que no es parte en el litigio entre Nicaragua y Alemania, no comparecerá ante el tribunal en las audiencias de esta semana, que se prevé duren dos días.

El apoyo a Israel se considera un deber histórico en Alemania a la luz del Holocausto, pero el creciente número de víctimas en Gaza ha llevado a algunos funcionarios alemanes a preguntarse si ese respaldo ha ido demasiado lejos.

La reciente e intensa actividad del tribunal lo ha puesto bajo los reflectores. Los abogados afirman que los países han recurrido al tribunal porque los esfuerzos de las Naciones Unidas y otros negociadores no han logrado hasta ahora detener la guerra en Gaza.

“La CIJ no va a poner fin a la guerra en Gaza, pero es una herramienta diplomática que la política exterior utiliza para ejercer presión adicional sobre Israel”, afirmó Brian Finucane, asesor principal del International Crisis Group, un grupo de expertos en resolución de conflictos. “En el caso de Nicaragua, ejerce una presión adicional sobre Alemania”.

Marlise Simons es corresponsal en la oficina del Times en París, donde se ocupa de la justicia internacional y los tribunales de crímenes de guerra. En sus casi cuatro décadas con The New York Times, ha reportado sobre Europa desde Francia e Italia y anteriormente cubrió América Latina desde Brasil y México. Más de Marlise Simons


La disputa diplomática en Ecuador podría mejorar la suerte política de su presidente

La decisión de Ecuador de enviar agentes de policía a la Embajada de México para detener a un político que se había refugiado allí avivó las tensiones entre dos países que ya estaban enfrentados, pero puede suponer un impulso político para el presidente ecuatoriano.

El presidente Daniel Noboa ha tenido que hacer frente a unos índices de aprobación cada vez más bajos en medio de un aumento de la violencia semanas antes de un referéndum que podría afectar sus perspectivas de reelección para el siguiente año. La disputa con México, que suspendió sus relaciones diplomáticas, puede ser justo lo que necesitaba.

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

El político detenido, Jorge Glas, otrora vicepresidente de Ecuador, había sido condenado a prisión por corrupción y vivía en la embajada de México en Quito desde diciembre. El viernes, México le concedió asilo y la policía ecuatoriana entró en acción.

El despacho de Noboa dijo que la detención se había llevado a cabo porque México había abusado de las inmunidades y privilegios concedidos a la misión diplomática, pero el mensaje que envió también estaba en consonancia con el enfoque de mano dura de Noboa para hacer frente a la violencia y la corrupción en Ecuador.

El líder de centroderecha, de 36 años, llegó al poder en noviembre después de que el presidente Guillermo Lasso, que se enfrentaba a un proceso de destitución por acusaciones de malversación de fondos, convocó elecciones anticipadas. Noboa ocupará el cargo hasta mayo de 2025, fecha en la que finaliza el mandato de Lasso.

La capacidad de Noboa para demostrar que puede restaurar la ley y el orden en esta nación de casi 18 millones de habitantes puede resultar decisiva para su reelección, y eso significa enfrentarse a las pandillas del país, así como a la corrupción dentro del gobierno que ha permitido la existencia de grupos criminales, según los analistas.

Muchos expertos dicen que esas aspiraciones políticas parecen explicar el arresto en la embajada, indicio de que el presidente es estricto con la impunidad.

“Hizo esto para cambiar todos estos temas de conversación negativa que le estaban afectando y tratar de tener una conversación a su favor”, dijo un analista político ecuatoriano, Agustín Burbano de Lara.

Glas ocupó varios cargos ministeriales durante la presidencia del izquierdista Rafael Correa, entre los que destaca el de vicepresidente. En 2017, fue obligado a dejar el cargo y condenado a seis años de prisión por aceptar sobornos. Otra condena por soborno en 2020 lo implicó a él y a Correa, y ambos recibieron una condena de ocho años.

Liberado en 2022, Glas acabó pidiendo asilo en México, una medida que tensó las relaciones entre Ecuador y México. El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Ecuador dijo en marzo que había solicitado permiso a México para detener a Glas.

Aunque Noboa es muy popular, las encuestas muestran que su índice de aprobación cayó 11 puntos en los últimos meses, del 85 por ciento al 74 por ciento, en medio de la creciente violencia en Ecuador.

Después de que la ciudad costera de Guayaquil fue invadida por la violencia de las pandillas en enero, Noboa declaró un conflicto interno, una medida extraordinaria que se toma cuando el Estado es atacado por un grupo armado. Desplegó al ejército del país, permitiendo a los soldados patrullar las calles y las prisiones para hacer frente a la creciente violencia de las bandas vinculadas al tráfico de drogas.

La agresiva respuesta redujo inicialmente la violencia y aportó una precaria sensación de seguridad a lugares como Guayaquil, pero la estabilidad no duró. Durante las vacaciones de Semana Santa se produjeron 137 asesinatos en Ecuador, y los secuestros y extorsiones han empeorado.

Dentro de dos semanas, los ecuatorianos votarán en un referéndum para permitir al gobierno aumentar las medidas de seguridad endureciendo las penas de prisión para algunos delitos y consagrando por ley el aumento de la presencia militar.

Los expertos dicen que es demasiado pronto para decir si la detención de Glas beneficiará a Noboa en las urnas, pero varios ecuatorianos dijeron el domingo que apoyaban la acción.

“México ha tratado como tontos a los ecuatorianos, dando asilo a todas estas personas sentenciadas”, dijo Danilo Álvarez, un vendedor de 41 años de Guayaquil, una de las ciudades más violentas del país.

El propio Ecuador una vez concedió un asilo muy comentado en una de sus embajadas. En 2012, cuando Correa era presidente, alojó al fundador de WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, en su embajada en Londres durante siete años.

Álvarez dijo que unos ladrones entraron en su casa hace unos años, le ataron las manos y los pies y le apuntaron con una pistola a la cabeza. Pasaron meses antes de que pudiera volver a dormir bien, dijo.

Sin embargo, no todos los ciudadanos estaban de acuerdo con la detención.

“Se trató de un acto de total irrespeto al derecho internacional”, dijo Delfa Mantilla, profesora jubilada de 62 años. “Parece que fue algo que el presidente Noboa hizo producto de su ego de niño rico, sin empatía”.

Algunos se preocuparon por los efectos que la disputa diplomática podría tener para la gente común. Decenas de miles de ecuatorianos emigran a través de México a Estados Unidos cada año, y los dos países se han enfrentado a un aumento de la delincuencia transnacional, con muchos cárteles mexicanos operando desde Ecuador.

“Parte de mí piensa que está bien, porque Glas debe ir preso”, dijo Mario Zalamar, un ingeniero comercial de 34 años. Pero, añadió, “hay miles de ecuatorianos ahora mismo transitando México a pie para migrar a Estados Unidos y no sabemos cuánto les va a afectar esto”.

Aunque muchos ecuatorianos apoyen la detención en la embajada, es probable que Noboa haya ahondado una brecha diplomática que puede debilitar sus relaciones con otros países de la región.

Honduras, Brasil, Colombia y Argentina se han unido a México y han criticado la detención. Y el gobierno de Nicaragua anunció que suspendía sus relaciones diplomáticas con Ecuador, calificando la detención de “barbarie política neofascista” en una declaración compartida por los medios de comunicación estatales.

Matthew Miller, portavoz del Departamento de EE. UU., declaró: “Estados Unidos condena cualquier violación de la Convención de Viena sobre Relaciones Diplomáticas, y se toma muy en serio la obligación de los países anfitriones, en virtud del derecho internacional, de respetar la inviolabilidad de las misiones diplomáticas”.

Miller hizo un llamamiento a ambos países para que resuelvan sus diferencias.

José María León Cabrera y Thalíe Ponce colaboraron con reportería.


El petróleo de Guyana: ¿bendición o maldición?

Read in English

Basjit Mahabir no me deja entrar.

Estoy tratando de convencer a Mahabir de que abra la reja cerrada con candado de la finca Wales, donde vigila los restos desvencijados de una fábrica rodeada de kilómetros de campos de caña de azúcar sin cultivar. El cultivo y la molienda del azúcar de esta plantación, a unos 16 kilómetros de Georgetown, la capital de Guyana, concluyó hace siete años y algunas partes del complejo han sido vendidas como chatarra.

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

Tengo mis argumentos. “Aquí vivía yo cuando era niña”, digo. “Mi padre dirigía el laboratorio de campo”. Mahabir es amigable, pero firme. No lograré entrar.

Estas ruinas son lo que queda de una industria azucarera que, después de enriquecer a los colonizadores británicos durante siglos, fue el indicador de la riqueza del país cuando obtuvo su independencia.

Ahora se prevé que esta finca se convierta en parte del auge más reciente de Guyana: una fiebre de petróleo que está reconfigurando el futuro del país. Esta nación alejada de las rutas más conocidas, con una población de 800.000 habitantes, está en la vanguardia de una paradoja global: aun cuando el mundo se compromete a dejar de emplear combustibles fósiles, los países en desarrollo tienen muchos incentivos a corto plazo para duplicar su uso.

Antes del petróleo, los extranjeros iban a Guyana a hacer ecoturismo atraídos por los bosques tropicales que abarcan el 87 por ciento de su territorio. En 2009, la iniciativa de combatir el calentamiento global convirtió esto en un nuevo tipo de moneda cuando Guyana vendió créditos de carbono por un total de 250 millones de dólares, fundamentalmente con la promesa de mantener ese carbón almacenado en los árboles.

Seis años después, Exxon Mobil descubrió un tesoro de petróleo bajo las aguas costeras de Guyana. De inmediato, esta empresa y sus socios del consorcio, Hess Corporation y China National Offshore Oil Corporation, comenzaron la extracción a una velocidad inaudita. Este petróleo, el mismo que en la actualidad se quema principalmente en Europa, está produciendo más emisiones a nivel global, al igual que una riqueza colosal.

Se prevé que, para fines de esta década, este descubrimiento se convierta en la principal fuente de ingresos de Exxon Mobil. El acuerdo que lo hizo posible —y que le otorgó a Exxon Mobil la mayor parte de las ganancias— ha sido un tema de indignación pública y hasta de una demanda, y el consenso aparente es que Guyana salió perdiendo. No obstante, hasta ahora, el acuerdo le ha generado al país 3500 millones de dólares, más dinero del que haya visto, considerablemente más de lo que obtuvo por conservar árboles. Es suficiente para trazar un nuevo destino.

El gobierno ha decidido ir en pos de ese destino invirtiendo todavía más en los combustibles fósiles. La mayor parte de las ganancias inesperadas por el petróleo disponibles en su erario se usarán en la construcción de carreteras y otro tipo de infraestructura, en especial un gasoducto de más de 240 kilómetros para transportar gas natural y generar electricidad.

El gasoducto pasará por la finca Wales para llevar el gas a una central eléctrica y a una segunda planta que usará los derivados para producir gas para cocinar y fertilizantes. Con un costo de más de 2000 millones de dólares, es el proyecto público de infraestructura más caro en la historia de Guyana. Se alberga la esperanza de que el país pueda desarrollarse a nivel económico con un suministro previsible y abundante de energía barata.

Al mismo tiempo, el cambio climático se cierne sobre las costas de Guyana; se prevé que la mayor parte de Georgetown quede bajo el agua para el año 2030.

El gasoducto atravesará una antigua finca azucarera y terrenos privados. El gobierno espera que el proyecto aporte una fuente de energía fiable para diversificar la economía. Al mismo tiempo, el aumento del nivel del mar amenaza la capital, Georgetown.

Los países como Guyana están atrapados en una lucha entre las consecuencias de la extracción de combustibles fósiles y los incentivos para llevarla a cabo. “Desde luego que estamos hablando de países en desarrollo, y si todavía necesitan desarrollarse mucho a nivel social y económico, entonces es difícil exigirles que prohíban los combustibles fósiles en su totalidad”, señaló Maria Antonia Tigre, directora del Sabin Center for Climate Change Law de la Universidad de Columbia. Aun así, insistió, “estamos en un momento de la crisis climática en que a nadie se le puede otorgar ninguna concesión.

Durante varios siglos, las potencias extranjeras establecieron los términos para esta franja de Sudamérica en el océano Atlántico. Los británicos, quienes fueron los primeros en tomar posesión en 1796, trataron a esta colonia como una enorme fábrica de azúcar. Traficaron esclavos procedentes de África para que trabajaran en las plantaciones y luego, después de la abolición de la esclavitud, hallaron un remplazo despiadadamente eficaz con la contratación de trabajadores no abonados, en su mayoría procedentes de India. Mahabir, quien trabajó cortando caña la mayor parte de su vida, es descendiente de esos trabajadores no abonados, al igual que yo.

Hace 57 años, el país se liberó de sus grilletes imperiales, pero la democracia genuina tardó más tiempo en llegar.

No fue sino hasta la década de 1990 que Guyana celebró sus primeras elecciones libres e imparciales, comenzaron a surgir las instituciones de la democracia, como un sistema judicial independiente, y la legislatura aprobó una serie de leyes ambientales muy sólidas.

Ahora que ha llegado Exxon Mobil para extraer un nuevo recurso, algunos defensores de la democracia y el medioambiente consideran que esas protecciones están amenazadas. Señalan al gigante de los combustibles fósiles, el cual recibe ingresos globales diez veces mayores al producto bruto interno de Guyana, de ser una nueva especie de colonizador, y han demandado a su gobierno con el fin de presionarlo a hacer cumplir sus leyes y disposiciones.

Vickram Bharrat, ministro de Recursos Naturales, defendió la vigilancia que ejerce el gobierno sobre el gas y el petróleo. “No existen pruebas de inclinación a favor de ninguna corporación multinacional”, dijo. En un comunicado, Exxon Mobil señaló que su trabajo en el proyecto de gas natural “ayudaría a ofrecerles a los consumidores guyaneses electricidad confiable y de bajas emisiones a base de gas”.

El mundo se encuentra en una seria coyuntura y Guyana está en la intersección. Este país es un puntito diminuto del planeta, pero el descubrimiento de petróleo ahí ha planteado preguntas de una importancia enorme. ¿Cómo se puede lograr que los países ricos rindan cuentas de sus promesas de dejar de usar los combustibles fósiles? ¿Las instituciones de una democracia débil pueden mantener bajo control a las grandes corporaciones? ¿Y qué clase de futuro les está prometiendo Guyana a sus ciudadanos mientras apuesta por materias primas que la mayor parte del mundo está prometiendo dejar de usar?

Hace un año, un hotel en Georgetown, con el afán de aprovechar el nuevo dinero del petróleo, al igual que muchos otros, organizó un evento de cata de ron y cobró 170 dólares por persona. Yo había estado intentando, sin éxito, entrevistar a los altos directivos de Exxon Mobil en Guyana. Cuando escuché rumores de que asistiría su director nacional, compré un boleto y, aunque él no se presentó, me pude sentar con su círculo más cercano.

Uno de los organizadores del evento pronunció un discurso en el que evocó una época en la que “BG”, la abreviatura de British Guiana (Guyana Británica), el nombre del país en la época colonial, también se usaba para referirse a “Booker’s Guiana” (la Guyana de Booker, la mayor empresa de la industria azucarera en Guyana). Ahora, este orador hablaba con toda naturalidad de “la Guyana de Exxon”.

Booker McConnell era una empresa multinacional británica fundada originalmente por dos hermanos que se enriquecieron gracias al azúcar y a las personas esclavas. En algún momento, la empresa fue propietaria del 80 por ciento de las plantaciones azucareras en la Guyana Británica, entre ellas, la de la finca Wales. El ejecutivo de Exxon Mobil que estaba sentado a mi lado no sabía nada de esto y se ruborizó cuando le dije que el orador acababa de inscribir a su empleador en una larga lista de colonialismo corporativo.

El país obtuvo su independencia en 1966, pero los gobiernos británico y estadounidense manipularon la llegada al poder del primer dirigente guyanés, Forbes Burnham, un abogado negro al que consideraron más manipulable que Cheddi Jagan, el hijo radical de unos trabajadores indios de una plantación, quien era considerado como una amenaza marxista. Pero Burnham se volvió cada vez más dictatorial y, en un giro del destino geopolítico, socialista.

Tras la independencia, Booker seguía siendo propietario de la finca Wales, pero a mediados de la década de 1970, Burnham tomó el control de los recursos del país: nacionalizó la producción azucarera y la explotación de bauxita. Al igual que otras antiguas colonias, Guyana quería romper con el imperialismo tanto económico como político.

Burnham impulsó la idea de la independencia económica hasta el punto de prohibir las importaciones. Sin embargo, Guyana no contaba con las granjas ni las fábricas para satisfacer la demanda, así que el pueblo tuvo que recurrir al mercado negro, hacer filas para recibir alimentos racionados y pasar hambre.

La muerte de Burnham en 1985 desencadenó una serie de acontecimientos que empezaron a transformar el país. En siete años, Guyana celebró sus primeras elecciones libres e imparciales y Jagan, quien entonces ya era un hombre mayor, resultó electo como presidente. Pronto, una generación más joven de su partido asumió el poder y adoptó el capitalismo. Una vez más, las empresas extranjeras pudieron competir por los vastos recursos del país.

Luego llegaron las pruebas de los peligros planteados por la extracción descontrolada. En 1995, se desbordó una presa de una mina de oro canadiense. Los 1500 millones de litros de desechos envenenados con cianuro que había contenido contaminaron dos ríos importantes. Simone Mangal-Joly, quien ahora es una especialista en desarrollo internacional y medioambiente, estuvo entre los científicos de campo que probaron los niveles de cianuro del río. El agua se había vuelto roja y los pobladores indígenas se cubrían con plástico para protegerse la piel. “Es donde se bañaban”, recordó Mangal-Joly. “Era el agua que bebían, con la que cocinaban y su medio de transporte”.

La tragedia suscitó la acción. El año siguiente, el gobierno aprobó su primera ley de protección al medioambiente y, siete años después, se añadió a la Constitución el derecho a un medioambiente sano. Guyana logró consagrar lo que ni Canadá ni Estados Unidos, por ejemplo, han consagrado.

Durante un tiempo, el capital natural de Guyana —los vastos bosques tropicales que hacen que este sea uno de los pocos países que son un sumidero neto de carbono— estaba entre sus activos más preciados. Bharrat Jagdeo, el entonces presidente, vendió a Noruega el carbono almacenado en sus bosques para compensar la contaminación derivada de la propia producción de petróleo de ese país en 2009. Los grupos indígenas recibieron 20 millones de dólares por ese acuerdo para desarrollar sus aldeas y obtener los títulos de propiedad de sus tierras ancestrales, aunque algunos se quejaron de haber tenido poca participación. Jagdeo fue aclamado como un “defensor de la tierra” de las Naciones Unidas.

Pero luego Exxon Mobil descubrió petróleo.

La visión de una Guyana ecológica ahora compite con su meteórico ascenso como una de las nuevas fuentes más grandes de petróleo en el mundo. Jagdeo, quien ahora es vicepresidente de Guyana pero sigue imponiendo gran parte de la política gubernamental, es un ferviente defensor del proyecto Wales.

No obstante, un movimiento multirracial de ciudadanos, pequeño pero inquebrantable, está poniendo a prueba el poder de las leyes ambientales. David Boyd, el relator especial de la ONU sobre derechos humanos y medioambiente, califica al país como un frente de batalla para litigios con argumentos innovadores sobre derechos para combatir el cambio climático. Esto incluye el primer caso constitucional de cambio climático de la región, presentado por un guía de turistas indígena y un profesor universitario.

Liz Deane-Hughes proviene de una familia destacada. Su padre fundó uno de los bufetes de abogados más respetados de Georgetown y en la década de 1980 luchó contra cambios represivos a la Constitución. Deane-Hughes recuerda que sus padres la llevaban a los apasionados mítines dirigidos por un partido multirracial que estaba contra el gobierno de Burnham. Cuando tenía 13 años, un día llegó a su casa y encontró a oficiales de la policía registrando su hogar. “Yo viví en Guyana en la década de 1980”, señaló Deane-Hughes, quien trabajó en el bufete familiar antes de dejar la abogacía. “Así que no deseo volver a eso en ningún sentido”.

Hablé con Deane-Hughes, quien ahora es artista y diseñadora de joyería, en la amplia terraza de una casa estilo colonial construida en un terreno que ha pertenecido a su familia durante cinco generaciones. El gobierno ha reclamado una parte de este para el gasoducto de gas natural, el cual pasa tanto por propiedad privada como por la finca Wales. Pero, según ella, el problema va más allá de su patio trasero.

En febrero, Deane-Hughes se unió virtualmente a otros activistas en una audiencia ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos con el argumento de que las empresas petroleras han afectado la gestión del medioambiente en Guyana. Este grupo de activistas ha alzado la voz y presentado demandas para poner a esa empresa bajo el escrutinio de las normas y las leyes del país.

Mangal-Joly, quien respondió al desastre del cianuro que dio lugar a esas leyes ambientales, comentó que el gobierno no ha logrado cumplir con sus funciones de vigilancia. Como parte de su investigación de doctorado en la University College London, descubrió que la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Guyana había suspendido las evaluaciones ambientales de todas las instalaciones de tratamiento de desechos tóxicos o que almacenan materiales radiactivos producidos por la producción de petróleo en altamar.

También a la planta de gas le han otorgado carta blanca. En enero, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, por su sigla en inglés) suspendió la evaluación ambiental de la planta propuesta de Wales debido a que Exxon Mobil, aunque no está construyendo la planta, ya había realizado una evaluación para el gasoducto.

La Agencia de Protección Ambiental defendió su decisión. “Es una buena práctica común” basarse en evaluaciones ambientales ya existentes “aunque las hayan realizado otros desarrolladores de proyectos”, escribió un vocero de la agencia en representación de su director ejecutivo. La agencia afirmó su derecho a suspender las evaluaciones cuando lo considere oportuno y señaló que los tribunales no habían revocado sus exenciones: “Sin duda, esto habla del alto grado de competencia técnica y de la cultura de cumplimiento de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental con las leyes de Guyana”.

Mangal-Joly afirma que la central eléctrica está sobre un manto freático que suministra agua potable a la mayor parte del país. “Nuestra capa freática es poco profunda”, explicó. “Hay una generación, así como generaciones por venir, que no heredarán agua limpia. Estamos echando a perder un recurso mucho más valioso que el petróleo”.

La suspensión enfureció a Deane-Hughes y le pareció una farsa la independencia de la junta que atiende las inquietudes de los ciudadanos. Su presidente, Mahender Sharma, encabeza la agencia de energía de Guyana y su esposa dirige la nueva empresa gubernamental creada para gestionar la central eléctrica. En una audiencia de la junta, Deane-Hughes hizo referencia al mandato contra los conflictos de interés en la Ley de Protección Ambiental y le pidió a Sharma que no interviniera. “Yo quisiera que usted no tomara ninguna decisión”, le dijo.

Seis semanas después, la junta tomó una decisión: autorizó que la compañía eléctrica conservara su permiso ambiental sin hacer ninguna declaración de impacto ambiental.

Sharma calificó a los críticos de ser una élite intelectual privilegiada que ignora las privaciones que han orillado a muchos guyaneses a darle la bienvenida a la industria petrolera.

En la reunión con la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Bharrat, el ministro de Recursos Naturales, alegó que su gobierno tiene tanto el derecho como la responsabilidad de equilibrar el desarrollo económico con la sustentabilidad. “El desarrollo de nuestro país y la protección al medioambiente no son objetivos irreconciliables”, les dijo.

Para Melinda Janki, la abogada que está llevando la mayor parte de las demandas de los activistas y una de los pocos abogados locales dispuestos a enfrentarse a las empresas petroleras, la pregunta es si Exxon Mobil puede salirse con la suya y hacer lo que quiere. Janki colaboró en la creación de algunas de las leyes ambientales más estrictas de Guyana. “Pese a que es una empresa petrolera gigantesca, tendrán que obedecer la ley. El Estado de derecho es el Estado de derecho”, dijo.


La iniciativa Headway se financia mediante subvenciones de la Fundación Ford, la Fundación William y Flora Hewlett y la Fundación Stavros Niarchos (SNF, por su sigla en inglés), y Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors actúa como patrocinador fiscal. La Fundación Woodcock financia la plaza pública de Headway. Los financiadores no tienen ningún control sobre la selección, el enfoque de las historias o el proceso de edición y no revisan las historias antes de su publicación. El Times conserva el pleno control editorial de la iniciativa Headway.

Gaiutra Bahadur es autora de Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture. Enseña inglés y periodismo como profesora asociada en la Universidad Rutgers de Newark.