The New York Times 2024-05-10 01:12:23


Middle East Crisis: Cease-Fire Talks Stall as Anger Flares Over Israel’s Incursion Into Rafah

The halt in talks is a setback amid hopes for an agreement to free hostages.

High-level hostage negotiations in Cairo were put on hold Thursday, according to officials briefed on the negotiations and Egyptian state media, with one official saying that anger had flared among participants over Israel’s incursion into the southern Gazan city Rafah.

The pause is a setback given that some people watching the negotiations closely had seen signs that an agreement might be in reach this week. Still, one official briefed on the talks said that negotiators did not believe Hamas or Israel were leaving the negotiations permanently and were interpreting the suspension as a temporary pause rather than a derailment.

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director and top American negotiator, and other senior officials departed Cairo, according to multiple officials. The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations.

Mr. Burns, who has been involved in daylong negotiating sessions, had extended his trip, moving between Egypt and Israel on Wednesday to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in an effort to persuade Israel not to dismiss Hamas’s most recent cease-fire counterproposal and to continue negotiating over it.

While midlevel Egyptian, Qatari and American officials remain in Cairo for discussions, both Hamas and Israeli delegations left on Thursday, Hamas and Israeli officials said. A senior Egyptian official told state-owned television that mediation efforts were still underway to bridge the difference between the most recent proposals by Israel and Hamas.

American officials said they believed that the differences between Hamas and Israel still could be resolved, at least enough to begin the first phase of hostage negotiations. One proposal called for Hamas to free hostages in return for a 42-day cease-fire and the release of a much larger number of Palestinian prisoners. That would be the first of three phases of reciprocal actions from each side.

On Thursday, Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said that work was continuing to finalize the text of an agreement, but that it was “incredibly difficult.”

Egyptian and Hamas negotiators have been enraged by Israel’s military operations in Rafah. And the United States has argued that the military operation is threatening the hostage talks. The Biden administration announced it would withhold 3,500 bombs from Israel until it ended military operations in Rafah.

The Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Herzog, said on Thursday that Mr. Biden’s decision to withhold some weapons from Israel “sends the wrong message to Hamas and to our enemies in the region.” He added, “It puts us in a corner.”

Speaking in a public conversation hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, Mr. Herzog said, “It will be impossible to establish a postwar government in Gaza unless Hamas is completely vanquished. He added, “Nobody presented to me or to us a strategy of defeating Hamas without dealing with Rafah.”

On Monday, Israeli tanks and troops seized the border crossing in the Gazan city, shutting off the flow of aid from Egypt. American officials had hoped the incursion was not the start of a larger ground invasion in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians are crammed into tent cities and temporary shelters in the city.

The United States believes that such an operation would weaken Israel’s position in cease-fire negotiations and diminish its international standing, Mr. Miller said on Thursday. The United States also believes that the operation, “in addition to all the harm it would cause to the Palestinian people, actually weakens Israel’s security,” he added.

Israeli officials have reacted with defiance, saying the invasion is necessary to dismantle Hamas as a fighting force in Rafah.

Anushka Patil and Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

A White House aide cautions Israel against ‘smashing into Rafah.’

A White House spokesman warned on Thursday that Israel “smashing into Rafah” would not eradicate Hamas as he urged the country to find alternatives to the long-threatened assault on a city where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering.

John F. Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said President Biden shares Israel’s goal of eradicating the terrorist group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

But Mr. Biden has grown increasingly wary of a major assault in the densely populated city of Rafah in southern Gaza. Since the war began, more than 34,000 people have died in Gaza, according to local health authorities. The United States fears an operation in Rafah would lead to widespread civilian casualties.

“An enduring defeat of Hamas certainly remains the Israeli goal, and we share that goal with them,” Mr. Kirby said. “Smashing into Rafah, in his view, will not advance that objective, will not get to that sustainable and enduring defeat of Hamas.”

Those concerns led Mr. Biden last week to pause the delivery of 3,500 bombs to Israel — the first time he leveraged U.S. arms to try to influence how the war is waged. On Wednesday, he said he would also withhold artillery if Israel went ahead with a major operation in Rafah.

“If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, that deal with that problem,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett.

He also acknowledged that Israel had used American bombs to kill civilians in Gaza, reflecting his growing unease with the mounting death toll as the war grinds on.

Mr. Kirby also tried to assuage concerns that the United States was breaking with its closest ally in the Middle East.

“The argument that somehow we’re walking away from Israel fly in the face of the facts,” Mr. Kirby said Thursday, citing Mr. Biden’s visit to Israel within the days of the Oct. 7 attack, providing money and military expertise for its war, and putting American fighter pilots in the sky to shoot down Iranian drones.

He said the United States believes that Israel has “put an enormous amount of pressure on Hamas, and that there are better ways to go after what is left of Hamas in Rafah than a major ground operation.”

Mr. Kirby said the United States was still working with Israel on ways it can help it defeat Hamas, such as ensuring that the border between Gaza and Egypt cannot be used for smuggling weapons and targeting Hamas’s leaders.

He also noted that while the United States has temporarily paused the transfer of bombs, Israel was “still getting the vast, vast majority of everything that they need to defend themselves,” and that a recent funding package passed by Congress will continue to send billions to Israel.

Mr. Biden’s decision to pause certain weapons shipments to Israel underscored brewing frustrations between Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu has said that Israel would move forward with its invasion in Rafah even without global support. In the last week, Israeli forces have carried out a number of targeted strikes in Rafah, and showed other signs of a major ground invasion, including the evacuation of more than 100,000 people.

On Thursday, the Israeli leader said: “If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have said that, if necessary, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails and with that same strength of spirit, with God’s help, together we will win.”

A Satellite View of Israel’s New Front in GazaWidespread damage, flattened structures and clusters of Israeli tanks were seen in eastern Rafah after Israel’s incursion.

News Analysis

Biden’s threat sharpens a problem for Netanyahu.

President Biden’s warning over halting weapons supplies has tightened the bind that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel faces, as he is increasingly caught between international calls for a cease-fire and right-wing Israeli demands to proceed with a wide-scale invasion of Rafah, in southern Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu, who has insisted over American objections that invading Rafah is necessary, now finds the U.S.-Israel relationship at a moment of crisis that could affect how he conducts the next phase of the war against Hamas.

On Thursday, the Israeli leader, alluding to Mr. Biden’s remarks, said in a statement: “If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have said that, if necessary, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails and with that same strength of spirit, with God’s help, together we will win.”

With Mr. Biden threatening for the first time to withhold more American weapons, including heavy bombs and artillery shells, if Israel carries out a major operation in Rafah, a city crammed with about a million Palestinians, analysts say that the Israeli military risks losing the support of its most important supplier of foreign arms.

“The United States provides Israel with a steel dome — it’s not only military support; it’s strategic and political; it’s at the United Nations, the international court, and so on,” said Amos Gilead, a former senior Israeli defense official who worked closely with American security officials for decades.

“If we lose the United States with the unbelievable friendship of President Biden, it won’t be forgiven,” he added.

But Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israeli military, said on Thursday that the military had sufficient “munitions for its planned operations, including operations in Rafah.”

While Israel has enough weapons in its stockpiles to conduct a wide-scale invasion of the Gazan city, U.S. restrictions could force the Israeli military to cut back on deploying specific munitions, experts said.

“It’s possible we’ll have to economize the way we use our arms and hit more targets without precision bombs,” said Jacob Nagel, a former national security adviser.

Avi Dadon, a former leader of procurement at Israel’s Defense Ministry, told Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster, that he “could be worried” if American arms were withheld. But outwardly, at least, key members of Mr. Netanyahu’s government said the war effort would not be affected.

“I turn to Israel’s enemies as well as to our best of friends and say: The state of Israel cannot be subdued,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said at a memorial ceremony, adding that the country would do “whatever is necessary” to defend its citizens and “to stand up to those who attempt to destroy us.”

Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right finance minister, declared that Israel would achieve “complete victory” despite what he described as Mr. Biden’s “pushback and arms embargo.”

American-made weapons, including heavy bombs, have been essential to Israel’s war effort since the country was attacked by Hamas and other militant groups on Oct. 7. But Mr. Biden has been under growing domestic pressure to rein in Israel’s military as the death toll has risen in Gaza. It is now more than 34,000, according to local health authorities.

And in his comments on Wednesday in an interview with CNN, Mr. Biden acknowledged for the first time that U.S. bombs had killed innocent civilians in the conflict.

The American concerns have only grown since the Israeli army sent tanks and troops into the eastern part of Rafah on Monday night, taking over the main border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Israeli forces have stopped short of entering built-up parts of the city, but Mr. Netanyahu and others have signaled that such an operation is necessary to eliminate Hamas battalions there.

On Tuesday, American officials said Mr. Biden had withheld 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs that he feared could be dropped on Rafah. The administration was reviewing whether to hold back future transfers, including guidance kits that convert so-called dumb bombs into precision-guided munitions, the officials said.

In addition to the bombs, Mr. Biden said the United States would not supply artillery shells if Israel invaded population centers in Rafah.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, described the Biden administration’s decision as “very disappointing” and “frustrating.”

“We have a cruel enemy here,” he said. “Is this the time to put restrictions on Israel’s weapons?”

Nadav Eyal, a prominent columnist for a centrist Israeli newspaper, said Mr. Biden had essentially decided to declare an end to the war. Writing on the social media platform X, he called it “the most serious clash between an American administration and the government of Israel since the first Lebanon war.”

The Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Herzog, said on Thursday that Mr. Biden’s decision “sends the wrong message to Hamas and to our enemies in the region.”

“It puts us in a corner,” he said in a public conversation hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He added, “Nobody presented to me or to us a strategy of defeating Hamas without dealing with Rafah.”

Some analysts, however, downplayed the significance of the crisis, arguing it wasn’t as bad as past fissures between the United States and Israel. The rupture in relations over the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 was “much worse,” said Mr. Nagel.

Amid the tense state of affairs, Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, thanked the United States for supporting Israel and appeared to lash out at Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, who had posted on X, “Hamas ♥ Biden.”

“Even when there are disagreements and moments of disappointment between friends and allies, there is a way to clarify the disputes,” Mr. Herzog said.

Myra Noveck, Michael Crowley and Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.

Japanese American civil rights group pushes for a Gaza cease-fire, breaking with its Jewish allies.

The Japanese American Citizens League, one of the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organizations, called on Thursday for a negotiated cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, following months of pressure from younger members who believed the group had a duty to advocate for Palestinians.

The organization’s leaders and some older members were reluctant to take a position on the war, in part because of the league’s longstanding ties with prominent Jewish civil rights groups in the United States. In the 1970s, the American Jewish Committee was the first national organization to endorse the push by Japanese Americans for reparations for their incarceration during World War II.

But younger members of the Japanese American group said that Palestinians were suffering from human rights violations and that their organization had long stood up for such victims.

The league, in a statement on Thursday, pointed to the conflict’s “staggering” death toll of Palestinians and Israelis and the immense and continuous humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

As a group “dedicated to safeguarding the civil liberties of not only Japanese Americans but all individuals subjected to injustice and bigotry,” the group said, “we must denounce these egregious human rights violations.”

The organization did not call for an unconditional cease-fire, but instead said it wanted Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement and urged President Biden to advance such negotiations.

The rift within the league was another example of how the Israel-Hamas war has cleaved cultural, academic and political institutions far beyond the Middle East, and not just among groups with direct ties to the region. As in many organizations, the divide within the league has mostly been along generational lines.

In its cease-fire statement, the group did not address one of the young activists’ primary demands: cutting ties with Jewish organizations they labeled “Zionist.” David Inoue, the league’s executive director, said in an interview on Thursday that the group was not considering that option.

“That’s not how we work in coalition,” Mr. Inoue said. “I think it’s inherently unfair for anyone to make demands like that.”

American aid ship heads toward Gaza, but the system for unloading it still isn’t in place.

An American vessel carrying aid intended for the Gaza has departed from Cyprus, the Pentagon said on Thursday, but the temporary floating pier constructed by the U.S. military is not in place to unload the food and supplies meant for the enclave.

Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said in a news briefing on Thursday afternoon that while the construction of the floating pier and the causeway has been completed, weather conditions have made it unsafe to actually place them off the coast of Gaza.

General Ryder said that the aid on the vessel, called Sagamore, eventually would be loaded onto another American motor vessel docked at Ashdod, the Roy P. Benavidez. It would take the aid to the floating pier system as soon as it is installed, he said, and then delivered to Gaza.

Sagamore appeared to be anchored at the Israeli port of Ashdod by late Thursday evening, according to VesselFinder, a ship tracking website. For now, the aid for Palestinians, desperately needed, is roughly 20 miles from the nearest Gazan border crossing.

“While not going to provide a specific date, we expect these temporary piers to be put into position in the very near future, pending suitable security and weather conditions,” General Ryder said.

Israel has prevented the construction of Gaza’s own international seaport, prompting the United States and another aid group, the World Central Kitchen, to create their own systems for getting aid into the enclave by sea.

But aid groups and experts have frequently criticized the maritime efforts as costly and complicated ways to deliver aid, citing trucking as a more efficient way to get food inside Gaza. After Israeli strikes killed seven World Central Kitchen workers, the group paused its maritime operations there. The food charity has since said it would restart operations in Gaza with the help of Palestinian aid workers.

More food is needed in Gaza. The director of the World Food Program, Cindy McCain, said recently that some areas are already experiencing a famine.

U.N. agency that helps Palestinians says it has closed its headquarters in East Jerusalem after attacks and fire.

The main United Nations agency that aids Palestinians, known as UNRWA, said on Thursday that it had temporarily closed its headquarters in East Jerusalem for the safety of its staff after parts of the compound were set on fire following weeks of attacks.

“This evening, Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA Headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem,” said the leader of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, on social media. The fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas of the compound, Mr. Lazzarini said, but that no workers from UNRWA or other U.N. agencies suffered injuries. He added that some of the workers “had to put out the fire themselves as it took the Israeli fire extinguishers and police a while before they turned up.”

The attack put the lives of U.N. staff at “serious risk” and came two days after protesters threw stones at staff members at the compound, Mr. Lazzarini said.

Protests by Israeli settlers calling for UNRWA’s closure have been continuing for months. “On several occasions, Israeli extremists threatened our staff with guns,” Mr. Lazzarini said in Thursday’s social media post. He added that under international law, it is Israel’s responsibility “as an occupying power to ensure that United Nations personnel and facilities are protected at all times.”

Many Israeli officials have called for years for UNRWA to be dismantled, and the agency lost funding from some donor countries earlier this year after Israel accused a dozen of its employees of being involved in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7. An independent review commissioned by the U.N. and released in April found that Israel had not provided any evidence to support its further accusations that many UNRWA staff members were members of terrorist organizations.

Biden’s decision to block some bomb shipments isn’t the first time the U.S. has withheld weapons from Israel.

President Biden’s decision this week to block the shipment of certain munitions to Israel because of concerns over the widening war in Gaza represented a rare, but not unprecedented, decision by a U.S. administration to suspend weapons deliveries to its closest ally in the Middle East.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan made a similar decision during an Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Israel’s siege of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, in 1982, caused an extended rift with the United States. Relations between the two countries soured as Israel escalated its attacks, including by bombing Beirut, while the United States was trying to broker a peace agreement.

Israel was attempting to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Lebanon, but the civilian toll prompted an angry call from Mr. Reagan to Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to stop. The United States feared that the fighting might spark a regional conflict, and Mr. Reagan decided to suspend the delivery of F-16 fighter jets and shipments of cluster ammunition.

The Americans refused to deliver 75 F-16 fighters for roughly a year as Israel continued its operations in Lebanon, with the United States reminding its ally that the weapons were ostensibly for defensive purposes only.

The United States had earlier suspended the delivery of at least four jet fighters to Israel for two months in 1981 after Israel bombed a nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq, but the Americans blocked further sanctions by the United Nations.

At the time of the Lebanon crisis, U.S. officials said privately that the planes would not be released as long as Israel was attacking targets in Lebanon with American planes. But the planes were not released immediately even after the fighting stopped.

At a news conference in April 1983, Mr. Reagan was asked why the planes had not been released.

“While those forces are in the position of occupying another country that now has asked them to leave, we are forbidden by law to release those planes,” he said, referring to the Israeli military. “It’s as simple as the other forces returning to their own countries and letting Lebanon be Lebanon.”

Mr. Reagan also warned Israel that to achieve real security it “doesn’t have to remain an armed camp far beyond what its size warrants.”

In May 1983, Mr. Reagan formally lifted the yearlong ban on delivering the jet fighters, after Israel and Lebanon signed a troop withdrawal agreement. The United States said it wanted Israel to retain its military edge over all Arab states, especially since the Soviet Union was supplying Syria with an advanced air defense system at that time.

The U.S. ban on the sale of cluster munitions to Israel lasted until 1988.

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Tens of thousands of people have fled Rafah since Monday, the U.N. says.

Tens of thousands of people have fled since an Israeli call this week to evacuate part of the southern Gazan city of Rafah, the United Nations said on Thursday, as Israeli airstrikes intensify and fears grow that an incursion by Israeli ground forces to take over a border crossing could lead to a full-scale invasion.

The mass flight from the east of the city, a major hub for people displaced from their homes along Gaza’s border with Egypt, is just the latest time that people have been forced to flee since Israel launched a war to dismantle Hamas, the armed group that led the deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Louise Wateridge, a spokeswoman for the main U.N. agency that aids Palestinians, UNRWA, said on Thursday that an estimated 79,000 people had left Rafah since Monday. She posted a video on social media of small vans loaded with mattresses driving slowly down a street lined with tents.

“Extreme fear from significant bombardment in Rafah overnight & continuing throughout this morning,” Ms. Wateridge wrote, noting that “those staying collecting water” were “surviving.”

Rafah’s population had increased to more than one million in recent months as people moved south. Hundreds of thousands of people live in tents or makeshift shelters. Residents and aid workers describe grim conditions and severe shortages of food, clean water and access to medical supplies.

Riyad al-Masry, a sign language interpreter, said on Thursday that he and his extended family had decided to evacuate from Rafah because they feared an Israeli advance into the city. He said that he had already moved five times since leaving Gaza City when the war began and described the prospect of a sixth upheaval to another tented camp as “torture beyond torture.”

But he said he had little choice because he could hear military clashes and Israeli bombardment, airstrikes and artillery fire. “We are almost in the middle of danger,” he said.

Israel on Monday began what it called a limited operation to secure the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and destroy Hamas positions after a rocket attack in another area killed four Israeli soldiers the day before. The Israeli authorities warned around 110,000 people in Rafah to evacuate, calling on them to go to what they characterized as a humanitarian zone on Gaza’s coast where they said they could get food, medicine and other basics.

Many aid workers have argued that the area, which includes the village of Al-Mawasi, is already crowded with people living in tents and is not able to accommodate another influx, not least because it has inadequate water and sanitation.

Many aid agencies are based in Rafah and several said on Wednesday that their operations were imperiled by the proximity of the fighting and by the closure by Israel this week of two southern border crossings, which have been the principal conduits for humanitarian supplies.

Israel said on Wednesday that it had reopened one of those, the crossing at Kerem Shalom, which it had shut down over the weekend, but the United Nations said it was still very difficult for aid to transit.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva, described Rafah as a “highly active war zone” and said that this presented “serious challenges” not just in shepherding goods through Kerem Shalom, but also in trying to move them through southern Gaza and further into the enclave.

“We reiterate that the parties’ obligation to facilitate aid does not end at the border or in a drop-off zone,” he said. “Aid must safely reach those who need it.”

Rafah’s hospitals are running out of fuel as Israeli forces move in, the W.H.O. says.

Time is running out for hospitals and all humanitarian aid operations in southern Gaza as Israel continues to strike Rafah and keep the critical border crossing there closed, the World Health Organization and humanitarian aid agencies have warned.

As of Wednesday, hospitals in southern Gaza had only three days of fuel supplies left, and fuel that the U.N. expected would be allowed into Gaza that day had not been allowed in, according to the director-general of the W.H.O., Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Without fuel, he said on Wednesday, “all humanitarian operations will stop.”

No aid trucks have entered Gaza since Sunday through the two main border crossings, the United Nations said on Wednesday in its own warning about the dire implications of Israel seizing the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Tuesday and closing the Kerem Shalom crossing between Gaza and southern Israel over the weekend. Israel said it had reopened Kerem Shalom on Wednesday, but as of about midnight on Thursday, no fuel or other humanitarian aid had entered Gaza through the crossing, according to UNRWA, the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians in the enclave.

Already, the Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital — one of three major hospitals in Rafah that has been partially functioning before the Israeli military’s operation this week — has entirely shut down and emptied out, according to Dr. Marwan al-Hams, the hospital’s director.

Speaking by phone from a field hospital in southern Gaza, Dr. al-Hams said that all patients and doctors at Al-Najjar had fled or been transferred to other medical facilities and that a few health workers had risked their lives to return to the hospital complex to try to salvage medical equipment and supplies.

When Israel banned the entry of any fuel into Gaza for several weeks at the start of the war, it plunged the entire enclave into darkness and turned hospitals into places of cascading horrors. Surgeons at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, in northern Gaza, were forced to operate by cellphone flashlight and premature infants who needed incubators died at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

All humanitarian operations across the Gaza Strip are at imminent risk of collapse because of the lack of fuel, international aid groups said at a joint news conference on Wednesday.

“If the fuel is cut off, the aid operation collapses, and it collapses quickly,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, the president of Refugees International. “That means water can’t be pumped, lights can’t be kept on in hospitals, vehicles cannot distribute aid.”

The lack of fuel is also further threatening the availability of food in Gaza, where local health officials say that dozens of children have already died of starvation.

Rafeek El Madhoun, a program manager for the aid group Rebuilding Alliance, said on Wednesday that some of its kitchens in Gaza had been unable to cook for two days, even as Israeli military operations in Rafah were causing a “crazy increase” in the number of hungry and displaced people arriving in western parts of the city and in central Gaza.

Mr. El Madhoun, who said he has been making daily trips between Rafah and Deir al Balah, roughly 12 miles north, said the coastal road between southern and central Gaza had become increasingly crowded as people fled, and that transportation costs to move supplies from one place to another had tripled.

The immediate and wide-ranging threat to already overwhelmed humanitarian operations in Gaza undermines the Israeli military’s claim that its offensive in Rafah has been “limited,” the director of the W.H.O.’s health emergencies program, Dr. Michael Ryan, said at a separate news conference on Wednesday.

He said that Israel’s “first act” of the Rafah incursion has been to close the two border crossings that serve as a lifeline for Palestinians in Gaza — to “stop the fuel, stop the food, stop the medicine at source, at the border.”

“I don’t call that ‘limited’ and I don’t call that ‘restricted.’ I call that a re-imposition of total blockade on nearly 2.5 million civilians who are already starving, who are already dying from preventable diseases, and who need our protection,” he said.

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting.

Israel’s Shutdown of Al Jazeera Highlights Long-Running Tensions

When Israel ordered Al Jazeera on Sunday to shut down operations there, the network had a reporter covering a government meeting in West Jerusalem, another in an East Jerusalem hotel room, a third in northern Israel to cover clashes on the border with Lebanon and a fourth in Tel Aviv.

But the cameras stopped rolling when Walid al-Omari, the network’s bureau chief in Ramallah, in the West Bank, ordered all of them to go home. Israeli authorities descended on a room used by Al Jazeera in the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, confiscating broadcast equipment. Israeli television and internet providers cut off its channels and blocked its websites, though people were still able to find it online.

Al Jazeera, the influential Arab news network, says it will continue reporting and broadcasting from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But its departure from Israel marks a new low in its long-strained history with a country that much of Al Jazeera’s audience in the Arab world and beyond sees as an aggressor and an occupier.

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At Victory Day Parade, Putin Seeks to Keep Ukraine in the Distance

The ballistic missiles rolled through Red Square, the fighter jets zipped overhead and rows of foreign dignitaries impassively looked on. Russia’s annual commemoration of the end of World War II presented a traditional ceremony on Thursday cherished by millions of Russians, a reflection of President Vladimir V. Putin’s broader attempts to project normalcy while resigning the population to a prolonged, distant war.

At last year’s Victory Day celebration, as Russia struggled on the battlefield, Mr. Putin said the country was engaged in a “real war” for survival, and accused Western elites of seeking the “disintegration and annihilation of Russia.” On Thursday, he merely referred to the war in Ukraine once, using his initial euphemism for the invasion, “special military operation.”

And on Russia’s most important secular holiday, he dedicated more time to the sacrifices of Soviet citizens in World War II than to the bashing of modern adversaries.

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What Happens When a Happening Place Becomes Too Hot

Packed bars with carousing revelers spilling onto clogged streets. Takeaway booze swigged by drunken tourists and students. Earsplitting volumes in once quiet residential neighborhoods long after midnight.

When Milan’s authorities embarked years ago on plans to promote the city as a buzzy destination by building on its reputation as Italy’s hip fashion and design capital, the resulting noise and rowdy overcrowding were perhaps not quite what they had in mind.

Now, after years of complaints and a series of lawsuits, the city has passed an ordinance to strictly limit the sale of takeaway food and beverages after midnight — and not much later on weekends — in “movida” areas, a Spanish term that Italians have adopted to describe outdoor nightlife. It will go into effect next week and be in force until Nov. 11.

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Ukraine Strikes More Russian Oil Facilities in a Bid to Disrupt Military Logistics

Ukrainian drones struck two oil depots and a refinery across Russia in a 24-hour period, including one deep in Russian territory, officials on both sides said Thursday, as Kyiv presses a campaign aimed at hampering the country’s military operations and putting strain on its most important industry.

Radiy Khabirov, the head of Russia’s Bashkiria region, near Kazakhstan, said a drone hit the Neftekhim Salavat oil refinery, one of the country’s largest, around midday on Thursday, sending plumes of smoke into the sky. The facility is more than 700 miles from the Ukrainian border, in a sign that Ukraine is increasingly capable of striking further into Russia.

An official from Ukraine’s special services, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters, said Ukraine was behind the assault. The official said Ukraine was also responsible for two other drone strikes overnight that hit oil depots in Russia’s Krasnodar region, southeast of Ukraine.

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In Budapest, Xi Hails a ‘Deep Friendship’ With Hungary

President Xi Jinping of China on Thursday found another safe zone in a continent increasingly wary of his country, meeting in Budapest with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, the European Union’s perennial odd man out as a vocal supporter of warm relations with both China and Russia.

As happened at his previous stop in Serbia, Mr. Xi received a red-carpet welcome and was spared from protesters, with his motorcade from the airport on Wednesday evening taking a roundabout route into the Hungarian capital, avoiding a small group of Tibetan demonstrators.

Police banned a protest planned for Thursday in the center of Budapest and a Tibetan flag that had been hoisted on a hill overlooking the venue of a welcome reception was covered with a Chinese one.

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Reality Show Contestants Compete for an Authoritarian’s Campaign Jingle

The flashing neon lights. The cheering audience. The lively host with slicked back hair in a sea foam green suit. The panel of judges in dark sunglasses. The contestants who share emotional personal stories before belting their songs into a microphone.

It has all the elements of a typical singing competition. But this contest’s winner will not earn money or a recording contract.

Instead, contestants on the show, “M Factor,” write and perform songs in a competition to become the official campaign jingle for the party of President Nicolás Maduro, the authoritarian leader of Venezuela.

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‘We Still Have Hope’: Rescuers Race to Find Dozens Missing in South Africa Building Collapse

It may not have been his dream, but Gift Kasonda was happy to have been working as a laborer on a construction site in South Africa’s coastal city of George. A recent high school graduate, he had emigrated from Malawi last year and was hoping to save money for college, said his uncle, Gracium Msiska.

Now his family is left wondering whether those hopes have been dashed. The four-story building under construction where he was working collapsed in a thunderous instant on Monday, killing at least eight people and leaving dozens of others, including Mr. Kasonda, missing.

As the search for survivors passed the 72-hour mark on Thursday, the screams for help from beneath the rubble that offered signs of life in the early hours of the collapse faded. But rescuers were still desperately combing through some 3,000 tons of concrete. As of Thursday afternoon, 29 of the 37 people pulled from the wreckage had survived and 44 people were still missing, according to the authorities.

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‘Time, Patience, Cold Blood’: Mexico Prepares for a Potential Trump Win

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They’re studying his interviews, bracing for mass deportations and preparing policy proposals to bring to the negotiating table.

As Mexico heads toward its presidential election next month, government officials and campaign aides are also girding for a different vote: one in the United States that could return Donald Trump to the presidency.

The last time Mr. Trump took office, his win surprised many of America’s allies, and his threat-filled diplomacy forced them to adapt on the go. Now, they have time to anticipate how Mr. Trump’s victory would transform relations that President Biden has tried to normalize — and they’re furiously preparing for an upheaval.

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Ramón Fonseca, Cofounder of Law Firm at Center of Panama Papers, Dies

Ramón Fonseca, who co-founded the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers leak, died Wednesday night, his lawyer confirmed, while awaiting the verdict in his money-laundering trial in Panama.

Mr. Fonseca, 71, died after complications from pneumonia, his daughter, Raquel Fonseca, told the Spanish news agency EFE.

Both Mr. Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, who together founded the Mossack Fonseca firm, stood trial in Panama last month in relation to an explosive investigation published in 2016 by a coalition of news outlets that looked at 11.5 million confidential documents from the firm. The files, leaked by an anonymous source, identified international politicians, business leaders, criminals and celebrities involved in webs of suspicious financial transactions that concealed their wealth and avoided taxes.

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The Tiny Nation at the Vanguard of Mining the Ocean Floor

Two ships arrived in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific in March of last year. One was a familiar sight: a massive cruise ship, bringing hundreds of tourists to the pristine shores of this nation of 15,000 people. The other, a neon-orange vessel hauling complex scientific equipment, was more unusual.

On a nearby wharf, Prime Minister Mark Brown and many other prominent citizens had gathered to celebrate the smaller boat’s arrival. To Mr. Brown, the cruise ship represented his country’s troubling dependence on tourism. He described the other vessel, owned by an international mining company, as a harbinger of incredible wealth.

The Cook Islands is at the vanguard of a quest to mine the ocean floor for minerals used in electric car batteries. Mining these deposits has never been attempted on a large scale, but their reserves are so vast, proponents argue, that extracting them could power the world’s shift away from fossil fuels.

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Images of a Brazilian City Underwater

Ana Ionova and

Ana Ionova reported from Rio de Janeiro, and Tanira Lebedeff from Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Anderson da Silva Pantaleão was at the snack bar he owns last Friday when clay-colored water began filling the streets in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. Soon, it was rushing into his ground-floor shop. By 9 p.m., the water was up to his waist.

“Then the fear starts to hit,” he said. “You’re just trying not to drown.”

He dashed up to a neighbor’s home on the second floor, taking refuge for the next three nights, rationing water, cheese and sausage with two others. Members of the group slept in shifts, fearing another rush of water could take them by surprise in the dead of night.

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How 360,000 Haitians Wound Up Living in Empty Lots and Crowded Schools

Hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti are on the run from rampant gang violence and have abandoned their homes, a worsening humanitarian crisis that the United Nations describes as “cataclysmic.”

Masses of homeless families dodging gang members who burned down their houses and killed their neighbors have taken over dozens of schools, churches and even government buildings. Many places have no running water, flushing toilets or garbage pickup.

The lucky ones are sleeping on a friend’s sofa.

“There are kids at my camp who have no parents,” said Agenithe Jean, 39, who left her home in the Carrefour Feuilles neighborhood of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, in August for an improvised camp in an empty lot about six miles away. “We need latrines. We need somewhere to go.”

At least 360,000 people — more than half of them in the capital or surrounding neighborhoods — have fled their homes in Haiti over the past year, and that number of internally displaced people is expected in the coming months to surpass 400,000, according to the U.N.’s International Office for Migration.

Hundreds are unaccompanied children, including orphans and others separated from their parents in the chaos.

As hurricane season nears, humanitarian groups and Haiti’s disaster response office are racing to figure out how to address the swelling crowds living in improvised shelters in a capital overrun by gangs with a barely functioning national government.

About 90,000 people are living in those sites, and roughly the same number deserted Port-au-Prince in March, according to the United Nations and aid groups, many for other parts of Haiti, an exodus straining safer cities ill-prepared for an increased demand on water, food and schools.

A United Nations drive to raise $674 million to address the growing list of basic needs in Haiti has raised just 16 percent of the goal. The United States provided $69.5 million of the $107 million raised so far.

The competition for attention and resources can be eclipsed by crises around the world, including in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan, aid groups said. The response has paled in comparison to the massive international effort following Haiti’s cataclysmic 2010 earthquake, when countries and aid organizations sent billions in aid.

“All of us are going pretty much after the same donors,” said Abdoulaye Sawadogo, head of the U.N. office in charge of humanitarian assistance in Haiti.

The Haitian government agency whose job it is to help refugees normally focuses on natural disasters, not a disaster caused by widespread gang violence.

“You can track the cyclone. After an earthquake, you can find shelter,” said Emmanuel Pierre, the operations director for the Directorate for Civil Protection, Haiti’s emergency management agency. “Now the problem is a social hazard.”

In the three years since the assassination of the Haitian president Jovenel Moïse, Haiti’s gangs have expanded their territory and increased their violence.

Gang leaders achieved a main goal — the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry — and now claim they want to end poverty as well as a corrupt system run by elites. But they also want amnesty for their crimes and to prevent an international security force led by Kenya from deploying.

In the first three months of this year, about 2,500 people were killed or injured as a result of gang violence — a 53 percent increase compared to the previous three months, according to the United Nations.

Things took a dire turn in late February, when, in a quest to oust the prime minister, rival gangs joined forces to attack police stations, jails and the airport. Entire Port-au-Prince neighborhoods emptied out as gangs took over.

People who found safe spaces were repeatedly driven out as time and again they found themselves in mortal peril.

In some ways, Ms. Jean got lucky that August day when a gang took over her Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhood amid a reign of gunfire. When she raced toward her rented house in search of her family, running past bodies on the ground and injured people covered in blood, she stumbled into her four children. All five got out with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Since that August day, Ms. Jean has lived in an improvised tent camp, which she shares with a few dozen others, in the Croix Desprez neighborhood. Unable to work because conditions are too dangerous, but with her children safe with relatives in the countryside, she showers at friends’ houses and has received cash and food from humanitarian groups.

“I don’t think I can ever go back,” she said. “In Port-au-Prince, nowhere is safe.”

The U.N.’s International Office for Migration started tracking the internally displaced in November and found that about 70 percent were staying with friends or relatives. Now 60 percent are in one of 86 homeless sites, as people run out of safe places to take cover, said Daniele Febei, the head of emergency operations for the U.N.’s migration office in Haiti.

More than 180,000 — about half the homeless — are children, he said. Nearly three dozen schools in the Port-au-Prince area were forced to close to make room for the displaced. The gangs forced people from their homes so they could use the neighborhoods as bases of operations to stash kidnapping victims, he said.

About half the homeless are receiving services, U.N. agencies said, though the United Nations Children’s Fund, which focuses on the needs of children in developing countries, has suspended water delivery on some days because it was too dangerous to traverse the streets.

While millions of liters of water have been delivered, about 30,000 people living in homeless sites are not getting any, mainly because of a lack of financing, UNICEF said. Instead, they have to buy small bags and buckets of often unhealthy water.

“The response has not been the best,” Mr. Febei said, noting that the violence drove out many nonprofit aid organizations. “Let’s say that 40 percent of sites have a system to collect waste. What does that mean? Sixty percent doesn’t.”

Much of the assistance being provided by organizations, including hundreds of thousands of meals from the World Food Program, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has allocated about $171 million in humanitarian aid since October, including an allocation of $58 million in March.

“That’s not enough,” said Marcia Wong, a top official at the agency’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. “Obviously.”

“A certain percentage of people in Haiti are not being reached the way they deserve to be,” she added. “The scale of services and response is not what it needs to be.”

Many organizations are shifting gears toward providing cash payments to heads of households and those who host the displaced, as it becomes harder to provide direct services, particularly to those on the move.

“So many people are living in different small tents,” said Laurent Uwumuremyi, Haiti director for Mercy Corps, a U.S.-financed aid organization, which helped The New York Times arrange telephone interviews with internal refugees. “Looking at the current situation and how it has been evolving since the end of February, there is no hope that the situation is going to change soon.”

Many people have scattered throughout the country to rural communities they originally hailed from, he said.

The strain is being felt in southern cities where buses full of Port-au-Prince residents arrive regularly. In February and March, nearly 40,000 people arrived in Haiti’s South Department, which includes Les Cayes and Jacmel, said Pierre Marie Boutin, the civil protection agency’s representative in Les Cayes.

“They came in public transport with all their belongings, like everything you find in a house — beds, mattresses, household furniture,” Mr. Boutin said, adding that the agency’s offices and storage depots have all been looted by gangs.

“In one month it will be hurricane season, and we are not ready,” he said. “In the event of a catastrophe, we are at zero. We have nothing, and we will really be in deep trouble.”

Yvon Latigue, 42, who has two daughters, left Carrefour-Feuilles late last year when gangs set a neighbor’s house on fire, which also burned down his home.

“We didn’t have time to save anything,” he said. “We were saving our lives.”

The family of four slept in a church at first and then stayed with in-laws in Mirebalais, a city about 40 miles north of the capital, but the imposition caused a strain so they returned to Port-au-Prince. They are making do in a makeshift tent where their house once stood.

The children cannot attend their local school because gang violence led it to close.

“One of them, when she talks to me, she says: ‘Daddy, I’m scared. I’m scared, because of all of this shooting,’” he said. “And the other one, sometimes she asks me, ‘Daddy, when am I going back to school?’”

Tuesday, he tells her.

“After a few days, she’ll say, ‘Daddy, is it Tuesday yet?’ I say no,” Mr. Latigue said. “I don’t have another choice. I have to lie to her.”

Andre Paultre contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and David C. Adams from Miami.

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France Says It Built the Olympics Safely. Migrant Workers Don’t Count.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, promised to build the Summer Olympics safely, free of the construction hazards and migrant worker abuses that tarnished soccer’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Months before the Games begin in Paris, he declared success.

“We are living up to the commitments we made,” Mr. Macron said in February.

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Noisy, Gaudy and Spiritual: Young Pilgrims Embrace an Ancient Goddess

Chris Buckley and

Chris Buckley, Amy Chang Chien and Lam Yik Fei spent four days walking parts of two pilgrimages in central and southern Taiwan. On the journey, they interviewed around 20 pilgrims.

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In a din of firecrackers, cymbals and horns, a team of devotees carried the shrouded wooden statue of a serene-faced woman, holding her aloft on a brightly decorated litter as they navigated through tens of thousands of onlookers.

As the carriers nudged forward, hundreds of people were lined up ahead of them, kneeling on the road and waiting for the moment when the statue would pass over their heads.

Some wept after it did; many smiled and snapped selfies. “I love Mazu, and Mazu loves me,” the crowd shouted.


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In Western Ukraine, a Community Wrestles With Patriotism or Survival

It was sunset when Maj. Kyrylo Vyshyvany of the Ukrainian Army stepped into the yard of his childhood home in Duliby, a village in western Ukraine, just after his younger brother, also a soldier, had been buried. Their mother was still crying in the living room.

“I can already see that she’ll be coming to visit him every day,” he said that day.

He was right, but he would not be by her side. A few days after the funeral, in March 2022, he was killed in a Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian military base and buried next to his brother, Vasyl.

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A Gen Z Resistance, Cut Off From Data Plans

In the night, the mountain air not quite chill enough to still the insects, young people gathered around a glow. The light attracting them was not a phone screen, that electric lure for people almost everywhere, but a bonfire.

From around the blaze, music radiated. Fingers strummed a guitar. Voices layered lyrics about love, democracy and, most of all, revolution. Moths courted the flame, sparking when they veered too close, then swooning to their deaths.

For months now, these hills of Karenni State in eastern Myanmar have been severed from modern communications. The military junta that seized power in a coup three years ago, plunging the country into civil war, has cut off the populations most opposed to its brutal rule. In these resistance strongholds, where people from around the nation have congregated, there is almost no internet, cell service or even electricity.

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War or No War, Ukrainians Aren’t Giving Up Their Coffee

When Russian tanks first rolled into Ukraine more than two years ago, Artem Vradii was sure his business was bound to suffer.

“Who would think about coffee in this situation?” thought Mr. Vradii, the co-founder of a Kyiv coffee roastery named Mad Heads. “Nobody would care.”

But over the next few days after the invasion began, he started receiving messages from Ukrainian soldiers. One asked for bags of ground coffee because he could not stand the energy drinks supplied by the army. Another simply requested beans: He had taken his own grinder to the front.

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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.

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A Portrait Artist Fit for a King (but Not a President)

Few famous Britons, it seems, can resist the chance to be painted by Jonathan Yeo. David Attenborough, the 97-year-old broadcasting legend, is among those who have recently climbed the spiral stairs to his snug studio, hidden at the end of a lane in West London, to pose for Mr. Yeo, one of Britain’s most recognized portrait artists.

Yet when it came to painting his latest portrait, of King Charles III, the artist had to go to the subject.

Mr. Yeo rented a truck to transport his 7.5-by-5.5-foot canvas to the king’s London residence, Clarence House. There, he erected a platform so he could apply the final brushstrokes to the strikingly contemporary portrait, which depicts a uniformed Charles against an ethereal background.

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A Novelist Who Finds Inspiration in Germany’s Tortured History

She became a writer because her country vanished overnight.

Jenny Erpenbeck, now 57, was 22 in 1989, when the Berlin Wall cracked by accident, then collapsed. She was having a “girls’ evening out,” she said, so she had no idea what had happened until the next morning. When a professor discussed it in class, she said, it became real to her.

The country she knew, the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, remains a crucial setting for most of her striking, precise fiction. Her work, which has grown in acuity and emotional power, combines the complications of German and Soviet history with the lives of her characters, including those of her own family members, whose experiences echo with the past like contrapuntal music.

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Forbidden to Watch Films as a Child, He Now Directs Somalia’s Top Shows

At the shout of “action,” two actors, costumed in black blazers and sunglasses, erupted into a spirited shouting match, gesticulating wildly as one demanded that the other convince his daughter to marry him.

A cameraman and a boom operator, sweaty under a scorching sun, moved in to capture the altercation in close-up.

Then the director, Abshir Rageh, seated in a foldable chair, removed his headphones and called: “Cut.”

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Even Before the Olympics, a Victory Lap for a Fast-Moving French Mayor

Reporting from St.-Ouen, France

The mayor grew up in a building so decrepit — filthy hallways, no private toilets, no showers — that his friends in nearby concrete towers pitied him.

Five decades later, that building — in St.-Ouen, a Paris suburb — is a distant memory, and in its place rises France’s Olympic pride: the athletes’ village, with its architectural-showcase buildings that are outfitted with solar panels, deep-sinking pipes for cooling and heating, and graceful balconies from which to look down on the forest planted below. One-quarter will become public housing after the Games.

“All of a sudden, we have the same feeling of pride as people living in the hypercenter,” said the mayor of St.-Ouen, Karim Bouamrane, 51, using his personal shorthand for the glamorous downtown playgrounds of the elites. “There was Los Angeles, Barcelona, Beijing, London, Sydney and, now, there is St.-Ouen.”

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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.

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This Town Had a Reputation Problem. Premier League Soccer Changed Things.

As the announcement trilled out over Kenilworth Road, the jumble of rusted metal and peeling paint that Luton Town F.C. calls home, the tone started to shift. At the start of the sentence, it was little more than the traditional polite welcome to the stadium for that evening’s visiting team, Manchester City.

By the end, though, the voice of the announcer seemed overcome by what sounded a little like awe. Luton, the fans in the stands and the players on the field were reminded, was about to face “the champions of the F.A. Cup, the champions of England and the champions of Europe.” Luton seems to be having a hard time believing the company it now keeps.

There is a reason for that. Fifteen years ago, Luton Town had been relegated to the fifth tier of English soccer, a world away from the power and the prestige of the Premier League. There was, for a time, a genuine risk that the club, founded in 1885, several years before the invention of the zipper, might fold altogether. For years afterward, money remained tight, ambitions modest.

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Top Biden Official Calls for Inquiry Into Chinese Doping Case

The Biden administration’s top drug official called on Monday for an independent investigation into how Chinese and global antidoping authorities decided to clear 23 elite Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a banned drug months before the Summer Olympics in 2021.

The official, Rahul Gupta, who is the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that he planned to bring up the handling of the positive tests during a two-day meeting of sports ministers in Washington. Top members of the World Anti-Doping Agency are scheduled to attend the event, which starts Thursday.

“The United States stands by its commitment to ensure that every American athlete and those across the globe are provided a level playing field and a fair shot in international athletic competitions,” Dr. Gupta said in response to questions from The New York Times. “There must be rigorous, independent investigations to look into any incident of potential wrongdoing.”

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A Soccer Team Stopped Charging for Tickets. Should Others Do the Same?

Neither Paris F.C. nor St.-Étienne will have much reason to remember the game fondly. There was, really, precious little to remember at all: no goals, few shots, little drama — a drab, rain-sodden stalemate between the French capital’s third-most successful soccer team and the country’s sleepiest giant.

That was on the field. Off it, the 17,000 or so fans in attendance can consider themselves part of a philosophical exercise that might play a role in shaping the future of the world’s most popular sport.

Last November, Paris F.C. became home to an unlikely revolution by announcing that it was doing away with ticket prices for the rest of the season. There were a couple of exceptions: a nominal fee for fans supporting the visiting team, and market rates for those using hospitality suites.

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

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

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

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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.

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Este es el candidato que desafiará a Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela

Genevieve Glatsky informó desde Bogotá, Colombia, e Isayen Herrera desde Caracas, Venezuela.

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El día en que Edmundo González fue sacado de las sombras y elegido para retar al líder autoritario con mayor tiempo en el poder de Sudamérica, un equipo de técnicos estuvo ocupado asegurándose de que su casa no estuviese intervenida.

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

“Esto no estaba en nuestros planes”, dijo su esposa, Mercedes López de González, en una entrevista concedida ese día en abril en su apartamento en Caracas, la capital de Venezuela.

Hasta hace poco, González, de 74 años, era un diplomático jubilado con cuatro nietos y ninguna aspiración política. Se mantenía ocupado escribiendo ensayos académicos, participando en conferencias y llevando a sus nietos a la barbería y a clases de música. Pocos en su Venezuela natal conocían su nombre.

Hoy, muchos venezolanos han puesto sus esperanzas en él para que le ponga fin a años de un gobierno represivo, ya que se enfrentará al presidente Nicolás Maduro, quien ha ostentado el poder desde 2013, en las elecciones programadas para finales de julio.

De repente, González ha vuelto a tener un trabajo de tiempo completo.

“Dos veces al día debo limpiar el teléfono”, dijo en una breve entrevista. “Borro casi 150 mensajes. Me acuesto a la 1:00 a. m. y a las 4 a. m. ya estoy otra vez atento y trabajando. Nunca me imaginé esto”.

Después de años de elecciones amañadas y persecuciones políticas, la población en Venezuela que anhela un regreso a la democracia había aprendido a esperar decepciones.

Una coalición de partidos de oposición, la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD, había estado haciendo esfuerzos para apoyar a un único candidato que pudiera representar un desafío viable para Maduro, pero su gobierno les puso una serie de obstáculos.

Al final, González emergió como un candidato al que el gobierno no intentaría bloquear y que la oposición apoyaría.

Aceptó el reto, pero tanto amigos como colegas afirman que es un desafío para el que nunca se había preparado.

“Edmundo no es un hombre que haya tenido alguna vez ambiciones políticas”, dijo Phil Gunson, experto sobre Venezuela del International Crisis Group en Caracas y amigo de González. “Es alguien que está haciendo lo que siente es su deber”.

Algunos expertos afirman que su bajo perfil podría dificultar que González coja impulso entre los votantes, sobre todo fuera de Caracas, donde la información llega a través de los medios controlados por el gobierno que muy probablemente no le den mucha cobertura a su campaña.

A diferencia de otros líderes opositores, González no ha criticado abiertamente el gobierno de Maduro y su historial con los derechos humanos, lo que ha generado preocupación entre algunos analistas que afirman que responsabilizar a las autoridades por los abusos es crucial para restaurar el Estado de derecho en el país.

En su casa, el día que ingresó a la tarjeta electoral, González se negó a conversar en detalle sobre las elecciones.

González, el menor de tres hermanos, nació en una familia de recursos modestos en la pequeña ciudad de La Victoria, a unos 80 kilómetros al oeste de Caracas. Su madre era profesora y su padre era un comerciante que lo desanimó de su sueño infantil de ser diplomático, calificándolo de “una profesión para gente rica”, según la hija del candidato, Carolina González.

Firme, González terminaría estudiando relaciones internacionales en la Universidad Central de Venezuela.

Imelda Cisneros, excompañera de clases y vieja amiga, recordó que González era un estudiante dedicado en la universidad. Era una época políticamente tumultuosa en la que una ideología comunista de extrema izquierda se estaba volviendo popular en el campus y las tensiones eran altas.

Pero González se convirtió en un líder estudiantil “con un enfoque muy calmado, de reconciliación”, contó Cisneros.

“Quería ser un diplomático”, añadió Cisneros. “Eso lo tuvo muy claro su objetivo desde que entró”.

Se unió al servicio diplomático poco después de graduarse en 1970, con experiencias en Bélgica, El Salvador y Estados Unidos, donde obtuvo una maestría en relaciones internacionales en la Universidad Americana en Washington.

Posteriormente fue nombrado embajador de Venezuela en Algeria y luego Argentina, donde estaba asignado cuando Hugo Chávez fue elegido presidente en 1999. Chávez terminaría consolidando su poder bajo la bandera de una revolución de inspiración socialista.

González regresó a Venezuela en 2002 y poco después se retiró del servicio diplomático.

En 2008 empezó a participar en la coalición de partidos de oposición llamada Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, asesorando tras bastidores en asuntos de relaciones internacionales.

González se convirtió en el presidente de la junta de directores de la coalición en 2021, afirmó Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, exsecretario ejecutivo de la coalición.

Pero la mayoría de las personas, incluso en los círculos políticos venezolanos, no sabía que González desempeñaba ese papel hasta que se anunció su candidatura presidencial, porque los líderes de la oposición a menudo enfrentan persecución.

Eso hace que, para González, sea una decisión arriesgada estar al centro de atención frente a un gobernante empeñado en retener el poder.

“Estoy nerviosa porque no sabemos si nos pueda pasar algo”, dijo López de González.

Quienes conocen a González afirman que afrontar una campaña presidencial es algo que no asumiría con ligereza.

“Es un hombre sumamente equilibrado, tranquilo, un hombre bastante serio y sobre todo sobrio”, dijo Ramón José Medina, quien fue secretario ejecutivo adjunto de la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática hasta 2014 y ha sido amigo de González durante décadas.

En octubre, Maduro firmó un acuerdo con la oposición para tomar medidas hacia unas elecciones libres y justas, y Estados Unidos levantó temporalmente algunas sanciones económicas severas como un gesto de buena voluntad.

Días después, una exdiputada nacional, María Corina Machado, gano unas elecciones primarias con más del 90 por ciento de los votos, convirtiéndola en una amenaza considerable para Maduro en un enfrentamiento entre ambos.

Desde entonces, el gobierno de Maduro ha puesto obstáculos para impedir que un rival serio llegue a la tarjeta electoral.

En primer lugar, el Tribunal Supremo del país inhabilitó a Machado en enero debido a lo que los jueces afirmaron habían sido irregularidades financieras ocurridas cuando era diputada nacional, una táctica común utilizada para mantener a rivales viables fuera de la tarjeta electoral.

Luego, el mes pasado, el gobierno impidió que una coalición de oposición presentara otra candidata preferida utilizando maniobras electorales técnicas justo antes de la fecha límite de inscripción.

Solo a un político, Manuel Rosales, a quien los analistas políticos consideraban como alguien que había recibido el visto bueno de Maduro, se le permitió inscribirse. Por un momento pareció que el esfuerzo por presentar un candidato unificado había sido derrotado.

Pero, sorpresivamente, la coalición anunció que la autoridad electoral le había concedido una prórroga, lo que allanó el camino para que González entrara de manera oficial en la contienda. Rosales se hizo a un lado y apoyó a González.

La carrera de González como “buscador de consenso” lo ayudó a unir a la oposición, afirmó Gunson.

“Es alguien aceptable para muchas diferentes personas”, añadió. “Y no ofende a nadie”.

Esas cualidades también podrían lograr que sea más probable que el gobierno de Maduro le ceda el poder si gana, dijo Tamara Taraciuk Broner, experta en Venezuela para el Diálogo Interamericano, una organización de investigación en Washington.

Según los expertos, Maduro podría estar dispuesto a aceptar la derrota si se le concediera amnistía por abusos contra los derechos humanos y si a su partido se le diera una participación permanente en el sistema político del país.

En este sentido, González ha sido más conciliador que otros candidatos. Machado ha dicho que Maduro y otras autoridades de su gobierno deben ser responsabilizados penalmente por corrupción y abusos contra los derechos humanos.

González ha dicho en entrevistas que está dispuesto a conversar con el gobierno de Maduro para garantizar una transición de poder sin sobresaltos.

“Su principal desafío será conservar ese equilibrio entre mantener a la oposición alineada detrás de una candidatura unificada y asegurarse de que su candidatura no represente una amenaza insoportable para el régimen”, dijo Taraciuk Broner. “Y esa es una línea muy delgada”.

Una encuesta ya lo muestra derrotando a Maduro, aunque esta también reveló que alrededor de un tercio de los encuestados afirmó que no estaban seguros por quién votarían y cerca de otro 20 por ciento dijo que no lo harían por ningún candidato en la contienda.

Aveledo afirmó que tenía la esperanza de que González pudiera ganar apoyo de más venezolanos en las próximas semanas.

“Por fin alguien que habla con serenidad, con moderación, que piensa en los problemas y las soluciones, que habla sin gritar, sin insultar”, dijo. “Porque el país está muy cansado de conflicto”.

José Raúl Mulino es elegido presidente de Panamá

Los panameños eligieron el domingo a José Raúl Mulino, exministro de Seguridad Pública, como su próximo presidente. Fue la culminación de un ciclo electoral que ha estado envuelto en agitación política.

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Mulino, de 64 años, centró su campaña en el crecimiento del empleo y prometió aumentar el turismo y construir una línea ferroviaria que conectará la capital, Ciudad de Panamá, con el interior del país, lo que crearía puestos de trabajo en construcción. También prometió aumentar la producción agrícola, reducir el costo de los medicamentos y proporcionar acceso gratuito a internet en las escuelas.

Mulino obtuvo el 34 por ciento de los votos con más del 90 por ciento de los sufragios escrutados el domingo, según el Tribunal Electoral del país, que lo declaró vencedor de la contienda a una sola vuelta. Mulino tenía una ventaja de 10 puntos porcentuales sobre su competidor más próximo, Ricardo Lombana, antiguo diplomático. Mulino asumirá el cargo el 1 de julio, sustituyendo al presidente saliente, Laurentino Cortizo.

“Es un honor para mí, para mi familia, para mis amigos, recibir esta llamada”, dijo Mulino en su discurso de victoria en Ciudad de Panamá el domingo por la noche. Su elección, dijo, “implica un enorme peso sobre mis hombros”, añadiendo que prometía hacer todo lo posible por el país.

En un grupo de ocho candidatos, Mulino lideraba las encuestas, prometiendo devolver a Panamá el crecimiento económico que experimentó bajo el mandato de Ricardo Martinelli, quien fue presidente de 2009 a 2014.

Martinelli, a quien sus partidarios conocen como “el Loco”, había sido uno de los principales contendientes hasta que fue inhabilitado por una condena por blanqueo de dinero en 2023. Pero desde la embajada de Nicaragua en Ciudad de Panamá, donde se le otorgó asilo, Martinelli hizo una intensa campaña en favor del Mulino, quien fue su compañero de fórmula y ocupó su lugar en la papeleta electoral.

La campaña del Mulino adoptó el eslogan “el Loco con Mulino”.

Carlos Taylor, camarero de 71 años, dijo que no había tenido tiempo de leer las propuestas de Mulino. Votó por él en una escuela pública de Ciudad de Panamá debido a Martinelli.

“Por el solo hecho de que está acompañado de Martinelli, yo confío en él”, dijo. “Cuando Martinelli fue presidente a todos nos iba mejor”.

Desestimó la condena por blanqueo de dinero de Martinelli, diciendo que otros funcionarios públicos roban pero, a diferencia del expresidente, no son investigados por ello.

“Todos hacen lo suyo”, dijo.

El caos político caracterizó las elecciones, que se celebraron en medio de una frustración generalizada con el gobierno actual y tras unas nutridas protestas del año pasado contra contratos de minería de cobre que, según los manifestantes, eran perjudiciales para el medioambiente.

Los candidatos compitieron por un mandato de cinco años en una votación de una sola vuelta. Panamá no permite a los presidentes en ejercicio presentarse a un segundo mandato consecutivo. Los votantes también eligieron a los representantes de la Asamblea Nacional y de los gobiernos locales.

Panamá ha emergido como una de las economías de más rápido crecimiento del hemisferio occidental gracias a la expansión del canal de Panamá, acuerdos de libre comercio que han atraído a inversores y el uso del dólar como moneda local.

Pero en marzo, la agencia Fitch Ratings rebajó la calificación crediticia de Panamá. Se espera que la producción económica del país crezca solo un 2,5 por ciento este año, frente al 7,5 por ciento de 2023.

Según el Fondo Monetario Internacional, esta desaceleración se debe en gran medida a la decisión de la Corte Suprema de declarar inconstitucional el contrato de extracción de cobre y a la posterior decisión del Gobierno de cerrar la mina. (El Banco Mundial pronostica un crecimiento más rápido a partir del año que viene).

Mulino tendrá que hacer frente a una serie de otros problemas, como la crisis humanitaria que empeora a medida que cientos de miles de migrantes cruzan un camino selvático entre Panamá y Colombia conocido como el Tapón del Darién. Las organizaciones de ayuda han denunciado un alarmante aumento de los asaltos en el lado panameño de la brecha, incluidas violaciones.

El presidente electo ha prometido cerrar el paso y deportar a los migrantes que infrinjan las leyes panameñas. “No voy a permitir que miles de ilegales pasen por nuestro territorio como si nada, sin control”, afirmó.

La preocupación por el agua también fue un tema central de las elecciones. Una reciente sequía provocada por la escasez de lluvias ha reducido los niveles de agua del canal de Panamá, lo que ha provocado que se permita el paso de menos barcos. Mulino prometió suministrar agua potable a las comunidades que carecen de ella.

También prometió abordar el alto déficit que afecta al sistema de pensiones de Panamá y crear nuevos empleos en un país que lucha contra la escasez de mano de obra calificada y un alto número de trabajadores informales.

Al igual que otros candidatos, Mulino evitó tocar temas sociales polémicos y no hizo hincapié en una ideología política concreta en su campaña.

A pesar de la inhabilitación de Martinelli, la campaña de Mulino ha seguido utilizando su imagen en materiales promocionales y se ha apoyado de manera significativa en su legado, el cual incluye una ampliación multimillonaria del canal de Panamá y la inauguración de un sistema de metro en Ciudad de Panamá, la capital.

Mulino calificó el juicio por corrupción de Martinelli, , el cual tuvo como resultado una sentencia de 10 años de prisión, de “juicio armado”, y ha afirmado que él también ha sido un perseguido político.

En 2015, Mulino fue detenido y pasó varios meses en prisión por cargos de malversación vinculados a unos contratos multimillonarios que firmó en 2010 para la compra de radares, cuando era ministro de Seguridad Pública de Martinelli.

Posteriormente, la Corte Suprema de Justicia dictaminó que se habían producido violaciones de procedimiento y confirmó la desestimación de los cargos por parte de un tribunal inferior, aunque mantuvo abierta la posibilidad de que el caso pudiera reabrirse. (El viernes, la Corte Suprema dictaminó que la candidatura de Mulino era legal después de que una impugnación afirmara que no debería participar en la contienda porque no se está presentando con un candidato a vicepresidente como lo exige la constitución del país).

No está claro qué significará la victoria del Mulino para la situación de Martinelli. El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Panamá ha rechazado la petición de Nicaragua de permitir la salida del país de Martinelli.

Mary Triny Zea colaboró con reportería desde Ciudad de Panamá.


La policía de Haití necesita ayuda para combatir a los criminales

En marzo, unas bandas criminales entraron en el vecindario del jefe de la policía haitiana, Frantz Elbé, irrumpieron en su casa, la incendiaron y mataron a su perro.

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Elbé y su familia no estaban en casa en ese momento, y no quiso dar detalles de lo sucedido. Pero el ataque, que fue grabado en video, envió un mensaje escalofriante a las filas de la policía y a los residentes de Puerto Príncipe, la asediada capital del país.

“Simbolizaba que nadie estaba a salvo”, declaró Reginald Delva, consultor de seguridad y exministro del gobierno haitiano.

El incendio de la casa del jefe de la policía aumentó el temor entre los haitianos de que su país está al borde del colapso ante el ataque de una coalición de bandas armadas que se apoderaron de muchas zonas de Puerto Príncipe y amenazan instituciones clave, como el Palacio Nacional.

La policía haitiana, superada en número y armamento, ha conseguido —al menos por ahora— enfrentar a las bandas en algunos combates y defender los pocos edificios gubernamentales que quedan bajo control estatal.

Como resultado, la policía ha pasado de ser una fuerza muy criticada, considerada por muchos analistas como inepta y corrupta, a adquirir un nuevo respeto entre algunos haitianos.

“La policía ha hecho esfuerzos importantes”, afirmó Gédéon Jean, director del Centro de Análisis e Investigación de los Derechos Humanos, con sede en Haití. “Todavía es insuficiente, pero ahora tienen a la población de su lado”.

Según los expertos, la policía se centra en proteger los principales edificios e infraestructuras gubernamentales, haciendo que las zonas residenciales de la capital queden expuestas a los ataques de las bandas, en lo que un funcionario de EE. UU. comparó con una partida de Whac-a-Mole.

Las bandas dominan muchas zonas de Puerto Príncipe y controlan barrios enteros. Han recurrido a la extorsión y al secuestro para financiar sus operaciones y también han exigido tener injerencia en el futuro político de Haití.

La policía ha contribuido a disminuir el dominio que las bandas ejercían sobre el aeropuerto de la capital, permitiendo el aterrizaje de aviones militares. Está previsto que los vuelos comerciales se reanuden este mes por primera vez desde principios de marzo.

Y el miércoles, la policía también le quitó el control de las carreteras de acceso al puerto de Puerto Príncipe a las pandillas, lo que permitió que los barcos atracaran y descargaran.

La ofensiva de las bandas, que comenzó a fines de febrero, sí logró uno de sus objetivos: la destitución del líder de Haití.

Al primer ministro Ariel Henry se le impidió regresar al país de un viaje al extranjero después de que las bandas atacaran el aeropuerto internacional de la capital, y finalmente se vio obligado a dimitir.

Se suponía que la policía de Haití iba a recibir ayuda del extranjero en su campaña para sofocar la anarquía: una fuerza multinacional de 2500 miembros dirigida por Kenia que fue aprobada por las Naciones Unidas y financiada en gran parte por Estados Unidos.

Pero el contingente quedó suspendido porque los dirigentes de Kenia dijeron que estaban esperando a que se instalara un nuevo gobierno haitiano.

Un consejo de transición encargado de aportar estabilidad política a Haití ha tomado el relevo, como parte de un proceso para conformar un nuevo gobierno y allanar el camino para unas elecciones generales.

Haití no ha tenido un líder elegido por una votación democrática desde que su último presidente, Jovenel Möise, fue asesinado hace tres años.

Pero Kenia aún no ha dicho cuándo partirá la fuerza multinacional hacia Haití, por lo que, de momento, la policía del país tendrá que seguir enfrentándose a las bandas por su cuenta.

“Llevan meses rogando por ayuda”, dijo Bill O’Neill, experto de Naciones Unidas en derechos humanos en Haití. “Me sorprende que sigan resistiendo. Es un pequeño milagro”.

La policía cuenta con unos 9000 oficiales activos para una población de 11 millones de habitantes, según cifras del gobierno, aproximadamente un tercio de la dotación recomendada por Naciones Unidas para un país de ese tamaño.

En Puerto Príncipe suelen estar de servicio unos cientos de oficiales, según los expertos, aunque de manera oficial hay unos 2400 asignados a la capital.

Muchos oficiales han muerto, han renunciado o simplemente han abandonado el trabajo, afirmó Elbé, el jefe de la policía. Sin embargo, dijo que un número significativo ha abandonado Haití al amparo de un programa de permiso humanitario o de permanencia temporal de EE. UU. (conocido como parole en inglés) para inmigrantes haitianos presentado el año pasado por el gobierno de Joe Biden.

En el otro bando hay hasta 200 bandas criminales en todo el país, de las cuales unas dos decenas operan en Puerto Príncipe, según los expertos. Estas van desde pequeños grupos de unas pocas decenas de jóvenes que comparten pistolas hasta pandillas de unos 1500 hombres armados con armas automáticas.

Las autoridades estadounidenses afirman que algunas bandas también disponen de rifles de gran calibre que pueden disparar munición capaz de penetrar fortificaciones. También utilizan drones para vigilar a la policía. Las armas de la policía consisten principalmente en rifles y pistolas.

El gobierno de Biden, que ha dado a la policía de Haití alrededor de 200 millones de dólares en ayuda en los últimos años, está gastando otros 10 millones de dólares en capacitación y equipamiento, incluyendo armas, municiones, chalecos antibalas y cascos.

“Les hemos proporcionado material suficiente, diría yo, por el momento, pero cada día cuenta, y ésta es una acción de contención”, declaró en una entrevista Brian A. Nichols, subsecretario de Estado para Asuntos del Hemisferio Occidental. Las autoridades de EE. UU. han insistido repetidamente en la urgencia de contar con la fuerza multinacional sobre el terreno en Haití.

Al mismo tiempo, organizaciones de derechos humanos en Haití afirman que la policía también ha cometido abusos, como detener a personas bajo acusaciones no especificadas o falsas y golpear a los detenidos, según un informe del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. publicado en abril.

El asalto a la casa del jefe policial se produjo cuando las bandas intensificaron su nivel de violencia: en los tres primeros meses de este año, más de 2500 personas murieron o resultaron heridas en Haití. Además de forzar el cierre del principal aeropuerto del país, las pandillas también cerraron el principal puerto de Haití, bloqueando el transporte marítimo.

Con este sombrío telón de fondo, Elbé, que no suele hacer apariciones públicas, difundió dos videos en los que les aseguraba a los haitianos que sus oficiales estaban haciendo todo lo posible para protegerlos.

“Se han mantenido firmes en la defensa de la población y han evitado que el país se desmorone por completo”, dijo en un video, con un chaleco protector y rodeado de oficiales de élite antibandas.

También hizo un llamado directo a sus compañeros policías. “Les pido que se unan a esta lucha para evitar que el país muera”, dijo.

Sin embargo, algunos oficiales que viven en barrios invadidos por las bandas se han unido a los cientos de miles de haitianos que han huido de sus hogares.

Las bandas criminales han atacado deliberadamente a la policía como muestra de poder y para sembrar el terror, según los expertos.

“Asesinan o mutilan brutalmente los cuerpos de los policías”, afirmó Diego Da Rin, quien supervisa Haití para el International Crisis Group.

El jefe del sindicato de la policía, Lionel Lazarre, declaró: “La policía es víctima, como el resto de la población. La moral no es alta”.

Desde enero, al menos 24 oficiales han muerto y otros 5 han desaparecido tras sufrir emboscadas de bandas criminales, afirmó Elbé. Unos 220 oficiales han dimitido y 170 han abandonado las filas sin dar explicaciones, añadió.

Debido a los enormes retos y riesgos que enfrentan los oficiales, algunos funcionarios de Estados Unidos afirmaron que la institución había mostrado un compromiso y una resistencia notables.

Equipos especializados SWAT y unidades antipandillas han logrado repeler varios ataques contra edificios clave del gobierno en el centro de la ciudad, incluidos los ministerios del Interior y de Justicia y la Corte Suprema, en lo que Elbé describió como “guerra de guerrillas urbanas por bandas fuertemente armadas”. Al menos 22 comisarías de policía de Puerto Príncipe y sus suburbios fueron destruidas en las últimas semanas.

Un equipo de 14 asesores y capacitadores del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. está integrado en la policía haitiana para prestar apoyo, incluido asesoramiento táctico. Los altos mandos de la policía haitiana también han recibido formación a través del Colegio Interamericano de Defensa de Washington, que forma parte de la Organización de Estados Americanos.

Sin embargo, los expertos advierten que la policía haitiana está en desventaja en su lucha contra las bandas porque carece de una buena capacidad de respuesta y equipos de inteligencia, como vehículos de patrulla blindados, helicópteros o aviones no tripulados, para atacar las bases fortificadas de las bandas criminales.

La fragilidad de la policía preocupa a los expertos, quienes han advertido que no será fácil derrotar a las bandas ni siquiera con la llegada de la misión multinacional respaldada por la ONU.

“El despliegue internacional tendrá que estar específicamente entrenado para ejecutar operaciones en entornos urbanos densos, donde las bandas probablemente también empleen tácticas de guerrilla que aumenten el riesgo para los civiles”, dijo Lewis Galvin, analista principal para las Américas de Janes, la empresa de inteligencia de defensa.

Encuentran cuerpos sin vida en Baja California tras la desaparición de 3 turistas

Una búsqueda de tres turistas desaparecidos cerca de una localidad surfista cercana a la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México terminó trágicamente el viernes cuando las autoridades informaron que habían localizado tres cuerpos en un pozo de agua.

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Dos hermanos australianos Callum y Jake Robinson, y su amigo, Jack Carter Rhoad, un ciudadano estadounidense, habían estado de vacaciones practicando surf y acampando en la costa cercana a la ciudad mexicana de Ensenada cuando desaparecieron el sábado pasado.

Debra Robinson, la madre de los hermanos, dijo en una publicación en las redes sociales el miércoles que sus hijos habían reservado un Airbnb en otro pueblo costero al norte de Ensenada pero nunca llegaron allí.

“Este es un mensaje para cualquiera que haya visto a mis dos hijos. No nos han contactado”, suplicó a los más de 120.000 miembros de una página comunitaria en Facebook creada para personas interesadas en recorrer la península de Baja California en México.

Robinson informó además que Callum padece de diabetes tipo 1.

La fiscal general del estado, María Elena Andrade Ramírez, dijo en una conferencia de prensa el jueves que los fiscales estaban investigando a tres personas relacionadas con el caso, pero que había transcurrido un tiempo crucial desde la desaparición de los tres hombres.

Andrade Ramírez declaró ante los reporteros que la desaparición se había conocido de manera tardía, por lo que, agregó, eso significaba que se había perdido tiempo importante.

En una entrevista, Andrade Ramírez dijo que después de un análisis minucioso de un pozo de agua de 15 metros de profundidad en la playa La Bocana, cerca del pueblo de Santo Tomás, las autoridades mexicanas encontraron tres cuerpos masculinos la madrugada del viernes. Los restos ya descompuestos, añadió, “reunen las caracteristicas para suponer con un alto grado de probabilidad” que se trata de los hermanos Robinson y Rhoad.

Los investigadores realizarán pruebas de ADN para confirmar los hallazgos.

Los fiscales también creen que las tres personas vinculadas con las muertes intentaron apoderarse del vehículo de las víctimas. Cuando se resistieron, dijo Andrade Ramírez, un hombre sacó un arma, disparó y luego trató de deshacerse de sus cuerpos. Esa persona ha sido arrestada.

“Esta agresion al parecer se dio de manera imprevista, de manera circunstancial”, añadió. “Nos comprometemos a que este crimen no va a quedar impune”.

En el mismo lugar también se encontraron restos humanos de un cuarto cuerpo masculino, que aún no ha sido identificado y no está relacionado con este caso.

En 2022, 192 ciudadanos estadounidenses murieron en México, según las cifras del Departamento de Estado, pero la mayoría de esas muertes fueron accidentes o suicidios. Solo 46 se dictaminaron como homicidios.

Las grandes olas de Baja California han atraído durante mucho tiempo a muchos surfistas y viajeros, varios de los cuales han tenido que lidiar con las crecientes tasas de criminalidad durante casi dos décadas.

Pero en los últimos años el estado se ha visto afectado por niveles de violencia sin precedentes. Los datos gubernamentales muestran que Baja California ocupa actualmente el primer lugar en robo de vehículos y el segundo en homicidios, la mayoría de los cuales están relacionados con el tráfico de drogas o el crimen organizado, según declaró este año el secretario de la Defensa Nacional de México, Luis Cresencio Sandoval.

Un funcionario familiarizado con la investigación, quien no estaba autorizado a hablar públicamente, dijo que una camioneta blanca en la que viajaban los turistas desaparecidos había sido encontrada carbonizada cerca de la playa de La Bocana, en Santo Tomás. También se estaban analizando otras pertenencias y pruebas, añadió el funcionario.

El rápido esfuerzo por encontrar a los turistas fue una rara excepción en un país donde casi 100.000 personas siguen desaparecidas, según el último recuento facilitado por las autoridades mexicanas en marzo.

La mayoría de los casos siguen sin resolverse. Los familiares y los voluntarios tienen que seguir por su propia cuenta las pistas, pero la presencia de los cárteles y la falta de apoyo de las autoridades convierten la búsqueda en una misión peligrosa.

Este caso reciente en Ensenada hizo recordar un suceso de 2015 en el que dos surfistas australianos, Adam Coleman y Dean Lucas, fueron asesinados mientras conducían por Sinaloa, otro estado del norte de México. Las autoridades locales arrestaron a tres personas, quienes dijeron que le habían disparado a los dos amigos después de que se habían resistido a un robo. Sus cuerpos fueron encontrados dentro de su camioneta, la cual había sido rociada con gasolina y prendida en fuego.

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

¿Proteger los árboles de la Amazonía puede ser más rentable que la ganadería?

Manuela Andreoni visitó proyectos de restauración y propiedades rurales en el norte del Amazonas para entender cómo están cambiando las economías locales.

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Los habitantes de Maracaçumé, una localidad al borde de la selva amazónica cuya población vive en situación de pobreza, se sienten desconcertados por la empresa que acaba de comprar la mayor hacienda de la región. ¿Cómo puede ganar dinero plantando árboles, que los ejecutivos dicen que nunca talarán, en terrenos donde el ganado ha pastado durante décadas?

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“Estamos acabando con unos pastos que muchos granjeros necesitan”, afirmó Josias Araújo, un antiguo ganadero que ahora trabaja en la reforestación, parado sobre una parcela de tierra que estaba ayudando a abonar. “Es tan extraño”, agregó.

La nueva empresa, que también es el nuevo empleador de Araújo, es un negocio de restauración forestal llamado Re.green. Su objetivo, junto con otras empresas, es crear toda una nueva industria que pueda hacer que los árboles en pie, que almacenan el carbono que calienta al planeta, sean más lucrativos que la mayor causa de deforestación mundial: la ganadería.

Es el santo grial de la economía forestal. Y ahora podría estar al alcance de la mano.

El interés es enorme. Ya desapareció una quinta parte de la gran selva tropical. Y los científicos advierten que el aumento de las temperaturas globales podría hacer que todo el ecosistema, un tesoro de biodiversidad y un regulador crucial del clima mundial, colapse en las próximas décadas, a menos que se detenga la deforestación y se restaure una zona del tamaño de Alemania.

Re.green planea restaurar árboles endémicos en áreas deforestadas y vender créditos que corresponden al carbono que captan. Esos árboles se conservarán, no se talarán. Luego, las empresas utilizarán esos créditos para compensar sus propios gases de efecto invernadero en el recuento de emisiones.

Lo que está en juego depende del éxito de un sistema que se está construyendo desde cero y que implica desafíos enormes. Medir el carbono que contienen los árboles y el suelo es complejo. Además, a muchos conservacionistas les preocupa que las empresas puedan abusar de los créditos de carbono para aparentar conciencia ecológica sin renunciar a los combustibles fósiles.

A pesar de eso, los proyectos de reforestación han creado un gran revuelo en el norte de la Amazonía, donde las empresas se apresuran a comprar grandes parcelas de tierra con potencial de restauración.

“Ustedes saben que a quienes crían ganado no les importa mucho esto de la reforestación”, comentó Anderson Pina Farias, un ganadero cuya finca está deforestada casi en su totalidad. Pero, añadió, “si vender carbono es mejor que la ganadería, podemos cambiar de negocio”.

Una reacción adversa de la naturaleza parece estar ayudando a las empresas de restauración a ganarse los corazones y las mentes en una región donde la cultura ganadera está muy arraigada.

Jose Villeigagnon Rabelo, alcalde de Mãe do Rio, ciudad del noreste de la Amazonía, está preocupado. Una sequía brutal provocada por el cambio climático y la deforestación secó recientemente buena parte de los pastizales que los ganaderos usaban como alimento. Y, tras décadas de pisoteo de los animales, millones de hectáreas en toda la región se han degradado tanto que no sirven para cultivar casi nada.

“El ganado se está muriendo de hambre”, declaró Rabelo sentado en su oficina, recubierta de madera y con bancos de ‘Dinizia excelsa’, también conocido como angelim vermelha, un árbol que ahora es difícil de encontrar en la región. “Nunca habíamos tenido un verano así”.

La crisis ha hecho que los ganaderos tengan que dedicar partes cada vez mayores de sus fincas a alimentar a un número cada vez menor de reses. En la actualidad, menos de la mitad de las haciendas registradas en la ciudad tienen ganado.

Pero, hace más o menos un año, una empresa de restauración llamada Mombak inició un proyecto que abarca 3035 hectáreas en uno de los ranchos ganaderos más grandes de la región. Rabelo confía en que la nueva industria sea un salvavidas para la comunidad.

La idea es sencilla: la venta de un crédito, por cada tonelada de carbón que los árboles absorban de la atmósfera, para las empresas que quieran compensar la contaminación que producen.

Según los expertos, los trastornos medioambientales, combinados con el interés cada vez mayor por los créditos de carbono, han creado una oportunidad para desafiar el dominio del imperio de la carne de res sobre vastas extensiones de selva tropical. Según un informe de 2023 de BloombergNEF, los mercados de carbono podrían alcanzar un valor de un billón de dólares en 2037, el doble de lo que vale en este momento el mercado mundial de la carne de res.

Cultivar un bosque grande y biodiverso en terrenos degradados puede costar decenas de millones de dólares. Durante años, los proyectos de reforestación forestal habían tenido que depender de varias fuentes de ingresos, incluida la tala sostenible de madera, para restaurar el suelo y cultivar distintos tipos de árboles endémicos.

Sin embargo, las empresas que quieren mejorar sus credenciales climáticas están cada vez más dispuestas a invertir más recursos para financiar proyectos que consideran de alta calidad. Por eso, empresas como Mombak y Re.green están desarrollando un modelo de negocio que se basa casi exclusivamente en créditos de carbono, con poca o ninguna tala.

Parte de la estrategia de empresas como Mombak y Re.green es ayudar a los agricultores a mejorar la tierra e intensificar la ganadería en algunas zonas degradadas, al tiempo que restauran los bosques en otras. En promedio, las fincas amazónicas mantienen un animal por cada 0,80 hectáreas. Los investigadores afirman que esta cifra podría aumentar a tres animales con poca inversión.

La mayoría de los proyectos emplean a decenas de lugareños para que planten los árboles, fertilicen la tierra y estén atentos a incendios. Las empresas también financian y capacitan a empresas locales para que proporcionen las semillas y plántulas autóctonas que tanto necesitan.

En algunos proyectos, a medida que crecen los bosques, las comunidades locales también pueden ganarse la vida recolectando y procesando nueces de Brasil, aceite de andiroba y otros productos forestales que pueden vender a empresas de alimentos, belleza y farmacéuticas.

Cuando un bosque se convierte en una respuesta a las diversas necesidades de la gente, se vuelve una poderosa razón para que las comunidades lo protejan, afirmó Luiza Maia de Castro, economista que gestiona las relaciones comunitarias de Re.green. En este momento, la tala de árboles es un medio de subsistencia aceptable en la mayor parte de la Amazonía.

“Para romper ese ciclo”, dijo, “tienes que cambiar la manera en la que la gente se gana el sustento”.

Estas iniciativas siguen enfrentando retos enormes. El suministro de semillas de árboles endémicos es un problema logístico y encontrar granjas que puedan ser adquiridas en regiones donde la tenencia de la tierra es caótica puede implicar meses de investigación.

Y lo que es más importante, la trayectoria de los precios de los créditos de carbono depende de que el mundo establezca qué es un crédito de alta calidad. En repetidas ocasiones, los mercados de carbono se han visto afectados por investigaciones académicas y periodísticas que revelaron que decenas de proyectos habían exagerado el impacto de sus emisiones, por ejemplo, al “proteger” bosques que nunca estuvieron en peligro de tala.

Pero los proyectos de reforestación almacenan carbono con el cultivo de árboles en tierras degradadas, un sistema más sencillo y directo.

Algunos expertos advierten que el ganado desplazado podría continuar impulsando la deforestación en otros lugares y que los incendios forestales podrían eliminar los beneficios de los árboles que tardaron décadas en crecer.

“Suena a que el financiamiento del carbono puede marcar la diferencia”, dijo Barbara Haya, directora del Proyecto de Comercio de Carbono de Berkeley, que ha investigado varios proyectos de silvicultura de carbono. Pero también hay dudas sobre los métodos de contabilidad.

Además, agregó: “Es problemático intercambiar carbono forestal por emisiones de combustibles fósiles”. En parte, eso se debe a que la compra de créditos de carbono puede resultar menos costosa que la transición de una empresa a abandonar las fuentes de energía sucias, lo que, según los científicos, el mundo debe hacer en última instancia para evitar los peores efectos del cambio climático.

Manuela Andreoni es periodista del Times que cubre el clima y el medioambiente y escribe el boletín Climate Forward. Más de Manuela Andreoni