The New York Times 2024-05-19 01:10:40


Mexico City Has Long Thirsted for Water. The Crisis Is Worsening.

In Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities, the struggle for water is constant.

Poor planning, urban sprawl and scorching dry weather have strained the water supply.

One key system may soon be unable to provide water.

A collision of climate change, urban sprawl and poor infrastructure has pushed Mexico City to the brink of a profound water crisis.

The groundwater is quickly vanishing. A key reservoir got so low that it is no longer used to supply water. Last year was Mexico’s hottest and driest in at least 70 years. And one of the city’s main water systems faces a potential “Day Zero” this summer when levels dip so much that it, too, will no longer provide water.

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Xi’s Warm Embrace of Putin in China Is a Defiance of the West

Days after returning from a trip to Europe where he was lectured about the need to rein in Russia, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, used a summit with President Vladimir V. Putin to convey an uncomfortable reality to the West: His support for Mr. Putin remains steadfast.

Mr. Xi’s talks with Mr. Putin this week were a show of solidarity between two autocrats battling Western pressure. The two leaders put out a lengthy statement that denounced what they saw as American interference and bullying and laid out their alignment on China’s claim to self-ruled Taiwan and Russia’s “legitimate security interests” in Ukraine.

They pledged to expand economic and military ties, highlighted by Mr. Putin’s visit to a cutting-edge Chinese institute for defense research. Mr. Xi even initiated a cheek-to-cheek hug as he bade Mr. Putin farewell on Thursday after an evening stroll in the Chinese Communist Party leadership compound in Beijing.

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France Issues Scratch-and-Sniff Baguette Postage Stamps

Joining the ranks of the screen goddess Brigitte Bardot and the Eiffel Tower, another French treasure is being celebrated with its own postage stamp: the baguette.

And this one is scratch-and-sniff.

The latest showcasing of French cultural heritage as Paris prepares to host millions of visitors for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the new stamp features a cartoon image of a baguette wrapped in a tricolor ribbon.

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Russians Poured Over Ukraine’s Border. There Was Little to Stop Them.

Russian troops punched across Ukraine’s northern border with such speed and force last week that Ukraine’s meager fortifications offered almost no obstacle. Some Ukrainian soldiers, caught totally by surprise, fell back from their positions, and villages that had been liberated nearly two years earlier suddenly came under relentless shelling, forcing hundreds to flee in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the war.

“They are erasing streets,” said Tetiana Novikova, 55, a retired factory worker who said she barely escaped with her life on Friday when her village of Vovchansk came under withering fire from Russian forces. As she fled the village where she had spent her whole life, she said, not a single Ukrainian soldier was in sight.

The stunning incursion into the Kharkiv Region lays bare the challenges facing Ukraine’s weary and thinly stretched forces as Russia ramps up its summer offensive. The Russian troops pouring over the border enjoyed a huge advantage in artillery shells and employed air power, including fighter jets and heavy glide bombs, to disastrous effect, unhindered by depleted Ukrainian air defenses.


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Under Israeli Bombs, a Wartime Economy Emerges in Gaza

On tables and desks from schools turned shelters, wartime vendors lined a street, selling used clothes, baby formula, canned food and the rare batch of homemade cookies.

In some cases, entire aid parcels — still emblazoned with the flags of their donating countries and meant to be distributed for free — were stacked on sidewalks and sold for prices few could afford.

Issam Hamouda, 51, stood next to his paltry commercial offering: an array of canned vegetables and beans from an aid carton his family had received.

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Slovak Prime Minister Is Improving After Second Operation, Official Says

Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, was in improving health on Saturday morning, the country’s deputy minister said, after having a second surgery on the wounds he sustained when he was shot in an assassination attempt on Wednesday.

“Several miracles happened,” the deputy minister, Robert Kalinak, told reporters. He added of Mr. Fico, “He is conscious, with all the limitations of this serious injury.”

Mr. Kalinak made the remarks in front of the F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica, where Mr. Fico was taken after he was shot multiple times by a lone gunman.

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Rescuers in Nepal Retrieve the Bodies of an American Climber and Her Guide

Rescuers successfully retrieved the bodies of an American climber and her guide from the slopes of Mount Shishapangma, in the Chinese region of Tibet, more than seven months after they were lost while trying to summit the world’s 14th tallest peak.

The American climber, Anna Gutu, 33, and the guide, Mingmar Sherpa, 27, were buried in the avalanche around Oct. 7, 2023, while racing to make history: Ms. Gutu had hoped to become the first American woman to climb 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters (26, 247 feet). Mount Shishapangma rises 8,027 meters (26,335 feet) above sea level.

The climbers’ bodies were brought to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, on Saturday, after being retrieved last week, according to Elite Exped, the expedition company.

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Russia Presses Attacks in Northeast Ukraine, Seeking Buffer Zone on Border

Russian forces continued to press a grinding advance on Saturday into northeastern Ukraine, moving closer to a village about 10 miles from the outer ring of Kharkiv and raising fears that the city, Ukraine’s second largest, could soon be within range of Russian artillery.

The Ukrainian Army said on Saturday that Russian troops had tried to break through its defenses near the village of Lyptsi, which lies directly north of Kharkiv. It said the attacks had been repelled, but maps of the battlefield compiled by independent groups analyzing publicly available video of the fighting showed that Russian troops had almost reached the outskirts of the village.

Ukraine’s Khartia Brigade, which is defending Lyptsi, posted a video on Telegram on Friday afternoon that it said showed Russian soldiers advancing on the village on foot, and attacking in small groups between tree lines. The brigade said it had targeted the Russians with rockets, forcing them to withdraw.

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Middle East Crisis: Benny Gantz Threatens to Leave Israel’s Government

Top News

Gantz’s ultimatum reflects a growing frustration with Netanyahu’s leadership.

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel’s war cabinet, said on Saturday that he would soon leave the country’s emergency wartime government unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to immediately answer major questions about the future of Israel’s war.

“If you choose the path of zealots, dragging the country into the abyss, we will be forced to leave the government,” Mr. Gantz said in a televised news conference. “We will turn to the people and build a government that will earn the people’s trust.”

Mr. Gantz, who leads the National Unity party, said he would give Mr. Netanyahu until Jun. 8 — about three weeks — to reach an agreement in Israel’s war cabinet on a six-point plan to bring back the hostages, address the future governance of Gaza, return displaced Israelis to their homes and advance normalization with Saudi Arabia, among other issues.

His party’s departure would not by itself topple Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which would still hold 64 seats in the 120-member Parliament. But it would end a fragile wartime partnership that helped keep Israel unified and provided Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line coalition with more moderate faces, boosting the country’s legitimacy abroad.

In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu fired back that Mr. Gantz was essentially calling for “Israeli defeat” and would allow Hamas to remain in power. He also said Mr. Gantz was “choosing to place ultimatums for the prime minister, rather than for Hamas.”

Mr. Gantz’s comments came amid growing domestic frustration with Mr. Netanyahu’s failure to decisively defeat Hamas or bring home the remaining hostages. Israeli forces recently recovered the bodies of four captives held in Gaza since the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, heightening fears over the fate of the remaining 128 hostages.

Over seven months into Israel’s campaign against Hamas in Gaza, its leadership is deeply divided over how to move forward. The government opposes Hamas’s demand for a permanent truce, undercutting cease-fire talks for the release of hostages. Israeli troops have returned to parts of northern Gaza, seeking to clear out a renewed Hamas insurgency there. Israelis displaced amid bombardment by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah have little idea when they will return.

The Israeli government has yet to put forward a clear plan for what a postwar Gaza might look like, a task complicated by the government’s fractious makeup. Mr. Netanyahu’s partners include hard-line ministers who want to build new Israeli settlements in Gaza, as well as more moderate politicians like Mr. Gantz.

Long one of Mr. Netanyahu’s main opponents, Mr. Gantz — a former military chief of staff — joined the Israeli government after the Oct. 7 attack as an emergency wartime measure. The result has been a fragile coalition, with Mr. Gantz’s party trading fire with Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right allies and occasionally the prime minister himself.

On Wednesday, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, similarly criticized Mr. Netanyahu’s management of the war, warning that the government’s failure to decide on a postwar plan for Gaza was leading the country down “a dangerous course.” He called on Mr. Netanyahu to explicitly rule out setting up Israeli “military governance” in Gaza.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the cabinet and have received no response,” said Mr. Gallant, a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party. “The end of the military campaign must come with political action.”

To some extent, both Mr. Gallant’s and Mr. Gantz’s criticisms were similar to those of U.S. officials. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said this week that Israel had to advance a “clear, concrete plan” for postwar governance in Gaza.

“We cannot have Hamas controlling Gaza,” Mr. Blinken said. “We can’t have chaos and anarchy in Gaza.” He added that the United States was looking “to Israel to come forward with its ideas.”

But while the Biden administration says it supports a Palestinian state — of which Gaza would likely be an integral part — neither Mr. Gantz nor Mr. Gallant has indicated immediate support for that. Both men have insisted that Israel must maintain “security control” to prevent a recurrence of the Oct. 7 attacks. On Saturday, Mr. Gantz vowed that “we will not allow any party, whether friends or enemies, to impose a Palestinian state upon us,” echoing Mr. Netanyahu’s rhetoric opposing Palestinian sovereignty.

Until a permanent solution is found, Mr. Gantz said, Gaza should be temporarily run by an “American-European-Arab-Palestinian administration,” with Israeli security oversight. In a statement following the speech, he also joined Mr. Netanyahu in dismissing a role for the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s main rival.

Key Developments

Israel presses on with its Rafah operation, and other news.

  • Israeli forces said on Saturday that they had recovered the body of Ron Binyamin, 53, an Israeli man held hostage in Gaza since the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7. On the morning of the attack, Mr. Binyamin — a husband and father of two daughters — had set out on a bicycle ride with friends near Be’eri, a small kibbutz near the Gaza border. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, said Hamas militants killed Mr. Binyamin and took his body back to Gaza, where his remains were retrieved on Thursday night along with those of Yitzhak Gelernter, Shani Louk and Amit Buskila.

  • The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group representing relatives of those captured on Oct. 7 during the Hamas-led attack on Israel, said a rally on Saturday evening in Tel-Aviv drew a crowd of 100,000 people. Ambassadors to Israel from the United States, England, Germany and Austria all spoke, pledging to continue their efforts to secure a deal to bring home the hostage.

  • Israeli ground forces pressed onward in the eastern outskirts of the city of Rafah on Saturday, the Israeli military said. Strikes and artillery fire have continued to resound across the area, according to aid officials sheltering in western Rafah. In a statement on Saturday morning, Hamas said its fighters had fired on Israeli troops in eastern Rafah and close to the Rafah border crossing. Although Israel has labeled the operation “limited,” the United Nations aid agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, said on Saturday that 800,000 people have had to leave Rafah, while satellite imagery shows widening destruction.

  • The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was visiting Saudi Arabia on Saturday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was scheduled to be in Israel on Sunday, where he was to meet with officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, said on Friday that Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Netanyahu would discuss hostage talks, the humanitarian crisis and the “enduring defeat of Hamas through both military pressure and a political plan.” Israel and Hamas have held indirect negotiations in an attempt to reach a deal that would free at least some hostages in exchange for a cease-fire, but they appear to be stalled.

Aid to Gaza has been limited since the Rafah incursion, the U.N. says.

As trucks loaded with humanitarian aid began rolling onto the shores of Gaza through a temporary pier this week, U.S. officials and aid groups emphasized that the new sea corridor could not replace the most efficient way of getting supplies to the territory’s civilians: land border crossings.

The United Nations gave an indication on Friday of how much the flow of aid through those crossings had dried up. Just 310 aid trucks entered Gaza in the 10 days after Israel began its military incursion in the southern city of Rafah, U.N. officials said.

That is far shy of what aid organizations say is needed in the territory. Humanitarian workers have repeatedly warned that famine is looming amid severe shortages of basic goods among civilians, many of whom have been displaced multiple times.

Before May 6, most aid reaching Gaza was delivered through two southern border crossings, at Rafah and Kerem Shalom.

As Israel entered Rafah, it seized and closed the border crossing with Egypt there, in what its military said was a limited operation against Hamas. Israel temporarily shut the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel after a Hamas rocket attack in the area killed four Israeli soldiers. The flow of goods has remained severely limited even after it was reopened.

From May 6 to Wednesday, 33 trucks entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, Farhan Haq, a U.N. spokesman, said on Friday. In the same period, 277 trucks entered through two crossings in northern Gaza, he said. The trucks were carrying flour and other food aid, according to the United Nations.

U.S. and Israeli officials have previously said one of the reasons for the stoppage is that Egypt is trying to pressure Israel to pull back from Rafah by not allowing trucks at that crossing to redirect to Kerem Shalom.

More than 2,000 trucks of aid were stuck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing as of Thursday, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

COGAT, the Israeli agency that oversees aid delivery in Gaza, said on Friday that 365 trucks of aid had entered Gaza in the past day. It did not specify whether the figure included deliveries from the temporary pier. Israel and the United Nations use different methods to track truck deliveries.

A family flees Rafah to live in the ruins of its home in Khan Younis.

When Mohammed al-Lahham and his family returned last week to Khan Younis, their hometown in Gaza, they went back to a city and home scarred by Israeli bombardment. They hoped they would not be forced to flee again.

“The situation here in my city is unbearable, but at least it is better than living in a tent,” said Mr. al-Lahham, a 41-year-old plumber and father of five. “I am finally back in Khan Younis, my hometown, where I know its people and places and streets.”

Those streets, many of them bulldozed, are now rimmed with the rubble of entire buildings after a ground invasion by Israeli forces left the city nearly unrecognizable. The forces withdrew from Khan Younis last month.

Much of Mr. al-Lahham’s home in the center of the city was destroyed, but the family has been trying to re-establish its life in the one room that remained mostly intact.

“I live in a room in which walls were blown off,” he said. “I put up some blankets I got from the U.N. as curtains to protect us inside.”

More than 630,000 Palestinians have been forced to flee their homes and shelters in and around the southern city of Rafah since Israel began a military offensive on May 6, UNRWA, the primary U.N. agency for Palestinians, said on Friday. Before May 6, Rafah, on the border with Egypt, had become home to more than one million Palestinians who fled their homes elsewhere in Gaza seeking a modicum of safety, even as the Israeli military continued to carry out airstrikes on the city. It was one of the last places that had not been invaded by Israeli soldiers.

Now, many Palestinians are seeking shelter in places like the central city of Deir al Balah and Al-Mawasi, a coastal area west of Khan Younis. Both are overcrowded and facing dire conditions, U.N. and aid groups have said.

Israel continues to characterize its offensive in and around Rafah as a “limited operation” against Hamas, the armed group that led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The seizure of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, intensified airstrikes and artillery, and an expanding ground invasion into parts of Rafah have forced about half the Palestinians living and seeking shelter there to flee.

Satellite imagery suggested that a significant incursion was already underway.

On Thursday, Israel said it would send more forces to Rafah, signaling that it intended to attack deeper into the city despite international concerns about the threat to civilians posed by a full-scale invasion.

In the north, Israeli attacks and new military evacuation orders displaced more than 160,000 people from several areas around Gaza City, according to UNRWA.

“Forced displacement continues in the #GazaStrip,” UNRWA posted on social media this week, adding that “about 20% of #Gaza’s population have been displaced again in the past week. Families keep fleeing where they can — including to rubble & sand dunes — in search of safety. But there’s no such thing in Gaza.”

Beyond the displacement, the Israeli offensive and fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas have prevented nearly all aid from entering Gaza through the two main border crossings, and has impeded the little aid that has reached Gaza from being distributed, according to the U.N. and other aid groups.

That has forced families like the al-Lahhams to fend almost entirely for themselves.

On Thursday, Mr. al-Lahham stood in line with two of his sons to fill cans with water from a large tank brought in by a charity.

Even though Mr. al-Lahham said he was shot in his right shoulder by an Israeli armed drone, a wound that has yet to heal because the bullet is still inside, he knew he needed to get drinking water for his family.

“I sometimes try to carry heavy things with my left arm, like gallons of water,” he said. “You can see how I move it painfully, and this will affect my work as a plumber.”

While the water on Thursday was free, nothing else in the battered city was.

Even charging his cellphone at a street vendor cost him a few shekels. And with nearly no aid and limited commercial goods coming into Gaza, prices in the markets have increased more.

Mr. al-Lahham and his family are terrified they might be forced to flee again if the Israeli Army re-invades their city. If it does, they plan to go to Al-Mawasi. He just didn’t know how they would get there.

He had to borrow nearly $100 to pay for a van to bring his family to Khan Younis from Rafah.

“I don’t know where I could get any money to take us and our belongings if anything bad happened,” he said. “Why is all of this suffering still going on?”

Strangers in Their Own Land: Being Muslim in Modi’s India

It is a lonely feeling to know that your country’s leaders do not want you. To be vilified because you are a Muslim in what is now a largely Hindu-first India.

It colors everything. Friends, dear for decades, change. Neighbors hold back from neighborly gestures — no longer joining in celebrations, or knocking to inquire in moments of pain.

“It is a lifeless life,” said Ziya Us Salam, a writer who lives on the outskirts of Delhi with his wife, Uzma Ausaf, and their four daughters.

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A Would-be Assassin Stirs Europe’s Violent Ghosts

Dmitri A. Medvedev, the former Russian president and regular forecaster of a third World War, had no hesitation in comparing the would-be assassin of Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia to the young man who ignited World War I. Europe, he suggested, was once more on the brink.

The individual who shot Mr. Fico, a nationalist leader who favors friendly relations with Russia, was “a certain topsy-turvy version of Gavrilo Princip,” Mr. Medvedev said on the social network X. Princip was the 19-year-old Bosnian Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, started what Churchill called “the hardest, the cruelest” of all wars.

It was on many levels a wild association to make. The Europe of empires that unraveled between 1914 and 1918 is long gone, as is the Europe that replaced it and produced Auschwitz. In their place the painstakingly constructed European Union of 27 members, including Slovakia, has been put in place with the overriding goal of making war impossible on a long-ravaged continent.

Yet, with elections to the European Parliament just three weeks way, ominous indications of brewing violence go well beyond the shooting of Mr. Fico, whose condition remains serious.

A 27-month-old war is raging in Ukraine, outside the E.U. but right on its doorstep. It is increasingly, as in World War I, a conflict involving soldiers reduced to “fodder locked in the same murderous morass, sharing the same attrition of bullet and barrage, disease and deprivation, torment and terror,” as Tim Butcher put it in his book “The Trigger,” an account of Princip’s life.

In significant respects, Russia is waging its war in Ukraine against Europe’s liberal democracies. The question the attempt on Mr. Fico’s life raises is how far Europeans are willing to go to wage war against themselves as extreme political polarization stalks their societies.

The motive behind the shooting remains unclear, but it took place in the context of a poisonous political environment that the assassination attempt will only make more poisonous, in Slovakia at least, but potentially beyond.

Europe is increasingly divided, and dangerously so. As in Slovakia, that divide pits nationalists opposed to immigration against liberals who see in the far right a threat to the rule of law, a free press and democracy itself. In this political world, there are no longer opponents, there are only enemies. All means are good to attack them, up to and, recent events indicate, including violence.

With so much political tinder about, a single spark may be explosive. The assassination attempt on Mr. Fico “demonstrates what such polarization can lead to, and this is something European societies, and the United States too, need to reflect on,” said Jacques Rupnik, a French political scientist focused on Central Europe.

The war outside Europe, and the political battles within it, fuel each other. Russian advances on the battlefield, an apparent Ukrainian assault on Russian-occupied Crimea, and a possible NATO deployment of trainers to Ukraine are reminders that escalation is always possible. The shooting of Mr. Fico also demonstrated that.

Mr. Fico opposes the power of the European Union, military aid to Ukraine, mass immigration and L.G.B.T.Q. rights. He is hated by liberals for these and other reasons. He is unpopular in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, but popular outside it. In this, his political fortunes conform with the fracture in societies including France, Germany and the Netherlands, where the core fight is now national vs. global.

It pits the forgotten living “nowhere” in industrial wastelands and rural areas who see immigrants as threats to their livelihoods against the prosperous connected global citizens living in the “somewhere” of the knowledge economy.

The Ukraine war sharpens these fissures because nationalists across Europe are aligned with President Vladimir V. Putin’s reactionary moral ideology. They join with him, and with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, in portraying Western liberal urban elites as agents bent on the destruction of church, nation, family and traditional notions of marriage and gender.

Mr. Medvedev called the would-be assassin in Slovakia, who has been identified only as a 71-year-old former coal mine worker by the name of Juraj C., a representative of “the Europe of detestable degenerates with no knowledge of their own history” against which Mr. Fico fought.

His shooting seems to reflect the shrinking middle ground in Europe’s political clashes. “You might be psychologically, verbally or physically assaulted because of what you do or say,” said Karolina Wigura, a Polish historian of ideas. “In our societies, it has become unbearable to accept that somebody else sees or defines something in a completely different way.”

On Thursday, Donald Tusk, the liberal Polish prime minister who returned to power late last year after defeating the governing nationalist Law and Justice party, posted on X a threat from the previous day: “Today, Slovaks gave us an example of what to do with Donald Tusk if he dismisses the CPK.”

This was a reference to a major airport project favored by Law and Justice, but questioned by the new government.

When Mr. Tusk took office in December, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of Law and Justice and Poland’s de facto leader since 2015, called him a “German agent.” Such charges, effectively of treason, have become commonplace across Europe. The air is full of “Jewish agents” and “Russian agents.” In the current campaign for the European Parliament election, Mr. Tusk and Mr. Kaczynski have been exchanging accusations of being “Russian spies.”

The Slovakian interior minister, Matus Sutaj Estok, warned this week that “we are on the doorstep of a civil war.”

Political violence has not been limited to Slovakia. In Germany this month, four people assaulted Matthias Ecke, a prominent Social Democratic politician who was hanging campaign posters in Dresden, leaving him with a broken cheekbone and eye socket that required emergency surgery. Mr. Ecke is running for re-election to the European Parliament.

Rapid technology-driven change, the proliferation of social media where any accusation goes, and the unraveling of any agreed notion of truth have all contributed to the succumbing of civility to brutality.

“There is a pervasive feeling of loss,” Ms. Wigura said. “The different becomes a threat.”

But the main factor in the slide toward violent confrontation has probably been the rapid rise in immigration — some 5.1 million immigrants entered the European Union in 2022, more than double the number the previous year — which has sharply divided opinion across the continent.

“The European Union is seen as unable to protect its own borders,” Mr. Rupnik said. “That has led to nations saying, OK, we have to do it ourselves.”

It has also led, in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Slovakia itself, to the rapid rise of xenophobic far-right parties offering jingoistic hymns to national glory. They often have roots in fascism, albeit without its militarism or personality cults, at least up to now. The barriers that once kept these parties — like the Alternative for Germany or the National Rally in France — from power have eroded or crumbled.

These parties are expected to perform strongly in the June 9 elections to the European Parliament, which is a relatively powerless institution but one still important for being the only directly elected body with representatives from all European Union countries. In France, polls show Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally getting about double the vote of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party.

The climate was combustible before the assassination attempt on Mr. Fico; it is more so now. The realm of the possible has grown broader. Postwar Europe has a peace culture, already shaken by the war in Ukraine. It is unused to its leaders being targeted in this way. Almost four decades have passed since Olof Palme, Sweden’s Social Democrat prime minister, was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.

“I don’t know about World War III,” Ms. Wigura said, “but it does not look good. There are fewer and fewer spaces where you can speak your mind. The situation is much more dangerous than it used to be.”

The placid normalcy of postwar Europe seemed unshakable, history’s painful lessons had been learned. But as Russia’s revanchist war in Ukraine has demonstrated, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was not bloodless after all. Europe’s malevolent ghosts, it seems, have stirred.

When a Tale of Migration Is Not Just Fiction

Reporting from a movie screening in Guédiawaye, a suburb of Dakar, Senegal.

The two teenagers on the screen trudging through the endless dunes of the Sahara on their way to Europe were actors. So were the fellow migrants tortured in a bloodstained Libyan prison.

But to the young man watching the movie one recent evening in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, the cinematic ordeal felt all too real. His two brothers had undertaken the same journey years ago.

“This is why they refused to send me money to take that route,” said Ahmadou Diallo, 18, a street cleaner. “Because they had seen firsthand how dangerous it is.”

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Slovakian Charged in Shooting ‘Was Against Everything’

He wrote dark, erotic verse and poems featuring torture and pain. He also self-published a book that railed against Roma people and asked why Slovakia had not produced a homegrown version of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist.

“Where is the Slovak Breivik? Has he not been born yet? And what if he has been?” he asked in the book. “I didn’t shoot anyone. I told myself — I’ll write a book.”

Then on Wednesday, the 71-year-old former coal mine worker, onetime stone mason and lifelong malcontent was charged with opening fire at point-blank range on Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia.

As soon as news broke that an unidentified man had shot Mr. Fico in central Slovakia, it was obvious to Milan Maruniak, a retired coal miner, who must be responsible.

“I was 99 percent sure it was him. It couldn’t be anybody else,” said Mr. Maruniak, a longtime colleague of the man who has been charged with “attempted premeditated murder” but still has not been named by the authorities.

Wednesday’s shooting, the worst attack on a European leader in decades, sent shock waves across Europe.

But the fact that the man who had lived in this provincial town was arrested came as no real surprise to some who knew him. “He was always so weird and angry,” Mr. Maruniak said. “It was only a matter of time before something happened.”

Slovakia’s prosecutor has placed an embargo on information relating to the case, and banned the police from disclosing the name of the man who has been charged. But the prosecutor’s office said “it would not be wrong” to identify the man as Juraj C., the name widely reported by the Slovakian news media. It is not clear if the suspect has a lawyer.

Officials say the shooter was a “lone wolf,” an unhinged individual acting only for himself — an account of the crime that fits the profile sketched by people who knew Juraj C.

On Friday, however, police officers visited the apartment block where he lived and took video footage from security cameras. Ondrej Szabo, the supervisor for the complex, said that investigators wanted to see if anybody had visited the man’s apartment in the days leading up to the attack. Mr. Szabo said the man never struck him as dangerous and often went for walks hand in hand with his wife. The couple have two children.

Video footage and photographs of the shooter released soon after the attack showed a bearded man whom Mr. Maruniak and other residents of the town, Levice, said they recognized as Juraj C., a local known for his cranky behavior and resentful attitude.

“I was not surprised it was him,” said Maria Cibulova, a member of Rainbow, an area literary club, to which Juraj C. also belonged.

She didn’t like his poetry much. “I’m a romantic and always looking for nice things,” she said, “but he was always writing about ugly, negative things.” When Juraj C. shared his work at bimonthly club meetings, she recalled, other members reacted with more alarm than admiration. “It was always so strange and negative,” Ms. Cibulova said of his work.

One poem, “The Hut,” featured the mountains of Slovakia recast as parts of the female anatomy, while “The Face” was dominated by descriptions of torture and pain. Both poems were included in a self-published book that was seen by The New York Times.

Politicians on both sides of a deep political divide in Slovakia that is split between supporters and foes of Mr. Fico have presented the shooter as a product of the opposing camp. But people who know him say he never sided clearly with either, but jumped on any cause that allowed him to express his anger.

Yet there is one cause, according to people who know him, that he has stuck with for decades: an abiding hostility toward Slovakia’s minority Roma population. Mr. Maruniak said that had been an obsession of Juraj C.’s since the 1970s, when they worked together at a coal mine. “Gypsies and Roma,” a book written and self-published by Juraj C. in 2015, included an openly racist poem about the minority: “On the body of civilization there is a tumor of criminality growing.”

On other matters, however, he regularly switched sides.

In 2016, for example, Juraj C. offered public support for Slovenski Branci, or Slovak Conscripts, a paramilitary group known for supporting Russia. In a statement of support, he said he admired the group’s “ability to act without approval from the state.”

Two years later, however, he began a bitter feud with another member of the literary club who had posted a message on Facebook expressing unease about torchlight parades in Ukraine by radical nationalists. He denounced his fellow writer, who had worked in Russia more than two decades before, as a Russian agent paid by the Kremlin to tarnish Ukraine.

Juraj C.’s pro-Ukrainian views became steadily stronger as he turned against Russia, his previous beacon, particularly after the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion in 2022. “He suddenly became extremely anti-Russian,” said the club member, who asked that his name not be published because his family feared retribution.

In 2019, Juraj C. stopped attending meetings of the literary club and seemed strangely detached when he ran into people he had known for years on the street.

“He was off in his own world and reality,” Mr. Maruniak recalled.

A trail of often-contradictory statements and affiliations over the years has given Slovakia’s politicians a wealth of material with which to spin the accused man’s views. The fact that the literary club in Levice is called Rainbow has fueled claims that he is an L.G.B.T.Q. activist, a role that would explain his hostility to Mr. Fico, a champion of traditional family values.

But Ms. Cibulova, who was president of the literary club for several years, said the club had no affiliation with L.G.B.T.Q. causes.

The first person to identify a suspect was Danny Kollar, a Slovak who lives in London, from where he runs one of Slovakia’s most widely followed and vituperative social media outlets.

Mr. Kollar, who traffics in conspiracy theories, immediately linked the shooting to Progressive Slovakia, an opposition party, claiming that the shooter was a party supporter. The party’s leader dismissed that as a lie.

Ms. Cibulova said it was forbidden to discuss politics or religion at meetings of the literary club, so she had no clear idea of the man’s politics, other than that “he was against everything.”

“He had something inside him against the injustice that he felt had been done to him in life,” she said.

In a brief personal biography Juraj C. submitted to the writers’ group, he said he had been “identified as a rebel by state power” in the Communist era, and had been fired from his job as a technical worker at a coal mine in nearby Handlova, the town where Mr. Fico was shot on Wednesday.

According to his own account in the literary club’s journal, in 1989 he became the leader of Levice’s protest council, a branch of a nationwide anti-Communist organization led by Vaclav Havel, who later became the Czech president.

But that, Mr. Maruniak said, is not true. He said Jurjaj C. was kept at arm’s length by activists in the anti-Communist movement, who saw him as too radical and unreliable.

“Nobody really liked him,” Mr. Maruniak said. “He was never part of the team. He was never content with anything. He could never really be part of any group.”

In his 2015 book, Juraj C. gave what now reads like an account of his own personal evolution. It came in a section about a notorious Slovak murderer, Jan Harman, who killed eight people in a shooting spree in 2010.

“They declared him insane, but he wasn’t insane, he just couldn’t carry the burden anymore,” Juraj C. wrote. “He doesn’t have to curse anymore, he doesn’t have to hate anymore. He’s worn his own down to that unknown edge.”

Sara Cincurova and Marek Janiga contributed reporting from Bratislava, Slovakia.

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Putin’s China Visit Highlights Military Ties That Worry the West

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia attended a trade fair on Friday in a northeastern Chinese city and toured a state-backed university famous for its cutting-edge defense research, highlighting how economic and military ties between the countries have grown despite, or perhaps because of, Western pressure.

Mr. Putin’s visit to Harbin, a Chinese city with a Russian past, is part of a trip aimed at demonstrating that he has powerful friends even as his war against Ukraine — a campaign that he is escalating — has isolated him from the West. The visit followed a day of talks between him and President Xi Jinping of China that seemed orchestrated to convey not only the strategic alignment of the two powerful, autocratic leaders against the West, but a personal connection.

State media showed Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi, neckties off after formal talks on Thursday, strolling under willow trees and sipping tea at a traditional pavilion on the sprawling grounds of Zhongnanhai, the walled leadership compound in Beijing, with only their interpreters. As Mr. Xi saw Mr. Putin off in the evening, he even initiated a hug — a rare expression of affection for the Chinese leader.

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Dancing Past the Venus de Milo

Reporting from Paris and dancing through the Louvre

I fell in love with the Louvre one morning while doing disco moves to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” in the Salle des Cariatides.

The museum, a former medieval fortress and then royal palace, had not yet opened, and I was following instructions to catwalk and hip bump and point in the grand room where Louis XIV once held plays and balls.

The sun cast warm light through long windows, striping the pink-and-white checkered floor and bathing the marble arms, heads and wings of the ancient Grecian statues around me.

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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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First, He Conquered Paris. Now, a Japanese Chef Wants to Become a Brand.

In cooking, timing is everything. So much so that if the chef Kei Kobayashi spots diners heading to the restroom as he sends a dish out from the kitchen, he stops them. Nature’s call can wait; his culinary offerings should be tasted at peak flavor.

Such imperiousness and exactitude align with what Mr. Kobayashi, the first Japanese chef to earn three Michelin stars for a restaurant in Paris, said he had learned from one of his earliest mentors in France: The chef is king.

“Unless you commit to your worldview to this extent, you won’t be able to be a chef,” Mr. Kobayashi, 46, said during a recent interview in Tokyo.

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After Her Sister Wed at 11, a Girl Began Fighting Child Marriage at 13

When they were children, Memory Banda and her younger sister were inseparable, just a year apart in age and often mistaken for twins. They shared not only clothes and shoes, but also many of the same dreams and aspirations.

Then, one afternoon in 2009, that close relationship shattered when Ms. Banda’s sister, at age 11, was forced to wed a man in his 30s who had impregnated her.

“She became a different person then,” Ms. Banda recalled. “We never played together anymore because she was now ‘older’ than me. I felt like I lost my best friend.”

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

Update: The portrait of King Charles III was unveiled on Tuesday.

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.

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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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The Premier League’s Asterisk Season

With five minutes left in his team’s penultimate game of the Premier League season, Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola found the tension just a little too much. As a rival striker bore down on his team’s goal, Guardiola — crouching on his haunches on the sideline — lost his balance and toppled over onto his back.

Lying on the grass and expecting the worst, he missed what may yet prove to be the pivotal moment in the Premier League’s most enthralling title race in a decade.

But the striker did not score. His effort was parried by goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, sending Manchester City above its title rival Arsenal in the standings and positioning it, if it can win again on Sunday, to become the first English team to win four consecutive championships.

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Soccer’s Governing Body Delays Vote on Palestinian Call to Bar Israel

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, on Friday postponed a decision to temporarily suspend Israel over its actions during the conflict in Gaza, and in the West Bank, saying it needed to solicit legal advice before taking up a motion submitted by the Palestinian Football Association.

The motion calling for Israel’s suspension referred to “international law violations committed by the Israeli occupation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza,” and cited violations of FIFA’s human rights and discrimination statutes.

Responding to emotionally charged addresses at FIFA’s annual congress by the head of the Palestinian soccer body, Jibril Rajoub, FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, said the urgency of the situation meant he would convene an extraordinary meeting of FIFA’s top board on July 25.

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Scandal Brought Reforms to Soccer. Its Leaders Are Rolling Them Back.

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The 12-page report was intended to save soccer’s governing body, FIFA, in its moment of existential crisis.

Filled with reform proposals and drawn up by more than a dozen soccer insiders in December 2015, the report was FIFA’s best chance to show business partners, U.S. investigators and billions of fans that it could be trusted again after one of the biggest corruption scandals in sports history.

In bullet points and numbered sections, the report championed high-minded ideas like accountability and humility. It also proposed concrete and, for FIFA, revolutionary changes: transparency in how major decisions were reached; term limits for top leaders and new limits on presidential power; and the abolition of well-funded committees widely viewed as a system of institutional graft.

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Ahead of Olympics, World Anti-Doping Agency Faces a Trust Crisis

Two months before the Olympics are scheduled to begin in Paris, the global agency tasked with policing doping in sports is facing a growing crisis as it fends off allegations it helped cover up the positive tests of elite Chinese swimmers who went on to compete — and win medals — at the last Summer Games.

The allegations are particularly vexing for the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has long billed itself as the gold standard in the worldwide movement for clean sports, because they raise the specter that the agency — and by extension the entire system set up to try to keep the Olympics clean — cannot be trusted.

Athletes are openly questioning whether WADA can be relied upon to do its core job of ensuring there will be a level playing field in Paris, where some of the same Chinese swimmers are favorites to win more medals.

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A Race the Whole World Is Watching

Taiwo Aina for The New York Times

The race to decide this year’s English soccer champion has captivated fans. But it’s not just an English story.

The Premier League is the world’s most global league, with a reach that carries its games, its teams and its stars to almost every country.

That means a sizable portion of the world’s population is deeply invested in its best title race in a decade.

And for lifelong fans in far-flung places, every moment matters.

A Race the Whole World Is Watching

Muktita SuhartonoElian PeltierShawna Richer and

Elian Peltier tracked Arsenal in West Africa, Muktita Suhartono watched Liverpool in Bangkok and Shawna Richer was with Manchester City fans in Toronto.

The teams might bear the names of English towns, the stadiums might sit on English soil and the stands might still be primarily filled with English fans, but the Premier League slipped its borders long ago. The world’s most popular sports league has, for some time, been a global soccer competition that just happens to be staged in England.

This season has crystallized that perfectly.

For the first time in a decade, three teams — Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City — remained in contention to win the championship as the season entered its final weeks. The fates of those teams have not simply had an impact on anxious, ardent fans in London, Liverpool or Manchester. Their results have been followed just as avidly in North America, Africa, Asia and countless other places, where fans rise early, stay up late and seek out any screen they can to follow their teams.

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Putin le dice a los rusos que están ganando la guerra, y muchos le creen

Reportando desde Moscú

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La palabra “victoria” está por todas partes en Moscú estos días.

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

Se proyecta desde gigantescas pantallas ubicadas a lo largo de las principales intersecciones y carreteras y se escribe en banderas rojas que ondean al viento. Es prominente en una exposición de armas occidentales destruidas en los campos de batalla ucranianos y que fueron llevadas a Moscú como trofeos de guerra que se muestran en… ¿dónde más? el parque de la Victoria.

La victoria es el núcleo del mensaje que el presidente Vladimir Putin, de 71 años, ha intentado proyectar mientras ha sido agasajado con bombos y platillos después de otro éxito electoral, y sus fuerzas militares arrasan las aldeas ucranianas en una nueva y sorprendente ofensiva en el noreste.

“¡Juntos saldremos victoriosos!”, afirmó Putin en su toma de posesión la semana pasada, tras lograr un quinto mandato como presidente. Dos días después, el país celebró el Día de la Victoria, la festividad pública más importante de Rusia, que conmemora la contribución soviética a la derrota de la Alemania nazi en la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Durante el primer año de la invasión, muchos rusos se sintieron conmocionados y avergonzados por la guerra; cientos de miles abandonaron el país. Durante el segundo año, les preocupaba una posible segunda ola de movilización.

Pero mientras transcurre el tercer año de la guerra, muchos rusos parecen haber aprendido a aceptarla, según muestran entrevistas realizadas durante la última semana y las encuestas recientes. Y la “victoria” es fácil de vender en la Rusia de Putin.

Las sanciones occidentales no han causado grandes dificultades económicas. Las noticias militares procedentes de Ucrania son cada vez más positivas. Sí, hay soldados que todavía regresan en ataúdes, pero eso sucede sobre todo con las familias del interior, no entre la élite de Moscú. Y para muchos, las muertes solo refuerzan la idea, promovida por los medios de comunicación estatales y recalcada de manera implacable por Putin, de que Rusia enfrenta una amenaza existencial por parte de Occidente.

“Podemos sentir que la victoria está cerca”, dijo Andrei, de 43 años, quien contó que viajó a Moscú para las celebraciones del 9 de mayo desde la región de Chitá, ubicada a más de 4800 kilómetros de la capital.

Al igual que otros entrevistados para este artículo, Andrei se negó a proporcionar su apellido, lo que indica una aparente desconfianza hacia los medios de comunicación occidentales.

Fue uno de los que desafió al frío e incluso la nieve para visitar la colección de equipo militar occidental capturado recientemente. (Ucrania también exhibe tanques rusos destruidos en el centro de Kiev, la capital ucraniana). Pero la atrevida exposición realizada en Moscú, con banderas en los equipos que muestran cuáles son los países que los donaron a Ucrania, encaja con la narrativa de que Rusia lucha contra todo el mundo desarrollado, y está ganando.

“Cuando ves todo esto y todas estas banderas, queda claro que el mundo entero está suministrando armas y sabes que está en marcha una guerra mundial”, aseguró Andrei. “Es Rusia contra el mundo entero, como siempre”.

Ivan, otro visitante del parque de la Victoria, esperó su turno para posar frente al casco oxidado y carbonizado del tanque alemán Leopard, mostrando una sonrisa y levantando el pulgar mientras un amigo le tomaba una foto. La gente se empujaba para tener un lugar junto a un tanque M1 Abrams de fabricación estadounidense que también estaba destruido.

“Se ha hablado mucho de estos Abrams, de estos Leopard, y ¿cuál es el resultado?”, afirmó Ivan, de 26 años.

“Están todos exhibidos aquí, los estamos observando, vemos en qué condiciones se encuentran. ¡Esto es genial!”, dijo Ivan, con una sonrisa.

La bravuconería exhibida por rusos como Andrei e Ivan este mes refleja la postura de seguridad de Putin mientras lidera a Rusia lejos de los problemas económicos y hacia una mayor ventaja en el campo de batalla en Ucrania.

Su toma de posesión incluyó un servicio religioso en el que fue bendecido por el líder de la Iglesia ortodoxa rusa, el patriarca Cirilo, quien expresó su esperanza de que el presidente permanezca en el poder hasta “finales de siglo”.

Según The Levada Center, una encuestadora independiente, alrededor del 75 por ciento de los rusos profesa apoyo a las acciones de sus fuerzas militares en Ucrania. (Aproximadamente una cuarta parte de la población está en contra de la guerra, según muestran la encuesta y otras investigaciones, pero las protestas están prohibidas y la represión es tan intensa que muchas personas tienen miedo de reconocer o incluso compartir en línea contenido contra la guerra o contra el gobierno).

Miles de personas que huyeron de Rusia han regresado. Sus vidas se han adaptado a la nueva normalidad y, de hecho, han cambiado menos de lo que la gente en Occidente podría esperar.

“¿Este es qué, el decimotercer paquete de sanciones que han impuesto?”, dijo Ivan, mientras reía. “Hasta ahora no hemos sentido nada”.

Por las aceras de Moscú se pueden ver los robots construidos por Yandex, la versión rusa de Google, haciendo entregas. La inflación está bajo control, al menos por ahora. Según un informe del mes pasado de Forbes, el número de multimillonarios en Moscú —medido en dólares estadounidenses— aumentó tanto que la capital rusa subió cuatro puestos en la clasificación mundial, ubicándose solo por debajo de la ciudad de Nueva York.

“La mayoría de las marcas que supuestamente abandonaron Rusia no se han ido a ninguna parte”, dijo Andrei, quien agregó que él y su hija planeaban almorzar en un KFC rebautizado con un nuevo nombre. Lo que ha cambiado, dijo, es que “la consolidación de la sociedad se ha establecido” sobre los fundamentos de la guerra, así como sobre los valores sociales conservadores que Putin está promoviendo.

Putin y otros pregonaron esa aparente cohesión cuando se anunciaron los resultados oficiales de su victoria electoral predeterminada en marzo, cuando logró un histórico 88 por ciento de los votos, una cifra que las democracias occidentales denunciaron como una farsa.

Los rusos que se oponen al gobierno afirman que uno de sus temores es tener que esperar a la muerte de Putin para que algo cambie.

“Tengo una sensación muy fuerte de desesperanza”, dijo Yulia, de 48 años, una maestra que visitaba la tumba de Alexéi Navalny, el político de la oposición, en el sureste de Moscú. Navalny, que murió en prisión en una colonia penal del Ártico en febrero, había sido considerado durante mucho tiempo el único posible rival de Putin. Yulia se negó a utilizar su apellido por temor a posibles repercusiones.

“No le veo una salida a esto”, dijo.

Pavel, el hijo de Yulia, dijo: “Estamos seguros de que todo depende de la muerte de una persona en un lugar determinado”. Su madre lo hizo callar, tras percatarse de la cercanía de oficiales uniformados de la Guardia Nacional Rusa: incluso después de muerto, Navalny seguía siendo vigilado de cerca por el gobierno. Sin embargo, había un flujo constante de visitantes a la tumba.

Anastasia Kharchenko colaboró con reportería desde Moscú y Alina Lobzina desde Londres.

Valerie Hopkins cubre la guerra en Ucrania y la manera en que el conflicto está cambiando a Rusia, Ucrania, Europa y Estados Unidos. Está radicada en Moscú. Más de Valerie Hopkins

Francia declara estado de emergencia ante las protestas en Nueva Caledonia

El gobierno de Francia declaró el miércoles estado de emergencia en Nueva Caledonia en su intento por sofocar los letales disturbios en el territorio semiautónomo del Pacífico francés.

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

Las autoridades francesas han emprendido lo que han denominado una movilización “masiva” de las fuerzas de seguridad desde que estallaron violentas protestas en Nueva Caledonia esta semana por una propuesta de enmienda a la Constitución francesa que cambiaría las normas de votación local en el territorio. Una votación en el Parlamento francés que aprobó la enmienda el martes desencadenó los disturbios mortales de la noche a la mañana.

“La prioridad es restablecer el orden, la calma y la serenidad”, declaró el miércoles Gabriel Attal, primer ministro de Francia, a los legisladores.

El gobierno francés dijo que más de 1800 agentes de seguridad ya estaban en el territorio y que 500 refuerzos llegarían en las próximas 24 horas. En una reunión de crisis, Attal dijo que el ejército estaba siendo desplegado para asegurar los puertos y el aeropuerto.

Varios comercios y edificios públicos, incluidas escuelas, han sido saqueados o incendiados, según el alto comisionado francés. Cuatro personas han muerto en relación con los disturbios, entre ellas un agente del orden, según las autoridades. Y otros cientos han resultado heridos, entre ellos 64 policías y gendarmes, según un comunicado del Alto Comisionado de la República en Nueva Caledonia.

Cerca de 200 personas habían sido detenidas hasta el jueves hora local, según el comunicado, y el Ministerio del Interior había emitido cinco órdenes de detención contra personas sospechosas de auspiciar los disturbios.

El estado de emergencia, que durará 12 días, otorga a las autoridades más facultades policiales, permitiéndoles promulgar prohibiciones de tráfico, poner a la gente bajo arresto domiciliario, prohibir protestas y llevar a cabo redadas sin la supervisión judicial habitual.

El presidente Emmanuel Macron, quien convocó una reunión de crisis el miércoles, expresó su “fuerte sentir” por las muertes y su gratitud a las fuerzas de seguridad francesas, según indicó su despacho en un comunicado.

“Toda violencia es intolerable y será objeto de una respuesta implacable” para garantizar que se restablezca el orden, decía el comunicado, agregando que Macron había acogido los llamamientos a la calma de otros funcionarios.

En una señal de la seriedad con que las autoridades estaban tratando la situación, Macron pospuso un viaje programado para el jueves en el que se disponía a inaugurar un nuevo reactor nuclear en Normandía.

Francia se anexionó Nueva Caledonia, conformada por puñado de islas con una población de unos 270.000 habitantes, en 1853. Fue una de las pocas colonias, junto con Argelia, que Francia pobló deliberadamente con colonos blancos. En la actualidad, los canacos autóctonos constituyen alrededor del 40 por ciento de la población, mientras que los europeos suponen alrededor de una cuarta parte.

La perspectiva de la independencia y la desigualdad social han alimentado durante décadas las tensiones en el territorio. Desde 2018 se han celebrad tres referendos de independencia en el territorio, que tiene una autonomía poco común en Francia; ninguno consiguió suficientes votos.

Tras un conflicto armado que se cobró decenas de vidas en la década de 1980 —un levantamiento conocido como les événements, o “los acontecimientos”—, el gobierno francés llegó a un acuerdo con los militantes independentistas que prometía un cambio.

El cambio constitucional propuesto —que amplía la posibilidad de que los ciudadanos franceses voten en las elecciones provinciales— crispó los ánimos. Los activistas independentistas de Nueva Caledonia expresaron su temor a que diluyera su movimiento y reflejara un intento más agresivo del gobierno francés de imponer su voluntad sobre el territorio.

Nueva Caledonia es un punto de apoyo crucial para Francia en la región del Indo-Pacífico, y las autoridades francesas han advertido de que una Nueva Caledonia independiente, dotada de vastas aguas territoriales y níquel, podría caer rápidamente bajo el dominio de China.

El censo electoral de Nueva Caledonia está congelado desde 2007, y solo quienes figuraban en él en 1998 pueden votar en las siguientes elecciones locales. Según Adrian Muckle, profesor de Historia de la Universidad Victoria de Wellington, Nueva Zelanda, y experto en Nueva Caledonia, la enmienda otorga el derecho de voto a todos los ciudadanos franceses que lleven 10 años viviendo en el territorio, lo que supone un aumento de entre 20.000 y 25.000 personas en el censo.

Las tensiones han aumentado en las últimas semanas, y las protestas se tornaron violentas el lunes por la noche.

En un intento de aliviar la tensión, el gobierno de Macron ha prometido no promulgar el cambio constitucional —que requeriría convocar una sesión especial del Parlamento para su votación— hasta finales de junio. También ha invitado a grupos a favor y en contra de la independencia a mantener conversaciones para intentar alcanzar un acuerdo local.

El Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS, o Frente de Liberación Nacional Canaco y Socialista), principal grupo independentista, condenó la votación de la enmienda constitucional en un comunicado el miércoles, pero también llamó a la calma.

Afirmó que la oferta del gobierno francés de organizar conversaciones era una “oportunidad” para garantizar que “las demandas de todos y cada uno, incluidos quienes protestan, puedan ser escuchadas y tomadas en cuenta”.

El Alto Comisionado francés de la República en Nueva Caledonia dijo que se mantendría el toque de queda impuesto el martes en la capital, Noumea, así como la prohibición de toda reunión pública. El aeropuerto internacional de Numea permanece cerrado desde el martes, con todos los vuelos comerciales cancelados, y las autoridades locales declararon que las escuelas permanecerían cerradas hasta nuevo aviso.

​​Aurelien Breeden es reportero del Times en París, desde donde cubre noticias de Francia. Más de Aurelien Breeden


El kitesurf le cambió la vida a un niño wayú, y a su comunidad en Colombia

Reportando desde el soleado y ventoso cabo de la Vela, Colombia

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Vinieron de todas partes del mundo a esta zona remota de la costa caribeña de Colombia. Dos llegaron desde India. Dos viajaron desde Suiza. Uno desde Países Bajos. Otro desde Seattle. Todos querían aprender de Beto Gómez, un kitesurfista profesional, en el lugar donde aprendió por primera vez a practicar ese deporte.

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

La península de La Guajira es ideal para el kitesurfing. En el cabo de La Vela, la localidad donde nació Gómez, con casi 1000 residentes y terreno desértico, la temporada de vientos dura nueve meses y las olas son planas.

Es por eso que durante cinco días de este año, varios kitesurfistas aficionados —atraídos por las redes sociales de Gómez y las competiciones transmitidas en línea— viajaron a esa zona para recibir sus clases.

“En India, lo apoyamos mucho”, dijo Shyam Rao, de 33 años, quien viajó con su esposa.

El kitesurfing, que utiliza una cometa de tracción para impulsar a una persona por el agua y el aire, no es nativo de esta parte del mundo o de los wayú, la comunidad indígena más numerosa de Colombia, la cual gobierna la región.

El deporte llegó al cabo de La Vela hace casi dos décadas gracias a visitantes extranjeros, o arijuna, un término en la lengua indígena wayú que también se refiere a colombianos que no pertenecen a la etnia.

No todos en la comunidad, cuyos líderes han luchado para preservar sus tierras y tradiciones, han aceptado con los brazos abiertos a un deporte que ha traído crecimiento y cambio. Pero el kitesurf ha convertido al cabo de La Vela en un destino cada vez más popular. La familia de Gómez encontró una fuente de ingresos más allá de la pesca habitual o la elaboración de artesanía en una de las regiones más pobres y con mayores niveles de desnutrición de Colombia. Y Gómez, de 24 años, se ganó un boleto de salida, al convertirse en el único kitesurfista profesional wayú del mundo.

“El kite has sido una bendición para nosotros porque abrió la puerta a nuestro pueblo; me permitió salir y viajar por todo el mundo”, dijo Gómez, en la escuela de kitesurf de la cual es propietario junto a su hermano mayor. “Y yo quiero que otros hagan lo mismo”.

Gómez tenía 7 años la primera vez que vio a alguien practicar kitesurf. Observó con asombro cómo los kitesurfistas visitantes se elevaban por el aire.

“Teníamos esa emoción en decir, ‘Uy, llegó algo nuevo y vamos a aprenderlo’”, contó. Pero se convenció de “que nunca lo íbamos a aprender porque no era para nosotros”.

En ese entonces, el cabo de La Vela era mucho más pequeño, explicó Margarita Epieyu, madre de Gómez, y estaba conformada por unas seis familias extendidas, que es la forma en que están organizadas las comunidades wayú.

Los autobuses turísticos solían llegar cada dos meses, solo para viajes rápidos a la playa, afirmó Gómez.

Para sobrevivir, su padre repartía agua, su madre vendía bolsos y hamacas tradicionales wayú y Gómez vendía pulseras. Su familia solía comer una vez al día, normalmente pescado donado por los pescadores de la comunidad.

“No había turismo”, afirmó Epieyu, de 49 años, “entonces aquí no había trabajo”.

Pero eso comenzó a cambiar en 2009, cuando Martín Vega, un instructor colombiano de kitesurf, llevó a estudiantes de una escuela de kitesurf cerca de Barranquilla. “El viento era perfecto”, dijo.

Vega, junto con un amigo, decidieron quedarse poco después; crearon la primera escuela de kitesurf de la localidad en unos terrenos propiedad de un residente wayú local.

Dijo que, un día, un chico intrigado por los kitesurfistas visitantes corrió detrás de su auto. Era el hermano mayor de Gómez, Nelson, quien ya ganaba propinas por ayudar a los turistas y ya había aprendido los conceptos básicos de navegación en el agua.

Vega conoció poco después a Beto Gómez, que en ese entonces tenía 10 años. Bajo la tutela de Vega y con el permiso de su madre, los niños practicaban después del colegio y durante los fines de semana, siempre y cuando hicieran sus tareas y obligaciones.

“Como unos pescados”, dijo Nelson Gómez, de 25 años. “Podíamos entrar a las 9 de la mañana y salir a las 6 de la tarde”.

“La idea era que que los locales nos ayudaran y que vinieran y que aprendieran, y pues eso pasó”, añadió Vega, de 41 años.

Nelson Gómez era un talento natural, pero su carrera competitiva terminó cuando se lesionó gravemente la pierna en 2017, mientras entrenaba en Brasil. Beto Gómez, sin embargo, desarrolló sus habilidades. A los 13 años, terminó en segundo lugar en su primera competición, un torneo regional a unas tres horas de su aldea.

“Esa fue mi primera conexión con el mundo, con la ciudad, con las escaleras eléctricas, con ascensores, los semáforos”, contó Gómez, quien aprendió inglés de los turistas.

Tres años después, Gómez ganó su primera competición, y en 2017, con la ayuda de donaciones, salió de Colombia por primera vez para competir en República Dominicana.

Gómez dijo que, cada vez que salía, la autoridad wayú, el grupo de ancianos que dirigen el cabo de La Vela, tenía que concederle permiso, porque la regla era que “no podemos entrar en contacto con el mundo exterior”.

Pero cuando tenía 18 años y competía en Brasil, los ancianos wayú le negaron su solicitud de quedarse y trabajar allá como instructor de kitesurf. De todos modos, Gómez lo hizo.

Como castigo, Gómez afirmó dijo que le dijeron que se mantuviera alejado durante dos años.

Su madre, que se había casado joven y luego se divorció del padre de Gómez, afirmó que defendió a su hijo y alentó a sus hijos a que buscaran “las oportunidades que yo no tenía”.

Según Gómez, su madre “siempre quiso que nosotros siguiéramos nuestros sueños y fuéramos y viviéramos afuera”. También los exhortó a que fueran a la universidad y salieran con personas que no fueran wayú.

Gómez siguió su consejo. En 2020, se mudó a Argentina tras participar en una competición allí y enamorarse de una mujer de ese país. En marzo pasado, su madre, que nunca antes había viajado en avión, despegó junto a él desde Bogotá para visitar su hogar en Argentina.

A medida que el kitesurf se fue haciendo más popular en el cabo de La Vela, llegaron más turistas, hostales y dinero. Algunos wayú han recibido con los brazos abiertos los cambios, pero otros son cautelosos.

“El impacto negativo en el Cabo ha sido muy mínimo”, aseguró Edwin Salgado, de 29 años, quien es dueño de una escuela de kitesurf. “No es como un turismo tan masivo, y se sigue sintiendo y se representa la cultura wayú”.

Epieyu, que cada mes recibe dinero de las ganancias profesionales de su hijo, dijo que 7 de sus 10 hijos ahora practican kitesurf.

“Aunque la gente no quiera, el kite sí ha cambiado el cabo”, dijo.

Sin embargo, algunos residentes afirmaron que la mayor cantidad de visitantes se ha traducido en más alcohol, drogas, fiestas e influencia externa.

La comunidad wayú considera al cabo de La Vela como una tierra sagrada porque, según sus creencias, las almas van a descansar allí y si permiten la invasión de personas externas, “como que nos vamos a quedar sin territorio”, dijo Elba Gómez, de 73 años, la tía paterna de Beto que forma parte de la autoridad wayú.

Citando “desorden” y personas “no amigables con el territorio y la cultura”, la autoridad wayú, a través de una medida enérgica en 2018, desalojó a dueños extranjeros de negocios porque creía que esos negocios debían ser operados por miembros de la comunidad wayú.

Vega era uno de los dos dueños foráneos de escuelas de kitesurf. (Hoy en día quedan cuatro escuelas). Le vendió la escuela a los hermanos Gómez, y junto a su esposa se mudó a Riohacha, una localidad ubicada a tres horas de allí. Afirmó que, una vez que se mudó, fue fácil criar a su primer hijo y fundar una nueva escuela cerca.

“Yo respeto obviamente la comunidad, sus costumbres y sus reglas”, afirmó Gómez. “Va a cambiar en algún momento la cosa y yo quiero ser parte del proceso, porque a mi me cambió la vida”.

Cada invierno, Gómez regresa a su casa del cabo de La Vela para visitar a su familia, regalarles a los niños locales lecciones gratis de kitesurf y organizar un campamento pago.

Para los invitados que pagan, la madre de Gómez recientemente preparó una cena que consistió en chivo a la parrilla y arepas.

La familia vistió prendas tradicionales, Gómez y sus hermanas realizaron un baile alrededor de una fogata y explicaron su cultura y lengua. Ya sea que esté en Argentina o compitiendo alrededor del mundo, Gómez dijo que siempre pregonará sus raíces wayú.

“Yo quiero promocionar un poquito más el cabo para que vengan y nos visiten y disfruten nuestra cultura”, dijo, “no para cambiarnos y hacer lo que siempre hacen en todos lados, colonizar”.

James Wagner cubre temas de América Latina, incluidos los deportes, y reside en Ciudad de México. Es nicaragüense-estadounidense del área de Washington y su lengua materna es el español. Más de James Wagner

Elecciones en Venezuela en 2024: lo que hay que saber


  • ¿Por qué son importantes estas elecciones?

  • ¿Serán unas elecciones libres y justas?

  • ¿Se enfrenta Maduro a algún rival serio?

  • ¿Cuáles son los principales problemas?

  • ¿Cuándo se conocerán los resultados?

  • ¿Dónde puedo encontrar más información?

El resultado de las elecciones presidenciales de Venezuela, programadas para el 28 de julio, será trascendental para el futuro de la democracia del país, así como para los más de siete millones de venezolanos que han abandonado el país y han contribuido a un aumento migratorio en Estados Unidos.

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

Durante los últimos 25 años, el gobierno de Venezuela ha estado controlado por el chavismo, el movimiento socialista que comenzó con la elección democrática de Hugo Chávez en 1998 y que desde entonces se ha vuelto más autoritario. Cuando Chávez murió en 2013, su protegido Nicolás Maduro ganó la presidencia por un margen estrecho.

La economía de Venezuela se desplomó hace casi una década, lo que provocó uno de los mayores desplazamientos del mundo en la historia de Latinoamérica. El flujo de venezolanos y otros migrantes hacia EE. UU. se ha convertido en un tema dominante en la campaña presidencial estadounidense.

Estas son las primeras elecciones venezolanas en más de una década en las que un candidato de la oposición tiene una posibilidad razonable —aunque escasa e improbable— de ganar.

También están en juego el futuro de las reservas de petróleo de Venezuela, las mayores del mundo; la continuidad de las alianzas del país con China, Rusia e Irán, y el curso de una crisis humanitaria interna que ha sumido en un inmenso sufrimiento a una nación que solía ser próspera.

Ya está claro que las elecciones no serán totalmente libres ni justas.

Maduro, de 61 años, controla el poder legislativo, el ejército, la policía, el sistema judicial, el consejo electoral nacional, el presupuesto del país y gran parte de los medios de comunicación, por no mencionar los violentos grupos paramilitares llamados colectivos.

El gobierno de Maduro ha detenido y encarcelado a 10 miembros de la oposición desde enero. Otros cinco tienen órdenes de arresto y se esconden en la embajada de Argentina en Caracas, la capital de Venezuela.

Una propuesta en el poder legislativo permitiría al gobierno suspender la campaña de la oposición en cualquier momento. Muchos venezolanos que viven en el extranjero no han podido registrarse para votar debido a los requisitos costosos y complicados.

E incluso si la mayoría de los votantes votan en contra de Maduro, hay muchas dudas de que Maduro permita que los resultados se hagan públicos o que los acepte.

Si Maduro abandona el poder, es casi seguro que sería el resultado de un acuerdo de salida negociado con la oposición en el que probablemente trataría de ser protegido de enjuiciamiento en un tribunal internacional por cargos de crímenes contra la humanidad.

A pesar de todos los obstáculos que ha puesto el gobierno para impedir unas elecciones creíbles, permitió que un exdiplomático, Edmundo González, se inscribiera como candidato en representación de una coalición de partidos de la oposición. González se convirtió por sorpresa en el candidato de consenso de la oposición después de que el gobierno de Maduro impidiera presentarse a su popular líder, María Corina Machado.

En una entrevista conjunta, González dijo que fue tomado por sorpresa cuando Maduro le permitió inscribirse como candidato, y todavía no tenía una explicación clara de por qué.

Mientras que González, de 74 años, era un desconocido para la mayoría de los venezolanos hasta hace poco, el apoyo de Machado a su candidatura lo convierte en un rival viable. Machado, de 56 años, una exdiputada enormemente popular, ha estado reuniendo a votantes en su nombre en actos por todo el país, donde es recibida como una estrella de rock, llenando manzanas de gente que le pide emotivamente que salve al país.

Hay otros candidatos en la papeleta, pero no se los considera aspirantes serios.

Lo más importante para la mayoría de los venezolanos es tener una oportunidad legítima de sacar del poder al actual gobierno chavista.

Las encuestas muestran que aproximadamente dos tercios del país se oponen al chavismo y son propensos a apoyar a cualquier candidato que pueda desafiar a Maduro, a quien culpan del colapso económico.

La economía venezolana entró en caída libre hace aproximadamente una década debido a la mala gestión del sector petrolero, una crisis agravada por las estrictas sanciones impuestas por Estados Unidos en 2019. La inflación disparada ha erosionado los salarios y los ahorros.

Durante años, los venezolanos han pasado momentos complicados, tratando de alimentar a sus hijos con ingresos limitados, viendo a miembros de la familia morir de enfermedades prevenibles y esperando durante horas en la fila para conseguir gasolina.

Se ha visto a adultos rebuscando contenedores en busca de alimentos desechados, largas filas para conseguir provisiones básicas, soldados apostados frente a panaderías y multitudes furiosas saqueando tiendas de alimentos. Las salas de emergencia han estado desbordadas por niños con desnutrición severa y bebés que sufren deshidratación debido a la escasez de fórmula infantil.

El gobierno de Maduro y sus bases, aproximadamente un tercio del país, según las encuestas, culpan de los males del país a los adversarios extranjeros, en particular a Estados Unidos, del que dicen que está librando una guerra económica contra Venezuela.

La reunificación de las familias separadas por la emigración también se ha convertido en una cuestión importante, dado el enorme número de venezolanos que se han marchado.

La autoridad electoral del país no ha anunciado los detalles de la votación de este año, pero las urnas en Venezuela suelen abrir a las 6 a. m. y cerrar a las 6 p. m., y los resultados se conocen hacia las 2 a. m. del día siguiente.

¿Pueden las elecciones sacar del poder al autoritario líder venezolano?

Conozca al candidato que desafía al líder autoritario de Venezuela

El antagonista de Maduro va camino de ganar las primarias en Venezuela

¿Por qué tantos venezolanos se van a Estados Unidos?

Ferraris y niños hambrientos: la visión socialista de Venezuela se tambalea

Cataluña votó por el socialismo en unos comicios dominados por la amnistía a los separatistas

El partido socialista, que gobierna en España, el domingo se alzó con la victoria en las elecciones regionales de Cataluña que son consideradas como una prueba de fuego para la polarizadora medida del presidente del Gobierno, Pedro Sánchez, de brindar amnistía a los separatistas.

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Los socialistas celebran lo que consideran como una victoria trascendental, aunque no ganaron los escaños necesarios para gobernar en solitario. Lo más probable es que se enfrenten a semanas de negociaciones y, posiblemente, a la repetición de las elecciones si no se llega a un acuerdo. Pero, por primera vez en más de una década, podrían formar un gobierno regional dirigido por un partido que se opone a la independencia.

Salvador Illa, el líder catalán del partido, se dirigió a sus partidarios a última hora de la noche del domingo en la sede socialista de Barcelona donde declaró: “Tras 45 años de historia, por primera vez hemos ganado las elecciones al Parlamento de Cataluña en votos y en escaños. Los catalanes han decidido abrir una nueva época”.

Sin embargo, Illa, que ha prometido mejoras en los servicios sociales, la educación y la gestión de la sequía, necesitará 68 de los 135 escaños del Parlamento catalán para poder formar gobierno. El domingo, su partido solo obtuvo 42, lo que significa que tendrá que buscar el apoyo del partido independentista Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Izquierda Republicana de Cataluña) y de Comuns, un movimiento de izquierda.

“Ganar no significa gobernar”, dijo antes de que se dieran a conocer los resultados Toni Rodón, profesor de Ciencias políticas de la Universidad Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona. Rodón dijo que, aunque Esquerra ha apoyado a Sánchez en el Parlamento español, no se espera que las negociaciones en Cataluña sean fáciles.

El principal rival de los socialistas fue el partido independentista Junts per Catalunya (Juntos por Cataluña), liderado por Carles Puigdemont, quien hizo campaña desde el exilio en Francia. Junts quedó en segundo lugar, pero con 35 escaños no podría formar gobierno con otros partidos independentistas, que obtuvieron malos resultados.

El líder de Esquerra, Pere Aragonès, quien también es el presidente saliente del gobierno catalán, convocó las elecciones anticipadas tras no conseguir los apoyos suficientes para aprobar un presupuesto regional. Tras obtener solo 20 escaños el domingo, su partido se enfrenta ahora a un periodo de reflexión.

El domingo por la noche, Aragonés atribuyó los malos resultados de Esquerra a la política del partido de pactar con los socialistas que, según dijo, “no ha sido valorado por la ciudadanía”. A partir de ahora, “Esquerra estará en la oposición”, afirmó.

Fue una clara indicación de que no está dispuesto a negociar con Illa, y sin el apoyo de Esquerra, Cataluña podría estar “ante unas nuevas elecciones en octubre”, dijo Rodón.

Según Ignacio Lago, profesor de Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad Pompeu Fabra, aunque no se llegue a un acuerdo y haya que repetir las elecciones, “por primera vez en años, los partidos independentistas no tienen la mayoría.“

Durante años, el tema de la amnistía para los separatistas ha sido motivo de división.

Cuando Sánchez asumió por primera vez al poder en 2019, dijo que no abandonaría las acciones legales pendientes contra Puigdemont u otras figuras acusadas de actividad separatista.

Pero Sánchez dio marcha atrás después de las elecciones generales de España en julio pasado, cuando su única oportunidad para lograr un segundo mandato le exigía acceder a las demandas del partido de Puigdemont, que de la noche a la mañana había adquirido enorme influencia al ganar siete escaños parlamentarios. Sánchez, quien tiene fama de superviviente político, negoció un acuerdo de amnistía con Junts, calificándolo como la mejor manera de avanzar hacia la coexistencia pacífica en Cataluña.

La propuesta de amnistía fue muy impopular en España. Dos partidos rivales organizaron una inmensa manifestación contra el acuerdo el pasado noviembre en ciudades de todo el país, y otras protestas no apoyadas oficialmente por los partidos surgieron durante noches enteras ante la sede socialista en Madrid.

En un momento dado, una multitud hizo añicos una efigie de Sánchez con una larga nariz al estilo de Pinocho.

El proyecto de ley de amnistía se ha estancado en el Senado del Parlamento español tras haber sido aprobado por el Congreso de los Diputados en marzo. Las impugnaciones judiciales también podrían retrasar la medida.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso, jefa del gobierno regional de Madrid y miembro del Partido Popular de centroderecha, ha calificado la amnistía como “la ley más corrupta de la historia de la democracia”.

Históricamente, el apoyo a la independencia de Cataluña no superaba el 20 por ciento, según un informe publicado por el Real Instituto Elcano, un grupo de investigación sobre asuntos internacionales con sede en Madrid. Eso cambió en 2010, después de que la crisis financiera en la eurozona y las políticas de austeridad impuestas a España por la Unión Europea alentaran “mensajes populistas de rebelión fiscal” en Cataluña, según el informe. La decisión del gobierno británico en 2012 de permitir un referendo independentista en Escocia dio impulso a los separatistas en España.

Las tensiones en Cataluña llegaron a un punto crítico en 2017, cuando el gobierno separatista liderado por Puigdemont ignoró a los tribunales españoles y siguió adelante con un referendo de independencia ilegal. Siguió una declaración de independencia, así como una ofensiva contra los separatistas por parte del gobierno español, que cesó a las autoridades regionales catalanas e impuso un control directo. Nueve líderes políticos fueron encarcelados por delitos como sedición, mientras que Puigdemont huyó a Francia, evitando por poco ser detenido.

Los sucesivos líderes españoles, incluido Sánchez en su primer mandato, han intentado y fracasado en su intento de extraditar a Puigdemont.

En 2021, el gobierno de Sánchez adoptó un enfoque más conciliador con los aliados de Puigdemont que aún siguen en España, indultando a los nueve presos.

La cuestión clave hoy, según Cristina Monge, profesora de Ciencias políticas y Sociología de la Universidad de Zaragoza, es si “el espíritu” del movimiento independentista catalán sigue vivo.

Los resultados electorales positivos para los socialistas en Cataluña el domingo sugerirían que la apuesta riesgosa del presidente del Gobierno de conceder la amnistía ha dado sus frutos, reduciendo las tensiones separatistas en la región y ayudando a normalizar las relaciones hispano-catalanas.

“Hemos pasado página del movimiento independentista de 2017”, dijo Lago.

Un estudio realizado por el Centro de Estudios de Opinión del Gobierno regional muestra que una proporción creciente de catalanes —el 51,1 por ciento en febrero, frente al 44,1 por ciento en marzo de 2019— apoya permanecer en España.

La independencia ya no es “una prioridad principal para muchos votantes”, dijo Rodón, y agregó que el cambio puede reflejar un desencanto general con los partidos independentistas en vez de un interés menguante en el separatismo.