Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

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Moderator: coldharvest

What do you think will happen in Venezuela?

I agree. They'll hold special elections, and since the moderate left thinks Maduro is incompetent, Capriles will win.
1
11%
Ditto, but I think Capriles will do a fantastic job and be reelected.
0
No votes
Ditto, but Capriles will have get all 1980s retro and have US-backed death squads, Mossad everywhere, Uribe-style human rights violations to stop the violence, privatizing the oil, selling off the country and basically putting everyone under martial law, forever, since Chavez changed the constitution so you can be president for life now. Payback's a bitch!
3
33%
Lopez is hot. Some horny housewife will spring him out of prison and he'll win the special elections. Venezuelans are a people who value good looks.
0
No votes
Elections? There's going to be a coup d'etat, led by the CIA/Five Eyes/Big Oil/Illuminati to get this clown out of there by the third quarter.
2
22%
Maduro will serve out the rest of his term, with the help of Hugo Chavez' ghost and probably Putin, who will unfortunately be shirtless instead of Lopez.
3
33%
Other (please comment.)
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 9

Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:58 am

Disclaimer: No, I’m not the world’s foremost expert on Venezuela, just trying to start a conversation about the current situation. And, yes, I may be persona non grata or whatever, but I figure if I want to save the BFC, the least I can do is post something. If no one comments or votes, well, I'll cope.

Honestly, the situation is still fairly difficult to parse. You probably know the background: Hugo Chavez, an army captain, decent journalist, better baseball player, and world-class attention whore, took power in Venezuela, following free and fair elections, in 1999, seven years after attempting a failed military coup. He nationalized the oil, championed “Bolivarian Socialism,” stacked the courts and used them to remove the Venezuelan constitution’s term limits, founded ALBA (a mutual aid “alternative” to the World Bank and IMF, comprising Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Cuba, with Haiti and Argentina as sort of honorary members), called US President GWBush “the devil” at the United Nations, got cancer, was sick for a couple of years, and then died.

Image
This is how I like to remember him; surrounded by cocaine, squirrels,
and fellow Bolivarians like Evo Morales, who just got an ass-kissing writeup
in the NYT about how well he’s running Bolivia and why the IMF and World Bank
are so totally gay for the ALBA stalwart and committed socialist:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/world ... ility.html

Chavez left behind a strong and thriving ALBA, thanks to his generous deals on oil and facilitation of Cuban-based health care. (Basically, he would trade oil to Cuba for doctors, and then send medical teams to places like Nicaragua and Haiti; when I lived in Nicaragua, even the expats would go see the Cuban doctors when they came through, because they were the best. The doctors were rumored to be closely watched, and blackmailed with threats to their families to make sure they wouldn’t defect to Nicaragua, though Nicaragua isn’t where you’d want to defect! Well, unless you're Cuban, I suppose.)

Venezuela, however, was economically in shambles. You could barely own a restaurant, much less a store, thanks to the ludicrous price controls. Sure, yeah, subsidize rice and beans, even gasoline and electricity, I think that’s fine. But when you start fixing the prices of consumer electronics, you’ve jumped the shark. When I was there you didn’t see the roadside restaurants and little shops omnipresent everywhere else in Latin America, including other ALBA countries. Most businesses I saw were auto shops, geared to pimping out the six-ton Detroit dinosaurs that rolled all over that country on 15¢/gallon gas.

Image
This beauty was parked in front of my awesome Merida hotel, which would have cost US$75/night at the official exchange rate,
but was only about US$18 on the black market. The black market, btw, was everywhere – it’s not like Argentina, where you need
to find a realtor or drug dealer, the bakery in that photo would cash me out.

Support for Hugo was nearly universal when I was there. I’ll never forget the dude who said, “Chavez is the best president we’ve ever had!” Why? “Because things haven’t gotten worse.”

Apparently previous leaders had set the bar pretty low, and Hugo’s hand-picked successor, a charisma-free former bus driver named Nicolas Maduro, was elected by a thin but probably real margin in 2013.

Image
Maduro, looking every centimeter the sane, democratic frontman for a normal, resource-rich country
that he absolutely is not.

Image
Maduro’s douchy but by all accounts competent competition, Henrique Capriles,
governor of wealthy Miranda state. And as about half the Maduro campaign ads
reminded you, a dirty Jew with his dirty Jew gold, who loves Israel, and the USA,
and World Bank, and IMF, because he is a Jew and that's just how they are. But if
you look at his record, this guy is probably to the left of Obama, he’s really just a
right winger in the Bolivarian context, but so are most people.

Now, dedicated TFHCers will note that there was some conspiracy controversy surrounding the transfer of power. Chavez believed he had been deliberately infected with cancer - by the CIA, Big Oil, Big Finance, or one of his other numerous enemies. I think this could be true (my money’s on Big Oil). Maduro struck many Venezuela watchers as a piss-poor choice for president, and rumors swirled that he was a plant (by the same bad guys). Which seems much less likely. Though there were loads of election irregularities, Jimmy Carter gave his normally trustworthy stamp of approval to the mess, which was odd. Although Chavez wanted to be buried in a normal grave in his hometown, Maduro said he would have Hugo mummified and put on display, like Ho Chi Minh and Lenin…. and then changed his mind. He still talks to Chavez regularly. The whole thing is pretty weird, even by magical realism standards.

Moving on, the rest of Latin America, though there were very serious disagreements with Chavez and now an eye-rolling frustration with Maduro, has remained unified in its support of the “democratically elected government of Venezuela.”

Image
Even conservative, business-loving suits like Yale economics professor and former
Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo deflect external calls for interference with support
for democracy. When asked, at the World Economic Forum, how the world should
“deal with” Venezuela, he was all, “What do you mean, ‘deal with’? Like in
cards?” Currently, the *only* Latin American leader who has broken ranks and
called Maduro out is Nobel Prize winner and former Costa Rican President Oscar
Arias. Not even Chavez’ arch-nemesis, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
(recently elected to the Colombian assembly - DRAMA) has said anything about
deposing Maduro. Sure, Latino politicians in the USA, including Senator Marco Rubio and
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both Florida Republicans (shocker), are
calling for US action in Venezuela to have Maduro removed. But they don't really
count.

No matter what his counterparts are saying, Maduro is incompetent. Like, ridiculously incompetent. Yeah, sure, the problem with nationalizing everything is that the head of state becomes the CEO of everything, and no one can be the CEO of everything. But Chavez, for all his copious faults, was a great leader, could inspire people to action, and was an extremely competent CEO, until he got sick for two years. Maduro…. Not so much. For starters, he put more price controls on everything. Not just rice and beans, laptops and smartphones. The nationalized oil, which has been suffering from a long-term “strike” by international technicians who refuse fix aging equipment, began having even more problems. Maduro made it more difficult to run businesses, import anything, or get foreign currency. To paraphrase Churchill, when you get rid of the free market, you create a black market. And that black market contributed to all sorts of organized crime.

(It’s worth noting that the other ALBA countries are doing pretty well—like I mentioned earlier, Bolivia is the darling of the investment world, Ecuador is solid, Nicaragua’s been enjoying 5-8% annual growth for years, and even perpetual basket-case Cuba just began a US$900 million expansion of the Mariel Port, clearly gearing up for the lifting of the US Blockade. All four countries also enjoy fairly good security situations, by regional standards anyway.)

The main problem with development in Latin America, as identified by economists from across the spectrum, isn't education (that's number two), it's the lack of rule of law. Without security, you aren't going to get investment, tourism, anything going on. The English-language press likes to blame "Bolivarian Socialism," and there's something to that, but look at other ALBA countries, for example, Nicaragua - it's piss poor, a development black hole, there isn't a paved road across the freaking country, democracy is a joke - but the economy is booming. Why? Because it's relatively safe. Venezuela is rich, but the corruption (much of it deliberately enhanced to keep Chavez in power) and the unreal security issues - it's famously got the highest murder rate in the world - make it impossible to get the economy sorted out despite floating on a sea of oil.

Hugo never focused much on security; Maduro apparently can’t focus on anything. If the international secret police forces AREN’T on the streets if Caracas fomenting more violence and chaos, in order to leverage in a more globalization-friendly leader, they aren’t doing their jobs and don’t deserve your tax money. There’s oil and finance on the line, people. But there were already HUGE security problems and it's going to be difficult to fix, no matter what your political affiliation.

Image
This image, like so many picked up by the English-language press after the beginning of
the fracas in Caracas, is photoshopped. Both sides were so shameless that they started calling
it “Photoshop Spring.” Most of the pics you’ve seen floating around on the Internet of people
who had been seriously beaten by Maduro, or the opposition forces, are probably from Syria,
Egypt, or elsewhere.

And, despite what you’ve probably heard in English, the protests didn’t begin because of Maduro. They started out as a sort of a general protest against the violence.

Image
When soap opera star and former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear got shot, it was the last straw.

This is where everything gets a tad confusing. It seems that Maduro overreacted, because he thought it was a protest against him. He started cracking down on the anti-violence protesters, and they responded by marching in greater numbers. Things started becoming quite violent, in places, though a friend who is down there trying to update a travel guide for Footprints says that the images you’re seeing with riot police, tear gas, weapons, and so forth are NOT typical; most of the protests have “a distinct family picnic atmosphere.”

Even weirder, the guy who started organizing the anti-violence protests into anti-Maduro protests, the dreamy Harvard-educated economist and one of the 400 Venezuelans blocked from running for election in 2008 by Hugo’s goon squad…. I mean, the electoral commission, Leopoldo Lopez, turned himself in. I shit you not. After the first wave of fairly serious anti-Maduro protests, the feds put out a warrant for Lopez on terrorism charges, which any normal, sane person would have ignored, because Maduro is a psycho fighting for political survival in a country where rule of law is shaky on a good day. But instead, Lopez turned himself in, on February 18, and has been out of the picture ever since.

Image
OK, so he's obviously not that bright. But that face! I'd vote for him just so I could look at that
all the time, assuming Venezuelan teevee is still interrupted whenever a government official
wants to make a speech, multiple times per day under Chavez. Unfortunately for horny housewives
everywhere, however, Capriles—whose position as “opposition leader” was threatened by the
wealthy, sexy professional protester—has taken full advantage of Lopez’ incarceration to
consolidate the opposition behind himself. Which means he's well positioned for special elections.

So, what happens now? As I posted on the Thread That Shall Hopefully Fall Off the Front Page, Never to Return (TTSHFOTFPNTR) I think they're going to have to have special elections later this year, and Capriles will take power. However, Venezuela is so fucked up, and people are so against privatizing the oil or re-globalizing the economy with the World Bank and IMF, that he will fail. And another Bolivarian candidate will run in the next regular election, in 2018, and assuming ALBA is still going strong in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Bolivia (I see no reason why it wouldn't be), that candidate will win. But Capriles gets his shot.

There are other options in the poll, however.

TL; DR Maduro is a bloodthirsty, incompetent loser and cannot maintain power. The protests, while not nearly as large or violent as English-language news source are reporting, are ongoing, and anti-Maduro sentiment is solidifying, even among his traditional base. What do you suppose will happen next?
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby Osiris » Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:39 pm

Two options:
1 - Venezuela turns back the clock to the 1980's and the countryside gets ravaged by civil war. Death squads, guerrillas, School of the Americas style drain the ocean to catch the fish tactics, you name it.
2 - ALBA turns into The Federation from Call of Duty: Ghosts, which is actually based in Caracas. They take over the international space station, and lay waste to the American Southwest starting a decade long war for no real reason other than to do it.


One of those Cuban doctors damn near saved my life. My understanding of them is they're more like American physician assistants (not to be confused with medical assistants), where they get 2-2.5 years of intense medical training.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby dicey » Sun Mar 16, 2014 7:08 pm

Wow. Thanks for posting this. To be honest, I know next to nothing about Venezuela. I'm mildly interested in what's going on. But I'm really interested on where you got the information that informs your take. Back in the day I was utilizing academic texts to analyse South Asian politics, but having been out of school for awhile, and more or less "relied" upon mainstream news for a bit, I've given up trying to keep up to date. Are you reading journals, following blogs, other? I'd really like to put together some sort of information database so that I can take a deeper look at the situation in South Asia. Just searching for ideas on how to go about doing that....
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:31 pm

dicey wrote:I know next to nothing about Venezuela.
\

Latin America is pretty much off the radar, even for USAmericans. Which is odd, considering the potential for something like the fracas in Caracas to sell advertising. (Seriously, between Lopez and that Miss Venezuela lady, you've got more good genetics on display than an entire afternoon of E! Entertainment Television.) But compared to Syria, Ukraine, and other hot spots around the globe, it's not astoundingly volatile.

But there's a very real, if low, possibility that things could collapse into civil war. Maduro is weak, but Chavismo is not.

Anyway, if you're interested in getting good information, skip most mainstream English-language news sources. Not because they're necessarily biased (some of the best coverage I've seen was on FOX), but because there isn't a Latin America specialist in most organizations, and there's a tendency to try and create a "good versus evil" narrative for the 40-second spot, which warps the news irreparably. Venezuela Analysis (http://venezuelanalysis.com) is probably the best English-language source. The Christian Science Monitor, al-Jazeera (their man in Caracas, Chris Arsenault, did a great Reddit AMA [www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1zj2li/hey_reddit_im_chris_arsenault_a_journalist_for_al/], and Economist Americas (when they can stop obsessing about Argentina for two paragraphs) are OK. Reddit/worldnews is all about Ukraine right this minute, but scroll around and you'll find lots of good stuff on Venezuela. Twitter is really your best bet, #Venezuela gets most news - lots of sources, photos, etc. I have a couple of friends in Venezuela right now, too, and their Facebook coverage has been hilarious and scary.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:43 pm

Osiris wrote:One of those Cuban doctors damn near saved my life. My understanding of them is they're more like American physician assistants (not to be confused with medical assistants), where they get 2-2.5 years of intense medical training.


It really is an amazing service. In Nicaragua, the Japanese government and assorted charities (mainly USAmerican churches) build all these nice clinics and hospitals out in the hinterlands, then abandon them. No one in the Bosawás, where the average level of education is probably around fourth grade, can use a CAT scan machine, you know? The structures would rot away and fancy equipment (basically a subsidy for Japanese medical manufacturing) would be sold off for parts, centimos on the dollar. Now, that's stopped (well, slowed down). The Cubans come into a town, take over the hospital or clinic for a few weeks, get everyone fixed up, then move onto the next town. I've heard it described as slave labor, but apparently it's a much sought-after gig in Cuba, because at least you get to travel and make some money. Depends who you hear it from. They weren't really allowed to socialize when they came through Granada, at least not in the tourist zone. Supposedly the CIA and MI6 try to get them to defect, so they aren't supposed to talk to Anglophones especially. So I couldn't ask what the real deal was.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby Bouncer » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:08 am

Lopez turned himself in to become Jesus.

Consider, he's not now responsible for anything bad that happens because of the demonstrations, and he'll more acceptable to the opposition AND the current powers that be as a "compromise candidate". Which is exactly where he wants to end up.

After that, it's all cocaine and hookers and oil wells a'gushin! But yeah, Lopez knew exactly what he was doing and has a very specific goal in doing so.

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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:42 am

Bouncer wrote:Jesus


jajajaja oh man, you totally nailed it. This is his Twitter photo:

Image
"You are HEALED, attractive blonde woman who had her rightful place in society
undermined by that pocho mongrel! HEALED!"

And, since I don't need much prodding to do a google image search for this guy, here's this one:

Image

The Guardian wrote:Lopez's detention has made him a figurehead of the opposition movement, but whether that will lead them to power or more futile unrest – as in 2002 – is debated. Critics say his radical stance has simply polarised society, which will be to the advantage of the Chavista government, which has a numerical advantage as well as control of the military, the courts, parliament and community militias.

Others, however, say that his confrontational strategy has more chance of success than conciliation in a country that has often been ruled by caudillo strongmen. Hugo Chávez was a little-known army colonel until he led an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1992 that resulted in more than 140 deaths. He was thrown in jail, but seven years later he was president….

"For opposition parties, López draws ire second only to Chavez … the only difference between the two is that López is a lot better looking," Mary Ponte – a prominent figure in the Primero Justicia Party – was cited as saying in a 2009 US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks.

The US embassy described López as necessary, but troublesome. Under the heading "The López Problem", diplomats acknowledged that many in the opposition did not trust his motives, even though they need his support to reach out to the public. "He is often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry – but party officials also concede his popularity, charisma and talent as an organiser," it says.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby rdkll » Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:52 am

Bouncer wrote:Lopez turned himself in to become Jesus.



that's the plan, and the foto session of the arrest turned out perfectly - because he was genuinly afraid. nowadays prison term is mandatory for a latam politicians to be eligible. but the thing is : venezuela will not have a Gocho president.

Anyway, the problems of venezuela are economical not politcal. it's about INFLATION. and nobody is willing to commit political suicide by steering the country through hyperinflation. but that's the only way out of the mess.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby rdkll » Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:12 am

and here's a excellent amateur analysis of the core problem:
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=204_1394902726

for all other question on venezuela please consult: el chiguire bipolar - the only reliable source on venezuela
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Mon Mar 17, 2014 10:33 am

rdkll wrote:for all other question on venezuela please consult: el chiguire bipolar - the only reliable source on venezuela


Oh. My. God. How did I not know about this blog. Thank you!
And yeah, this is what US$300 looks like in bolivars (well, what it looked like a week ago):

Image

Try shoving that your money belt discretely.

Anyway, I'd argue that no country can tackle the economy effectively until they've got semi-effective rule of law. El Salvador and Colombia had similar problems under right-wing governments - you can't attract investment or tourists, or even get your own people opening businesses, if there's no reliable legal framework other than "might makes right," or way of enforcing the laws that exist. The inflation in Venezuela is at least partly caused by the inability of the government to control the black market in currency, or keep real price controls on anything, because there are price controls on just about everything. If you're passing laws you can't enforce, that undermines the rule of law across the board.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:41 pm

EDIT: I don't think I quite explained why I think providing a legal framework and adequate security were precursors to tackling economic difficulties in the previous post, so I'll continue.

If you look at the economies of Latin America, you'll notice that the difference in whether they're thriving or sinking has almost nothing to do with the type of economy the government is promoting, or even their relationship with global banking entities. There is, however, and almost direct correlation with the population's trust in the rule of law and the security situation. (This can be different from the actual security/corruption situation; see post-NAFTA Mexico for more on that.) You can have free market, neocon, globalized bliss (pre-Uribe Colombia, El Salvador under ARENA, Honduras since the 1950s), and still have a shitty economy compared to, say, Chile, where the economy tends to outperform other Latin American countries whether they've got a dictator, a neocon, or a socialist in power. Ditto left-wing governments - you can have almost identical economic policies and Bolivarian heads of state (e.g., Venezuela and Bolivia), but radically different economic situations. You can have almost identical populations and resources (e.g., Nicaragua and Honduras), but radically different economic situations. It seems counterintuitive. But, if you look at it in terms of security and rule of law, or confidence in security and rule of law, everything parses pretty predictably.

That's why everyone from Correa to Zedillo - Bolivarian to neocon - says that effective security and rule of law are the necessary foundations of a thriving economy, no matter what economic model you go with. I agree.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby Sri Lanky » Mon Mar 17, 2014 9:25 pm

The most important thing for any country in the world to do right now is to stay away from the Russians.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:34 pm

The Crimea vote in the UN was kind of interesting, re: my statement that Chavez left behind a thriving (by regional and historical standards) ALBA.

So, it's been rumored for years that ALBA member Nicaragua (well, Daniel Ortega) has been getting money from Russia, probably just a few million dollars here and there to commemorate old Cold War ties, and because Ortega backed Putin in the UN during the 2008 Georgia (South Ossetia) War. Cuba's a sentimental favorite and still gets tons of money (by Cuban standards, not oil oligarch standards), too. And, most people figure Putin is backing Maduro, for the lulz if nothing else. So I wasn't surprised to see that ALBA planned to back Russia in the Crimea vote in the UN.

But, only Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia did. Ecuador abstained. So did Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, and others that were flirting with ALBA at its height, while Haiti and Peru (President Humala used to be best buddies with Chavez, before he found capitalist Jesus and the presidency) just went ahead and voted against the invasion.

I was surprised by Ecuador because Correa just won his third (read: once unconstitutional) term, remains very popular, is doing well economically without sucking up to the USA, and has plenty to gain by remaining in ALBA…. he could be king of ALBA if he wanted it. If he thought ALBA was going to last. Which he apparently doesn't. He's arguably the smart one in that clique, too.

I'm going to go ahead and predict that Ecuador's vote was the beginning of the end for the Bolivarian Alternative. I don't see Latin America moving to the right, really; hell, Paraguay just got its ass shut down last week by a general strike (first one in decades) of 80% of all workers because their fake right-wing government (they had a coup in 2012) was threatening to privatize a bunch of stuff. But, yeah, adios ALBA.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby Sri Lanky » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:30 pm

I will reiterate. It is VERY important that ALL nations stay away from the Russians...until Putin is "relieved" from his post.
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Re: Poll: What's going to go down in Venezuela?

Postby friendlyskies » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:28 pm

Sri Lanky wrote:I will reiterate. It is VERY important that ALL nations stay away from the Russians...until Putin is "relieved" from his post.


I don't disagree - the guy is scary as fuck - but there seems some deeper knowledge behind your words, and I would love a little elucidation. Phrased cryptically as necessary, of course.

Oh, and if you're keeping score, Maduro is still in power, Caprilles is still campaigning, and Hot Leopoldo is still trying to get out of jail, but failing: http://en.mercopress.com/2014/03/29/ven ... ary-prison
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