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TITLE:  BOLIVIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                                 BOLIVIA


Bolivia is a multiparty democracy with an elected president and 
bicameral legislature.  National and municipal elections held 
in 1993 were considered among the most honest and open in 
Bolivia's history.  Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Victor Hugo 
Cardenas were sworn in as President and Vice President in a 
peaceful transition August 6.  The executive, legislative, and 
judicial powers are separate.

The police and the armed forces are responsible to and 
controlled by the civilian Government, but there were incidents 
of human rights abuses by security forces in 1993.  

Bolivia, although rich in minerals and hydrocarbons (petroleum 
and natural gas), has a per capita gross domestic product of 
only $920.  About 55 per cent of its inhabitants live below the 
poverty line.  The Government emphasized debt reduction, export 
development, foreign investment, privatization, and a freer 
banking system to strengthen the economic base and accelerate 
development.  The informal economy, including the smuggling of 
contraband across the country's extensive and porous borders, 
has been tolerated by the Government because it provides 
primary or secondary employment to many Bolivians and reduces 
the need to deal with the social and political ramifications of 
large numbers of unemployed.  The economy was expected to grow 
about 4 percent in 1993.

Human rights abuses in 1993 included instances of mistreatment 
of detainees and prisoners (generally with impunity or leniency 
for the perpetrators), substandard prison conditions, an 
overburdened and often corrupt judicial system, prolonged 
incarceration of pretrial detainees, discrimination against 
women and indigenous people, and poor working conditions in 
many mines.  Bolivia is waging an extensive counternarcotics 
effort against well-entrenched and violent foreign and domestic 
drug traffickers.  Government efforts to stem the flow of 
narcotics resulted in some police abuses, including robberies 
and narcotics-related corruption.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no known political killings in 1993, but the police 
were responsible for at least one extrajudicial killing.  In 
this instance, police beat to death a minor in Oruro; the 
officers involved were convicted of misconduct.

Former dictator General Luis Garcia Meza's 7-year trial in 
absentia for human rights abuses, including extrajudicial 
killings, disappearances, and other crimes, ended when the 
Supreme Court sentenced him in April to 30 years in prison, the 
maximum sentence under Bolivian law.  Also sentenced were 
approximately 50 codefendants, including former Interior 
Secretary Luis Arce Gomez and members of paramilitary groups 
active in 1980-81.  Garcia Meza remains a fugitive; the new 
Government promised to make his apprehension a priority.  

     b.  Disappearance

There were no known politically motivated disappearances during 
1993.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture.  Still, there were 
occasional reports that police officers and prison personnel 
treated in a cruel and degrading manner detainees and 
prisoners, including minors.  In more serious cases, including 
those involving minors, security personnel were rarely tried 
and punished for such acts.  The previously mentioned beating 
death is a case in point.  The La Paz police mistreatment of 
another minor resulted in severe injuries to his hands.  The 
police involved were tried and punished for misconduct.  A 
former president of the Congressional Human Rights Committee 
alleged that one detainee, who denounced mistreatment, faced 
retribution; the detainee was subsequently sentenced to over 10 
years in prison on false charges. 

In Yacuiba, a policeman raped a minor while she was illegally 
detained.  Charges were brought against the policeman; an 
internal police investigation found him guilty.  He was 
dismissed and can be tried in a civilian court.  However, 
police Colonel Luis Mealla Echazu, who attempted to cover up 
the crime, received only a reduction of his seniority by 
1 year, a measure insufficient to convince most Bolivian 
observers that justice had been done.

Conditions in Bolivian jails are substandard, except for some 
drug traffickers and terrorists, who pay for and receive 
special treatment.  Poorer Bolivians endure overcrowding, 
malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, and drug and alcohol abuse 
in their cell blocks.  Most prisoners must pay for their 
cells.  A prisoner who cannot pay the minimal amount necessary 
to secure the smallest cell must become, as a practical matter, 
indentured to a prisoner who owns a cell.  In the poorest parts 
of the San Pedro prison in La Paz, prisoners are housed in 
cells (3 by 4 by 6 feet) with no ventilation, lighting, or beds 
(gunny sacks are used as substitutes).  

The food budget amounts to $0.25 a day per prisoner.  
Malnutrition is commonplace, and prisoners must supplement 
their diet any way they can:  if their families do not 
regularly bring food, they may work in the prison factory or 
sell drugs, alcohol, or other contraband.  By law, children up 
to 6 years old may live in prison if the incarcerated parent so 
desires.  Government authorities have sought to get children 
out of the prisons, but many are still there because they have 
nowhere else to go.

There are several prison deaths every year related to 
malnutrition and poor medical care.  In May all 1,400 inmates 
at San Pedro prison in La Paz staged a hunger strike to protest 
prison conditions, the lack of day passes, and the delay in 
bringing cases to trial.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution requires a court order for an arrest except in 
cases where the suspect is apprehended in the commission of a 
crime; detainees are supposed to be charged or released within 
24 hours.  Many detainees remain incarcerated for months, or 
even years, before coming to trial because of the inefficient 
and corrupt judicial system.  The Constitution also provides 
for a judicial determination of the legality of detention, and 
prisoners are usually released if a judge rules that they have 
been detained illegally.  After the initial detention, 
prisoners may consult a lawyer of their choice.  Provisions for 
bail exist, except in certain narcotics cases, and bail is 
generally granted.

Exile is not used as a punishment.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitutional right to a fair public trial is adhered to 
in most respects.  Delays commonly result in protracted 
judicial procedures lasting 3 to 4 years without sentencing; 
78 percent of the prison population was unsentenced in 1993.  
Investigation, trial, and appeal procedures are so protracted 
that many prisoners eventually serve more time than the maximum 
sentence for the crime for which they were charged.  At no 
level of the judicial system do judges abide by timetables 
prescribed by the omnibus counternarcotics Law 1008, which does 
not allow bail or provisional liberty for those held on 
narcotics charges and which requires a three-stage appeal 
process for all cases, even where a defendant is found not 
guilty in the first instance.  Consequently, many narcotics 
defendants, like other criminal defendants in Bolivia, are 
detained for long periods, sometimes years, before their cases 
are finally resolved.  Illiterate defendants may, at times, be 
made to sign or apply their thumb print to declarations 
incriminating themselves without completely understanding what 
they are doing.

Defendants have the right to an attorney, to confront 
witnesses, to present evidence, and to appeal a judicial 
decision, and these rights generally are respected in 
practice.  The law provides for a court-appointed defense 
attorney at public expense when necessary, but because of 
shortages of funds and qualified personnel, many prisoners do 
not receive this benefit.  Further, even when a lawyer donates 
his or her services, every step of the Bolivian legal procedure 
carries a fee.  Thus, many indigent prisoners are tried and 
sentenced with no counsel present.

Corruption and intimidation in the judicial system remain 
serious problems.  Judges and prosecutors are poorly paid, 
making them susceptible to bribery.  Bribing judges, including 
those on the Supreme Court, is common practice.  Business 
leaders, politicians, and lawyers admit privately that special 
payments to Supreme Court justices and other judges are 
regularly required and solicited to resolve cases.  In October 
Supreme Court president Edgar Oblitas and Justice Ernesto Poppe 
were accused of seeking to extort a bribe to decide the 
extradition case of an American citizen.  At year's end, their 
impeachment case was before the Congress.  Many of those forced 
to pay bribes were reluctant to testify about judicial 
corruption for fear of retribution by the judiciary.

Corruption is also common in the national police.  In April a 
major scandal broke over "ghost" officers on the payroll.  Six 
police officials were suspended for their involvement in the 
scandal, and the chief of personnel was fired and arrested.


Narcotics traffickers often bribe judicial and other officials 
to release suspected traffickers and their property and to 
purge incriminating files.  In August two narcotics traffickers 
facing extradition to the United States apparently successfully 
bribed prosecutors to release them from jail.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The sanctity of the home and the privacy of citizens' lives are 
protected by the Constitution.  However, there were credible 
allegations that the rural counternarcotics police (UMOPAR) 
engaged in robberies of peasants, rough treatment of suspects, 
and a showed a general lack of professionalism in the Chapare 
region where most of Bolivia's illegal coca is grown.  In 
response, UMOPAR has increased the human rights component of 
its training.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

No legal or institutional barriers to freedom of speech and 
press exist in Bolivia.  State-owned and private radio and 
television stations operate.  All newspapers are privately 
owned and are free to express political positions without 
government interference.  

During 1993 there were three attacks on major media figures.  
In one incident, the home of a prominent television commentator 
and news director was firebombed, with limited damage and no 
injuries.  In the second, a bomb was discovered at the gate of 
the home of a television station owner.  In the third incident, 
an investigative journalist who had reported on government 
corruption received threatening phone calls, and a small 
explosive device was discovered at the gate of his home.  As of 
the end of the year, no one had been arrested in these cases.

The Government respects academic freedom.  Public universities 
enjoy autonomous status by law; that status is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The rights of peaceful assembly and association are provided 
for by the Constitution and are respected in practice.  La Paz 
and other cities witnessed great numbers of demonstrations and 
rallies carried out by a wide variety of labor, political, and 
student organizations.


     c.  Freedom of Religion

Roman Catholicism predominates, and the Constitution recognizes 
it as the official religion.  Catholic bishops and other Church 
officials receive salaries from the State, and the Government 
has designated the Catholic Church as the coordinator of all 
official public religious ceremonies.  Citizens are free to 
practice the religion of their choice, and an estimated 400 
religious groups, mostly Protestant, are active.  

However, there were some efforts to impede the activities of 
non-Catholics.  Two public hospitals in La Paz posted signs 
prohibiting the entrance of representatives of evangelical 
groups, religious propaganda, or proselytizing, or any activity 
by a "nontraditional" (i.e., non-Catholic) religious group, 
including donating food to patients.  The director of one 
hospital claimed he was under pressure from a Catholic priest 
to post the prohibitions.

In the Santa Cruz town of Cotoca, municipal authorities passed 
an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of any non-Catholic 
church and "regulating" the activities of the non-Catholic 
groups that already exist in the town.  In June the Education 
Ministry passed a resolution doubling the time students in both 
private and public schools must spend in Catholic education 
classes.

Missionary groups--usually evangelical Christians--are required 
to register with the Foreign Ministry as nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's).  There is no indication that missionary 
groups have been treated differently from other NGO's, and no 
registrations have been disapproved.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on travel within Bolivia or abroad.  
The Government does not impede emigration and guarantees 
departing citizens the right to return.

Citizenship is not revoked for political reasons.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Bolivia is a multiparty democracy with an elected president and 
an independent, bicameral legislature.  Opposition groups 
ranging from the far left to the right function freely.  
National elections are held every 4 years.  The June national 
election was free and fair, resulting in a peaceful, 
constitutional change of government.  There were allegations of 
electoral fraud, particularly the misuse by the former 
governing party of the registration process to register its 
supporters disproportionately.  Most electoral problems were 
related, however, to administrative error.  Municipal elections,
held in December, were open and orderly.  There were no reported
electoral irregularities.

Suffrage is universal and obligatory.  There are no legal 
impediments to women or members of indigenous groups voting, 
holding public office, or rising to leadership in the 
Government.  Because of societal traditions, the number of 
women who have attained prominent positions in politics remains 
small.

For the first time in Bolivia's history, an indigenous vice 
president was elected in 1993.  Though indigenous groups still 
have little representation in the Government, the election of 
Aymara Victor Hugo Cardenas symbolizes the growing political 
power of indigenous groups and their determination that their 
needs not be ignored.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government is sensitive to the opinions of domestic and 
international human rights organizations and is willing to 
discuss human rights concerns with them.  Both chambers of 
Congress have committees responsible for monitoring the 
observance of human rights.  The Catholic Church, the Bolivian 
Permanent Human Rights Assembly (APDHB), labor organizations, 
and the press aggressively monitor respect for human rights.

International groups also observe human rights in Bolivia and 
visit the country without hindrance.  

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

The Constitution guarantees equal protection to all citizens 
regardless of gender.  However, Bolivian women generally do not 
enjoy a social status equal to that of men.  Many rural and 
urban poor women are unaware of their legal rights.  Traditional
prejudices, social conditions, and limited political influence 
remain major obstacles to advancement for women.  Women in most 
cases earn less than men for similar work.  It is not uncommon 
for young girls to be forced by their families to leave school 
in order to work at home or in the economy.  Though there are 
no legal impediments to attaining jobs, women are generally 
accepted only in traditional jobs in the marketplace and as 
domestic workers.  Few professional positions are filled by 
women.

Many women and women's rights groups made credible charges that 
violence against women is a serious problem.  Preliminary 
results of the National Statistical Institute (INE) study on 
violence against women registered formal complaints by 8,500 
women in Bolivia's four largest cities from July 1992 to June 
1993.  Of these complaints, 74 percent were reports of domestic 
violence (physical, emotional, and sexual) and 26 percent 
described violence suffered in work, public, and social 
situations (psychological abuse, exploitation, kidnaping, 
physical violence, and sexual abuse).  The study concentrated 
only on those crimes specifically related to gender.  The 
researchers concluded that violence against women is seriously 
underreported.

Women victims of violence report that police are generally 
unsympathetic and do not have the training to deal with crimes 
such as rape and domestic violence.  Women are often reluctant 
to bring charges and thus abuses are underreported.  Some legal 
counseling is available for female victims of violence through 
private organizations.  The San Gabriel Foundation dealt with 
337 cases of domestic abuse in the first half of 1993.  The 
predecessor to the newly created National Organization for 
Women, Children, and the Family gave legal advice in over 800 
cases of domestic violence in 1992.

     Children

In 1993 the Government created an agency under the Presidency, 
the National Organization for Women, Children and the Family, 
to help improve the welfare of children.  However, the lack of 
adequate resources and pervasive poverty limit its ability to 
carry out its program.

Although the Government is implementing a new law for the 
protection of minors, children work in the underground economy.

Children also help in family stores and work as domestic 
servants.  Statistics published by the Ministry of Planning's 
education reform team note that in rural areas, only 0.7 
percent of girls and 1.4 percent of boys finish high school.  
In urban areas, 26 percent of girls and 31 percent of boys 
graduate from high school.  

     Indigenous People

Discrimination against and abuses of people of indigenous 
background continues.  The Aymara- and Quechua-speaking Indian 
majority of the population generally remain at the lower end of 
the country's socioeconomic scale and are disadvantaged in 
terms of health, life expectancy, education, income, literacy, 
and employment.  Lack of education, negligible advances in 
farming and mining methods, the inability to speak Spanish, and 
societal biases combine to keep indigenous groups in poverty.  

The civil and political rights of indigenous peoples are 
protected by the Government.  Most demonstrations consist 
almost entirely of members of indigenous groups, and several 
"indigenous" political parties have sprung up in the past few 
years.  National indigenous organizations, including the Single 
Labor Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers, the 
Indigenous Confederation of the East, Chaco, and the Amazon, 
and others, have proposed legislation on indigenous rights and 
negotiated with the Government on many issues.  The 1953 
agrarian reform satisfied the demands for land of most Aymara 
and Quechua people in the highlands and valleys.  By 
presidential decree, Bolivia created 10 autonomous indigenous 
territories (all in tropical areas) with special provisions for 
land use.

The law prohibits discrimination against indigenous people in 
employment.  However, they are frequently paid less than the 
minimum wage for work performed.  Indigenous construction 
workers, for example, are often fired before they complete 
3 months' service, thus relieving the employer from the legal 
obligation to give severance pay and other benefits.  The 
workers will then be rehired by the same employer, with the 
same process being repeated every 3 months.  They are also 
frequently abused on the job.  For example, a 12-year-old 
indigenous domestic servant was beaten to death by her employer 
in the Tarija department.  A criminal case was opened against 
the employer.  The new Government, with the involvement of its 
indigenous Vice President, has promised to undertake measures 
to remedy the social problems of poorer sectors of society.


     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation specifically directed at problems of 
people with disabilities, though legislation on other topics 
includes provisions for the disabled.  For example, the 1992 
electoral law required special voting arrangements for blind 
people.  The law prohibits economic discrimination against the 
disabled.  However, the Government has not provided services 
and infrastructure to accommodate their needs.  Societal 
attitudes keep most disabled Bolivians at home from an early 
age with the result that they are rarely integrated into 
society through education and employment.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Bolivian workers may establish and join organizations of their 
own choosing.  The Labor Code requires previous authorization 
for the establishment of a trade union, restricts more than one 
union from establishing itself at a given enterprise, and 
allows the Government to dissolve trade unions by 
administrative act.  However, the Government does not enforce 
these provisions of the law and has used none of these powers 
in recent history.

Stemming from its key role during the 1952 revolution, the 
Bolivian Labor Federation (COB) has purported to represent the 
entire work force, and successive governments have treated it 
as such, although a number of workers are members of non-COB 
affiliated unions.  Approximately one-half of workers in the 
formal economy belong to labor unions.  In addition, some 
members of the informal economy, such as unlicensed street 
vendors, participate in labor organizations.  Workers in the 
private sector possess and frequently exercise the right to 
strike.  By statute, solidarity strikes are illegal, but the 
Government does not prosecute those responsible for such 
strikes nor impose other penalties.

In 1992 as a result of pressure from the COB, the Labor Ministry
rescinded the "trade union leave" of two union leaders because 
of their ties to the American Institute for Free Labor 
Development.  The case was resolved in February when the labor 
court ordered the employer to reinstate the employees, and the 
employer complied with the order.  In June government 
representatives informed the International Labor Organization's 
(ILO) conference committee that workers could declare general 
strikes and sympathy strikes, that many of Bolivia's legal 
restrictions criticized by the ILO's Committee of Experts were 
obsolete and not applied in practice, and that these defects 
would be resolved in a new general labor law.  However, the new 
draft labor law, addressing ILO concerns, remains under review 
by the new Government.

The only significant strikes in 1993 centered on the 
Government's annual negotiations (in March) with the COB 
regarding salaries and benefits for government employees.  When 
the COB failed to accept the Government's "final" proposal, the 
Government decreed the offer would take effect immediately.  
The COB responded with a series of work stoppages and marches, 
culminating in sometimes violent confrontations with police, 
especially in some of the secondary cities.  After a show of 
force, the Government returned to the bargaining table and made 
concessions to miners and teachers that were sufficient to 
obtain the COB's acceptance of the overall package.

After the new Government took office in August, a general 
strike (political in nature) called by the COB was declared 
illegal, and the Government stated its intent to withhold pay 
from government employees who participated in the strike.  In 
the past, the Government had not withheld pay, even when it 
declared strikes illegal.  Subsequent negotiations apparently 
resulted in pay being restored to at least some of the striking 
government employees.

Bolivian unions are not fully independent of the Government and 
political parties.  Union officials are members of political 
parties which provide them a subsidy.  They are also paid by 
their employers (in most cases a government agency or a state-
owned company) while working for the union.  All unions are 
underfinanced and depend on outside support from political 
parties and foreign nongovernmental organizations.  The 
political parties all have labor committees that attempt, with 
some success, to influence union activity, leading to barely 
concealed political party battles within the ranks of labor 
unions.  Labor laws place no restrictions on a union's right to 
join international labor organizations.  In 1988 the COB became 
an affiliate of the then Soviet-dominated World Federation of 
Trade Unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Bolivian workers have the legal right to organize and bargain 
collectively.  The Labor Code, however, denies civil servants 
the right to organize and prohibits strikes in all public 
services, including banks and public markets.  Nevertheless, 
these provisions are ignored by both the Government and 
employees; virtually all government workers are unionized and 
conduct strikes on occasion.  In practice, collective 
bargaining, defined as voluntary direct negotiations between 
unions and employers without the participation of the 
Government, is extremely limited.  Consultations between 
government representatives and labor leaders are common but do 
not result in collective bargaining agreements.  In state 
industries, the union issues a list of demands, and the 
Government concedes some points.  Private sector employers 
normally use public sector settlements as guidelines for their 
own adjustments, and some private sector employers offer 
workers more generous settlments than what the Government 
grants.  The Government generally does not intervene in private 
sector labor-management relations.

The law prohibits discrimination by employers against union 
members and organizers.  Complaints are referred to the 
National Labor Court, which often takes a year or more to rule 
on a question.  Labor activists say that the problem is often 
moot by the time the court rules.

There are seven special commercial or industrial duty-free 
zones in Bolivia.  Labor law and practice are the same in these 
zones as in the rest of the country.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and the 
Government complied with and enforced the law.  No cases of 
forced or compulsory labor were reported in 1993.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits the employment of persons under 18 years of 
age in dangerous, unhealthy, or immoral work.  Bolivia's Labor 
Code is ambiguous on the conditions of employment for minors 
aged 14 through 17, and it permits apprenticeship for children 
aged 12 through 14.  This practice has been repeatedly 
criticized by ILO committees; the Government has responded that 
it would present legislation reforming this and other provisions
of the Labor Code.  The responsibility for enforcing child 
labor provisions resides in the Labor Ministry.  Existing legal 
provisions concerning employment of children are enforced only 
in larger state and private enterprises; young children can be 
found on urban streets hawking goods, shining shoes, and helping
transport operators, and in rural settings, including mining 
cooperatives, working alongside their parents from an early age.

Children are not usually employed in factories or businesses.  
Where employed, such as assisting transport operators, minors 
usually work the same hours as adults.  Bolivia has compulsory 
education through the elementary level.  In practice, most 
urban children complete elementary education, while very few 
rural children do.  Less than 30 percent of Bolivian children 
advance beyond elementary school.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government, both by statute and presidential decree, has 
established a minimum wage (approximately $38 per month) and a 
system of bonuses and fringe benefits.  A worker earning only 
the minimum wage would not be able to sustain a decent standard 
of living, let alone support a family.  Workers in most 
occupations earn more than the minimum wage.  Although the 
minimum wage is well below the prevailing wage in most 
occupations, it is significant because certain fringe benefits 
are pegged to it.  Approximately 20 percent of the urban work 
force--street vendors, shoe polishers, and lottery ticket 
sellers, for example--are not covered by the minimum wage.  In 
addition, the minimum wage does not apply to rural subsistence 
farmers, who comprise 30 percent of the working population.

In urban areas, only half the labor force enjoys an 8-hour 
workday and a workweek of 5 or 5 1/2 days.  As with many other 
labor laws, the maximum workweek of 44 hours is not enforced.  
Responsibility for the protection of workers' health and safety 
lies with the Labor Ministry's Bureau of Occupational Safety.  
Labor laws that provide for the protection of workers' health 
and safety are not adequately enforced.  Although the 
state-owned mining corporation COMIBOL has a special office 
charged with mine safety, the mines, often old and operated 
with antiquated equipment, are dangerous and unhealthy.  In a 
tradition dating back to the Spanish conquest, many employers, 
particularly in the mining sector, promote the chewing of coca 
leaf as a substitute for food, water, and appropriate rest 
periods for laborers.  The active promotion of coca chewing by 
some employers and politicians, by the Bolivian Labor 
Federation, and by persons having a personal financial interest 
in the manufacture and sale of cocaine contributes to 
conditions of work in many mines that fall far below generally 
accepted international labor and human rights standards.
(###)


[end of document]

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