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(506) 223-1327              Published Monday, June 25, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 124               E-mail us   
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Bad guys exploit statute of limitations
Sluggish prosecutors are the criminal's best friend

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is experiencing a meltdown in its court system.  This is especially true in the criminal courts. Many cases are lapsing and are in mora judicial, judicial neglect.

Calling or writing officials regarding a case is a joke.

An answer to a written pronto despacho,  an immediate attention request, last week was horrifying.  The prosecutor in charge of an obvious stolen property case stated she is overwhelmed and asked that victims respect her predicament.

Threatening to file an amparo or request for help from the Sala IV met with the statement “Go ahead I will put it on the stack of them I already have.”

Crooks know this and are playing with the legal procedures — especially the statute of limitations — to avoid penalties from their crimes.   Every crime in Costa Rica mandates a unique statute of limitation based on the maximum penalty for the crime. They range from one year to 15 years for very serious crimes and eight months for lesser infringements like public disorder

For example, the crime of stealing a piece of property by forging someone’s signature carries a six-year jail term, which translates into a six-year statute of limitation as well. 

The statute of limitation begins to run the day after the criminal act.

Now here is what the crooks know and most honest people do not: 

Filing a complaint about a crime to authorities cuts the statute of limitation period in half.  Yes, that means a six-year period becomes three. 

There are three points in a judicial process that can interrupt the statute of limitations. The first is the accusation referred to as the imputación formal, the second is a resolution calling for the preliminary audience and the last is sentencing.

In other words, if a smart crook can avoid getting served by the authorities for forging a signature for three years, he or she will get away with the crime.   Forget hiding out. Malefactors know the court system is working in their favor.  All they have to do is do nothing, sit back, and see if the prosecutor does his or her job.   They know from the get-go no bulldog will be on their case, only a bunch of pussycats.

Yes, the fiscalia or public prosecutor's office in the Ministerio Público plays musical chairs with the staff — all of them — including the prosecutors.  They never get a chance to really know a case because they are assigned another job before they do and then another and another. 

This fact is the biggest complaint of most Costa Rican lawyers, why the criminal justice system is such a mess and why the bad guys get away with their crimes.
tribunales de justicia
A.M. Costa Rica graphic
The delay in cases here is simply a crime

A Californian fighting for his property stolen from him almost lost it due to the statute of limitation rules of Costa Rica.  He had to fight and fight hard to get to his day in court.  He had to skirt the normal procedures, fire the prosecutor and go to trial without the support of the prosecutor's office to win the case and get his property back.

To catch a thief in Costa Rica people need to know more about the laws than thieves do and push the court system hard. Usually a victim’s lawyers should do the pushing so a victim needs to push the lawyer if there is a criminal action in court. Prosecutors in theory represent victims. However, they are not too keen on meeting with the victims they represent.  They prefer to deal with their own kind, other lawyers, so they can talk legal talk.

Expats with a case in Costa Rica’s criminal court system need to know the statute of limitations of their case and know where the case is within the legal process.

Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at  Copyright 2004-2007. Use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 25, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 124

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Our readers' opinions
Costa Rica sold itself out
for a bit of Chinese silver

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Costa Rica was once an island of democracy in a sea of miserable dictatorships, a free and powerful Sequoia in a forest of oppressing dwarfs. It was an oasis of peace and tranquility in the desert of brutality known as Latin America. She was a refuge for all who were hunted and persecuted for their political beliefs. Sadly, all that has changed, Costa Rica has renounced her honorable history, betrayed her noble accomplishments, reneged on her promise to protect freedom, and openly spat at the face of Liberty — all for the almighty buck.

As a condition for trade with the Communist tyrants that rule China, Costa Rica has broken off all diplomatic ties with the tiny, but free people of Taiwan, for a few pieces of silver, and like a cheap and desperate prostitute, Costa Rica has sold her soul to please the despicable masters that call themselves a government at Beijing.

The love of gold has made Costa Rica break all ties with brave Taiwan in exchange for sharing dirty bread with the butchers who in their brutal occupation of Tibet have strung-up hundreds of Tibetan monks that have dared to peacefully protest, the same sadistic sons of witches that cheerfully ordered their army tanks to run over tents containing hundreds of sleeping college students, the same sickos who presently employ slave labor.

Shame on you, Costa Rica. You may enjoy China's blood-stained currency, but never again will you get a cent from me.

A. Milanes
Elizabeth, New Jersey

Sex tourist speaks out:
He is great for economy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your online paper every day, but I've got to say, I'm getting tired of your hate campaign against so called sex tourists.
I visit here every year. I come for prostitution. I add thousands of dollars to the local economy. Your attempt to differentiate between sex tourists and nature tourists is pathetic. You think those Kansas nature tourists who stay at a six-buck-a-night hostels, spend $10 a day on food and $30 a day on nature B.S. equal what someone like me spends?

Sex tourism accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in the local economy. Where do you think the dollars will come to replace it should you succeed in your laughable attempt to get rid of it? How are these women going to make a living, and who's gonna pay for their children, the government? Please . . . .
I also love how you keep linking regular prostitution with TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN and UNDERAGE prostitution. Try to understand this: There IS no more underage prostitution. Foreign sex tourists almost always are found in the same 10 or so locations, all of which are legitimate. Parque Morazón hasn't had underage women in years, or didn't you know?
Prostitution will be around long after A.M. Cost Rica is gone. FACT. So get off your high horses. Your anti-prostitution intentions are so obvious it makes a mockery of your so called journalism. Stop editorializing in the guise of news.
You only make yourselves look bad.

Joe Fierro
Eastchester, New York

It's not smart to steal,
and it is shortsighted

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Quoting some of Mr. Walter Bibb’s concerns for expats living in Cost Rica, “You have to put up with the crime, bureaucracy, few conveniences, poor services, and a general lack of the things that just make life comfortable . . . . ” I unfortunately agree. I had planned on retiring there.

But it’s a sad situation when ALL the people of one country believe it’s smart and honorable to steal from ALL the people of another country. That’s just unacceptable!

Thievery under any guise is shortsighted. That mentality dooms its citizens to everlasting poverty because the honest people who are the victims will get tired of it and leave. I sure did.

The Ticos better wake up and fundamentally change their mentality or they’re doomed to permanent third-class status and everlasting serfdom.

Doug Hicks
Tampa, Florida

Union needs to think ahead
and seek more training

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read your recent article about the union slowdowns in Limón. I had the privilege of working in Japan for about 15 years. What was interesting there was that when it came time for contract negotiations, the Japanese unions increased production. It is unfortunate that more people (including governments) don’t realize that slowing things down just accelerates the death process for an area. Witness what happened in the U.S. post 9/11. The terrorists succeeded in slowing us down (and putting some money in the pockets of a few security companies).

If I were the union in Limón, I would be negotiating the most advanced training and equipment for my group. Thus they could produce a better service and justify higher wages or benefits. 

Mark Mobley
San Jose, Costa Rica

Don't measure Costa Rica
by standards of U.S.

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

After reading a comment made by an expat (soon to be one myself) about Costa Rica in your newsletter, I just had to express my humble opinion.

I once heard an “American student” say to a friend of mine: “if you don’t like it (USA), leave it.” Now I’d like to say the same thing to foreigners in Costa Rica, people who come over buy the land for peanuts and make loads of profits from it, exploit the people in many ways, live in a peaceful, beautiful, great weathered environment and yet complaint about how bad it is.

Well then, go back home, see if you can survive on your retirement or SS. I’ve spent 27 years in the U.S. military, jumping out of airplanes in the Marine Corp and Air Force. I‘ve put my life on the line for it. It’s not perfect either, but I do not criticize it, I appreciate it, I try to improve it where I can, and be a good citizen.

Costa Rica is not the U.S.A., of course not, but it does offer a good way of life that I hope to enjoy soon. So if you don’t like it, then simply leave, or try to improve it, but don’t criticize it for not measuring up to U.S. standards. Obviously you haven’t been to inner cities in the U.S. Go see Miami slums or deep into New York, Detroit, L.A. Heck, our capital, Washington, D.C., has one of the highest murder rate in the world. Or other countries and compare the “quality of life.” Take a closer look and see how Costa Rica measures up then.

Fabio "Cid" Cedeño

State university gets Japanese gift

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The editorial department of the Universidad Estatal a Distancia will buy a new offset press with a $351,842 donation from the Government of Japan.

The university, one of the country's four big public institutions, is a leading producer of educational books with more than 200 titles being produced a year.

The Japanese ambassador, Yoshihiko Sumi, signed an agreement with Costa Rican officials Friday. He noted that higher education is fundamental to development.

The university is celebrating 30 years in existence and counts some 30,000 students who can attend classes and take courses without geographical barriers.

We had another great month for readership in May.
We served up more than
1.1 million pages.
If you do business in Costa Rica,
you should be
seeking customers here!

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Tex Mex for sale
Real estate
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 25, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 124

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Puerto Limon Agency

This career criminal seems to have a get-out-of-jail-free card
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law Enforcement officials are wondering how a career criminal caught inside a San José jewelry store June 3 managed to get out of jail to be caught inside a San Ramón business Sunday.

The suspect is Felix María Araya Arias. When he was caught June 3 inside the Joyería Leonardo Davinci at Avenida 1 and Calle Central, officials issued a press release. The man is so well known in police circles that he is instantly recognized.

Officials figured the 67-year-old man had been put away in preventative detention based on an extensive police record. Still unknown is how the man managed to avoid being put in detention after the San José crime.

He was detained Sunday when Fuerza Pública officers responded to a burglar alarm in San Ramón de Alajuela. The location was the Coopeservidores offices, a local financial cooperative. There police officers arrested Araya inside the facilities, they said.

With him was a man identified with the last names of Mora Abarca, who also happened to be a suspect in the San José burglary. At the time of the June 3 burglary the Fuerza Pública said they had handed over custody of Araya and his 38-year-old associate Mora to the Ministerio Pública, the 
nation's prosecutorial agency. It would have been the responsibility of the prosecutors to evaluate the danger the two men presented to society and ask a judge to take restrictive measures, such as pretrial detention.

There are great similarities between the two burglaries. Entry was gained by cutting locks and raising the metal curtain that protects many business establishments. In the San José case, men were seen breaking into the jewelry store and police got the alert. In San Ramón burglars tried unsuccessfully to deactivate an electronic alarm.

Araya did a long prison term for murder, kidnapping and a number of other criminal acts, officials said.

The associate, Mora, was apprehended July 23, 2003, on a charge of aggravated burglary and again July 21, 2004, on a charge of aggravated robbery.

In the latest report on the San Ramón case, a spokesman for the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública expressed frustration with the way criminal suspects are out on the street almost immediately after their arrests.

In the last several months a downtown task force has been picking up a number of criminal suspects with the aim of reducing armed robberies in the center of the city. It is not known by the general public how many of the several hundred persons detained are back out on the street.

Those little colorful phrases that punctuate daily speech

In Spanish muletillas are pet words or phrases that often serve as filler in one’s conversation. They also frequently become rather monotonous parts of the rhythm of many people’s everyday speech. A few English examples of muletillas are, “Know what I mean?” “Understand what I’m saying?” or just “you know” or simply “uh.”

In Spanish, speakers tend to use common words or phrases like este and o sea. In Panamá there is an interesting variation. Panamanians often punctuate their spoken dialogue with eto or ete. The words they are really using are este or esto, but because of the Panamanian penchant for dropping the letter s, these words come out sounding like eto or ete instead.

Once in Panamá my family and I were having lunch in a small café. The waitress kept coming to the table asking if there was something else we would like, to which we answered in the negative. Finally after the third or fourth instance of this my father asked the young lady if there was something we were doing that attracted her attention. She replied that all she could hear from our corner of the room was “sss, sss, sss,” so she thought we were trying to summon her to our table. Then, however, she realized that we were a family of Ticos, and that’s just the way we talk.

I have been exchanging e-mails with one of my readers about the different ways Latin Americans talk; how we sound to each other, the way that indigenous words get mixed up with Spanish, and how words and expressions can often mean totally different things in different places. In Ecuador, for example, one’s little sister is referred to as ñaña. But in Costa Rica ñaña is what we call dog excrement. When we lived in Ecuador, you can imagine how my sisters just adored being referred to as ñañas. Also Ecuadorians call an ordinary plastic or paper bag not just a bolsa but funda. In Costa Rica a funda is a pillowcase.

Not only language but social custom also varies from one Latin American country to the other. Once on a bus in Perú I stood up to offer my seat to an elderly lady. She seemed surprised by this, but thanked me with a smile. A few stops later a pregnant woman boarded. The bus was completely packed, so I suggested to a man sitting in front of where I was standing that he might give his seat to the expectant mother. With a shrug he replied, “Why should I? I got here first.” Of course one might encounter such seemingly inconsiderate behavior anywhere, but in Perú people appeared to me to be inured to it as though it were simply part of everyday experience.

In any case, back to our muletillas: In Costa Rica we often use verdad or its variant pronunciation veaa, which
actually sounds like the present subjunctive form of ver, “to see, to behold, to look at.” But what is actually meant

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

in both cases is “truly, frankly, or sincerely.”  The intention is to reaffirm what one is saying.

We do use vieras, a subjunctive form of ver also as a muletilla in the sense of “you see,” or “you understand.” This adds a note of drama to what is being said. You might start off your tale of what happened to you at the market, for example, with: Vieras que ayer fui al Mercado y . . . .  “You see, yesterday I went to the market and…”

Here are a few examples of some muletillas and how to use them:

Vieras, que en el Mercado me robaron la billetera.
“You see, at the market someone stole my billfold.”

¡Juepucha! Ya no se puede, donde vas hay maleantes.
"Son-of-a-gun! You can’t go anywhere that there aren’t thieves lurking."

¡Veaa! Y lo peor es que no tenia nada de plata para comprar la comida
“Really! And the worst part was I had no money to buy dinner.”

A word to the wise about the use of ¡juepucha! Employ this muletilla advisedly for, though it is fairly ubiquitous in Costa Rican cant speech, some people may find it quite offensive. It is a variant of hijo de puta, meaning “son of a whore,” but has the same vulgar connotation as the expression “son-of-a-bitch” in English. Another variant is simply putis, which you might overhear being used, something like this: ¡Putis, mae! Usted si que es lento, which rather politely translated means: “Damn it, man! You are so slow.”

My sister’s favorite muletilla is ¡ayyy oiii! This she will invariably exclaim upon hearing any tale beginning with vieras que.

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Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 25, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 124

Public bank places ad to distance itself from Quintavalle
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Banco de Costa Rica said Sunday that it has no relationship with Matteo Quintavalle or his fledgling Depository Pacific Bank.  In addition, Banco de Costa Rica in a half-page ad in the Spanish-language daily La Nación said it has warned Quintavalle about using the word bank in his startup corporation or sociedad anonima.

Banco de Costa Rica has been stung by suggestions in the news media and from associates of Quintavalle that it somehow was operating jointly with Depository Pacific Bank. This was  "an unauthorized use of our name, image and reputation," said the bank.

Quintavalle and four associates face fraud allegations in Pavas as a result of his investment scheme here. Wednesday the Juzgado Penal de Pavas ordered him and four associates not to leave the country while the allegation of fraud was investigated.  In addition to Quintavalle, the judicial order covers associates Marvin Hernández Zúñiga, Ricardo Urbina Paniagua, Chistopher George Coulther and Ismail Gelle Fosia.

Coulther is a former investment adviser in Florida.
The initial criminal complaint was filed by 17 U.S. investors, said the Poder Judicial.

Quintavalle, a 34-year-old hotel owner and Italian citizen, became a public figure earlier this year when he tried to purchase a soccer franchise and then began signing contracts with top soccer players with the goal of starting his own team. He says he owns a string of hotels in the beach communities.

Earlier this month the Banco de Costa Rica closed out 11 accounts he had there. The bank said Quintavalle moved $10.5 million through those accounts in a year. Bank officials suggested he had crossed a legal line by getting investment money from others and putting the money in the account.

Quintavalle's corporation is in the process of filing paperwork with the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieros to become a registered institution, he has said. Costa Rican law prohibits individuals from collecting money from other persons for investments unless there is registration. This is the same law that was involved in the conviction of Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho last month and is called financial intermediation.

Traffic death toll for the weekend is at least seven persons
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Incomplete reports on weekend traffic deaths show at least seven persons died. Alcohol was suspected to have contributed to a number of the mishaps and some of the drivers face investigation.

A pedestrian, Rónald Bolaños González, 48, died Friday night on the San Rafael de Escazú-Santa Ana road when he was hit by a car.

Bicyclist Mauricio Alexis Castillo Navarro, 35, died in San Carlos about 7 p.m. Saturday when he was hit by a vehicle.

Two hours later Michael Jiménez Godínez, 40, died after trying to cross a highway in Heredia.
A vehicle passenger, Carlos Durán Carvajal, died in Vuelta del Río Bermúdez, Heredia, when the car went off the road and overturned several times.

In Bananito, Limón, Eleana Martínez Chacón, 23, died under similar circumstances when the vehicle she was in hit a utility pole.

Rosa Mora Matute, 52, died about 2 a.m. Sunday when the vehicle she was in collided head-on with a second. This was in Guácimo de Limón.

In San Rafael de Escazú Rony Saffati Piszk died about 3:30  a.m. Sunday when the vehicle in which he was riding collided with a bridge railing on the San Rafael-Santa Ana road in the vicinity of the Hotel San Gildar.

Grecia supermarket operator dies in confrontation over severance pay to worker
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Grecia supermarket owner died Saturday night after a man later identified as an ex-employee pulled a knife and stabbed him at least five times, said the Fuerza Pública.

The dead man was identified as Ronald Alfaro Rojas, operator of the Supermercado El Pueblo.

The 21-year-old suspect was identified by the last name of Ocampo. He was in custody.
The dispute was believed to be about severance pay.

In another case Friday afternoon, a 35-year-old man was found dead in his room in the downtown Hotel Del Rey .

A Fuerza Pública officer identified him as Daniel Antonio Rahyli.

A security guard at the hotel found the man in the room, the officer said. There was no immediate indication as to the cause of death.

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Costa Rica
fifth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 25, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 124

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Planned blackout Tuesday

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Workers from the electric company will be back in Goicoechea Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. doing preventative maintenance, said the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz. Barrio San Gerardo, Barrio Las Flores, Barrio Santa Cecilia and Barrio Cristal will be blacked out, as will a number of businesses, including the local branch of the electrical company and the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social clinic.
Venezuelan official rips
U.S. hike in Latin radio

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela has criticized a proposal to increase U.S. government broadcasts to the South American nation to counter the influence of President Hugo Chávez.

Venezuelan Information Minister Willian Lara accused the United States Friday of escalating a media campaign against Venezuela. Lara also defended his government's decision not to renew the broadcast license of an opposition-aligned television station, Radio Caracas Television.

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday approved an amendment that would provide $10 million to boost U.S. broadcasts to Venezuela and other parts of Latin America through the Voice of America.

Republican Connie Mack proposed the amendment. Mack said the Chavez government is targeting opposition voices because of their massive reach, appeal and influence throughout Venezuela. He said press freedom died in Venezuela on May 27 with RCTV's shutdown.

President Chávez said he decided to close RCTV because it supported a brief coup against his government in 2002. The station said the government produced no evidence to support the claims against it.

RCTV was replaced with a state-funded channel, Venezuelan Social Television. RCTV continues to report and broadcast news on the Internet.

U.S. gives warning
on soccer tourney visits

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. State Department says Americans who plan to travel to Venezuela for the Copa America soccer tournament should be aware of continuing security concerns there and possible changes to official entry requirements. The tournament begins Tuesday and runs until July 19.

A public announcement issued Friday says Americans considering travel to Venezuela should carefully consider the risks to their safety and security. Officials warn that violent crime has become a daily occurrence in the capital, Caracas, and that the murder rate there is one of Latin America's highest.

Additionally, the State Department says Americans should be aware that uncertainties in the availability of tournament tickets has led to local protests.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, June 25, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 124

U.S. repeats as Gold Cup champ by beating México, 2-0
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. men's national team scored two goals to solidify a 2-1 win over México to repeat as Gold Cup champs Sunday.

The final of the 2007 competition took place at Chicago's Soldier's Field.

The U.S. team came from behind to score its two goals in just 11 minutes.

Mexico scored first on an easy goal by José Andrés Guardado who took a pass from Nery Castillo.

But the second half was all for the U..S. team. Landon
 Donovan scored his fourth Gold Cup goal at 62 minutes when he beat Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez on a penalty kick. 

It also was Donovan who put a corner kick into play 11 minutes later.  Benny Feilhaber was able to convert in the subsequent scramble.

México had 10 corner kicks but converted none. That game was characterized by near misses from shots on goal. Both México's Sánchez and  U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made sensational saves.

The U.S. won the tournament last year and accomplished this effort by being undefeated. The crowd of 60,000 was heavily populated by Mexican fans.

U.S. women's national team beats Brazil, 2-0, in a not-so-friendly match
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. women's national soccer team has extended its unbeaten record to 42 games with a 2-0 victory over Brazil in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

U.S. veteran Kristine Lilly got the United States off to a fast start, curling a corner kick into the Brazilian net in the first minute Saturday at Giants Stadium. Brazil played hard in the first half, shoving, tripping and hitting the Americans.

U.S. forward Abby Wambach was knocked down but got back up and used her head in the 17th minute for what proved to be the insurance goal.
U.S. head coach Greg Ryan says the rough Brazilian style provided a learning opportunity for his team. "You could see that the veteran players in our team did not really have any problems dealing with it. But I think some of our younger players, this was a new experience for them to see players coming in hard and late, cleats up. So we know some teams are going to approach us this way. And I am glad we were able to hold up to it and get a two-nil win," said Ryan.

The game against Brazil, ranked eighth in the world, was the second for the top ranked Americans in a six-game warmup series ahead of the Women's World Cup in China. The U.S. women had defeated China, 2-0, in the opening game a week earlier in Cleveland, Ohio.

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