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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2003, Vol. 3, No. 154
Jo Stuart
About us
U.S. adds Dominican Republic to free trade mix
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration plans to include the Dominican Republic in the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick formally notified the U.S. Congress of this Monday. The Central American Free Trade 

Agreement is being negotiated between the United States and five nations in Central America, including Costa Rica.

In letters to leaders

Flag of Dominican Republic
in Congress, Zoellick explained that a trade agreement with the Dominican Republic will foster growth and create jobs in the United States, enhance the Dominican Republic's trade and business ties with Puerto Rico, and promote economic growth and integration in the Caribbean. 

The Administration will seek to integrate the Dominican Republic into the current trade talks that are well advanced and likely to be concluded by December. Then the Administration could then send Congress one agreement including the six countries, said Zoellick.

The effect of adding the Dominican Republic to the current negotiations could not be determined immediately in Costa Rica. The admininstration of Abel Pacheco supports the free trade measure but there is significant 

opposition from textile and agricultural sectors, as well as the anti-American left.

"The Dominican Republic's relatively open trade and investment regime, augmented by recent fiscal reforms, has made it one of the world's fastest growing economies over the last decade and an economic engine in the Caribbean Basin," wrote Zoellick.

The Central American pact is a step toward a hemisphere-wide Free Trade Area of the Americas excpected to be completed by January 2005.

Provisions in the Trade Act of 2002 require the Administration to consult with and notify Congress regarding free trade negotiations. Zoellick also said the administration was starting free trade talks with Bahrain.

Since 1985, the Dominican Republic has enjoyed preferential access to the U.S. market through the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Zoellick noted in the letter that consultations with Congress regarding the Dominican Republic have been positive, and that the trade talks will build on the direction provided by Congress in the Caribbean initiative.

The markets of the Dominican Republic and the five Central American countries would create the second largest U.S. trading partner in Latin America. The Dominican Republic has 7.3 million residents, not quite twice as many as Costa Rica.

More details on the free trade proposal can be found at www.ustr.gov.

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Profile results in discovery of 77 local 'suspects'
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

By encouraging the public to report potential molesters, police officials managed to get 77 names via the nation’s 911 system.

In all, officials reported they got 147 calls after they went public July 17 and listed characteristics that said would identify potential child abusers and molesters.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, reported Tuesday that 911 operators handled 147 calls from persons responding to the profile.

Of these, some 65 did not have complete data, and five were requests for more information. That left police officials with 77 persons who are now, according to a release from Casa Presidencial, under investigation.

The profile that officials presented came in the wake of the July 4 murder of Katia Vanesa González Juárez in Quesada Duran, an eastern San José neighborhood. The profile was strikingly similar to the characteristics of the principal suspect in the case, a 34-year-old neighbor named Jorge Sánchez Madrigal.

In a press conference July 17, Ramos and others urged people to keep an eye on males who live alone, do not have a steady job and do not maintain normal relationships with neighbors. The profile also says these people have a heightened interest in children.

Although the profile came from  the Judicial Investigating Organization, A.M. Costa Rica reported July 23  that the profile was flawed. 

Citing academic literature available on the Internet, a news story said that academics believe a bias exists in singling out males when females are just as likely to be molesters.

The newspaper did its study because many male expats here fit the profile distributed by the police, in part because they are not fluent Spanish speakers.

In another, related development during the weekly Consejo de Gobierno session Tuesday, Rosalía Gil, minister of Niñez, said that her agency will rigorously prosecute parents who expose their children to sexual exploitation.

She is director of the Patronato National de la Infancia, the country’s child welfare agency. She told the council that she, her employees and security officials have detected parents who facilitate their children’s involvement in prostitution. 

Officials have been conducting operations in Parque Morazán after La Nación published what nearly everyone knew — that the park was a location where local customers picked up prostitutes, many underage. Minister Gil confronted at least one father who was bringing a child to the park for such activity.

Minister Gil reiterated the responsibilities parents have to protect their children. At Parque Central Tuesday night she said the government would enforce the six month to two year prison penalty for parents who betray their children.

She was at the park with other officials as a show of force against illegal activities there.

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Arcelio Hernández Mussio, Lic.

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Country at the crossroads of transparency
By Jay Brodell
editor of A.M. Costa Rica

The quickest way to reduce corruption is by adopting what the politicians call transparency. That’s doing public business so the public can see what takes place.

Costa Rica accidentally has come to the transparency crossroads, and it looks like the country will take the wrong direction. President Abel Pacheco signed a decree Tuesday in which he gave government agencies three months to set up controls on the release of personal data.

This is a reaction to marketing firms obtaining data from public records, such as vehicle registrations and fears of possible uses.

The government is likely to overreact and create a situation where only the government has access to such records. Information is power, and this will be a case of the government getting more power.

From the government standpoint "transparency" is giving the public the information that politicians want distributed. Toward that end, each agencies has an office of public relations.

For citizens to keep track of the government, everyone must have the widest possible access to information about government activities.

We have seen that it is not a popular position. In the United States, the U.S. Freedom of Information Act has been a joke for years, even before the Bush administration gutted the law, allegedly to save the world from terrorists.

The net effect has been to save the Bush administration from embarrassing revelations as it drags the country toward authoritarianism.

All personal information is not personal. When someone does business with the government, the 

financial paper trail of that transaction ought to be public. Every check written by a government agency should be available for public inspection. That includes payroll checks and expense account reimbursements to public employees.

An A.M. Costa Rica

We know that checks can be embarrassing. Just ask Abel Pacheco about his campaign accounts. But citizens ought to be able to see what kind of compensation public employees are getting.

We ought to know who drives what type of car and what kind of traffic violations they have amassed. More so if they are bus drivers. We ought to know who owns what property and who owns what corporation. We ought to know who enters the country and when they leave. We ought to know who is married and who is not, particularly if they have gone courting.

Every court case file and every contract and license application with the government should be open to public inspection during normal working hours. And much of this could be put on the Internet.

Many court files are not now public, and we know what kind of shape the courts are in.

Many governments make the mistake of keeping public only summary information. That is data that has been massaged into harmless. What proper citizen oversight requires are details.

We, for example, would like to know who takes home government cars every night, starting mileage, ending mileage and how the vehicles are being used. Want to bet we will find a lot of desk jockeys commuting on public funds?

This is exactly the type of information public agencies probably will find much too "personal" to release.

Check out our humor contest BELOW!

Congressmen discuss
electronic betting

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four U.S. congressmen urged Costa Rican legislators to put more restrictions on electronic betting during a meeting Monday.

The four, identified as Bob Goodlatte, Devin Nunes, Frank Lucas and Rick Boucher, are members of a larger group of U.S. congressmen who are visiting the country.

They met with Mario Rodondo, president of the Costa Rican Asamblea Nacional and other legislators to discuss matters of mutual interest.

The Costa Rican sportsbook and Internet casino businesses are illegal in the United States where most of the gamblers are located. The existence of such operations here is a continual point of friction with the United States.

Also on the table was the proposed free trade treaty between the United States and five Central American nations.

Redondo was quick to point out that Costa Rica is limited in what it can do to open up the telecommunications sector to outside competition. He was referring to the monopoly held by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad for Internet, telephone and other forms of communications.

Deputies also stressed what they saw as an imbalance between U.S. agriculture and the Costa Rican agricultural sector that fears a free trade treaty that eliminates duties on locally grown products. Deputies said they were interested in seeing the United States reduce its own subsidy to it agricultural producers.

New computer virus
tries to trick users

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another sneaky computer virus has found its way into Costa Rica.

This one pretends to be a message from the administrator of your e-mail service.

Included is a compressed zip file that contains an HTML document and a virus. The idea is that you, yourself, participate in infecting your computer by opening the zip file.

A.M. Costa Rica has gotten about a half dozen messages over the last three days. The e-mail message reads:

"Hello there,

"I would like to inform you about important information regarding your e-mail address. This e-mail address will be expiring. Please read attachment for details.

"Best regards, Administrator"

The attachment that accompanies the e-mail usually is labeled "message."

Eye disease comes
from Nicaragua

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Visitors from Nicaragua sometimes are carrying conjunctivitis, an eye infection that is epidemic there.

Several tourists have shown up in San José with the problem after touring the country to the north.

Conjunctivitis is also called ‘pink eye’ because of the redness associated with the disease. Although such problems can be caused by irritation or allergies, the highly contagious form in Nicaragua is either bacterial or viral.

More than 800 new cases a day have been reported in Nicaragua.

A good countermeasure is not touching the eyes and hand-washing and other normal sanitary practices, particularly when exposed to persons with infected eyes. 

Neighbor arrested
in death of farmer

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have arrested a neighbor in the death of a finca owner who was killed last June 10 in Santo Tomás de Santo Domingo de Heredia.

The dead man is Bernardo Ocampo Arce, 62, who was found on a farm road inside his torched pickup.

Arrested is Luis Alvarez Mora, 48, said a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigating Organization. Investigators said they were exploring possible personal differences as the motive for the killing.

Ocampo died from a bullet to the head. He worked nights as the guard at a kindergarten in Desamparados, said agents at the time.

Vagrant slashed
by gang of men

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A group of men slashed a 17-year-old street dweller with knives shortly before midnight Monday, according to police.

The youth was sleeping when he was assaulted, he told police. The incident happened in Los Cuadros, Purral, Goicoechea, north of San José.

The youth went to Hospital Calderón Guardia for treatment.

There have been a series of murders of vagrants in the downtown San José area, but this is the first case of such an assault in the northern part of the metropolitan area.

Drug police harvest
tons of marijuana

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug officers and other police units had a big day when they went into the mountains near Siquirres early Tuesday and ended up chopping down 136,000 marijuana plants.

The marijuana production was in an area bounded by the Río Madre de Dios, about an hour by vehicle south of Siquirres, said officials.

These officers located the plantings that were in four areas. Other officers had to make the three-hour trek to reach the locations.

Policía de Control de Drogas said they had been tipped by nearby residents three weeks ago.
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Europe sizzles under record heat and drought
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Record breaking temperatures and drought have hit vast areas of Europe in recent weeks, causing transportation and power problems, decimating agricultural production and sparking massive forest fires. 

The weather tops the news in France these days. Temperatures sizzled at 35 or more degrees (95 Fahrenheit) across the country Tuesday, and more hot weather is forecast for at least the next several days. More than half of France's 95 departments, or regions, are rationing water. 

The country's nuclear power plants also may start cutting electricity production for lack of water. 

France hasn't seen such high temperatures since 1949 and so little rain in 25 years. 

The hot, dry weather is searing a path of devastation across much of southern and eastern Europe. Temperatures have soared above 40 degrees in parts of Spain and Germany, and fires continue to blaze across swathes of Portuguese forests. That’s 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Serbia is witnessing its most serious drought in a century, and Croatia its biggest dry spell in 50 years. Other countries like Romania and the Czech Republic predict agricultural production will plummet this summer for lack of rain. 

Switzerland's hottest summer in 250 years helped melt the permafrost on the Matterhorn mountain last month, sparking avalanches and rock falls. 

The weather has sparked power and water shortages in parts of the continent and crippled shipping and train transport, causing millions of dollars in losses. 

And hard-hit European farmers like Pierre Reveillac, have only begun to assess the devastation. 

Reveillac raises goats in central France. He said he has already lost 90 percent of his summer fodder crop. If there's no rain in the next two weeks, he said, he won't be able to plant a fall crop either, forcing him to buy hundreds of kilos of grain to feed his animals. Reveillac, who is 48, said, he has never seen a drought like this one.

In southwestern France, one of the regions most affected by the drought, farmer Jean-Pierre Verleaguet says growers have also given up on their summer harvest. 

Like Reveillac, Verleaguet raises goats, some for meat, but others to produce France's famous Roquefort cheese. Because of the drought, he says, the country's normally tight Roquefort production restrictions have been eased somewhat. But, he vows, the taste will be the same. 

The weather is also endangering France's most precious commodity, wine, as grapes wither on the vine from searing heat.  Elsewhere in Europe, parts of Germany have lost up to 80 percent of their grain production.

Whether Europe's heat and drought wave is due to global warming is a matter of debate. French Environment Minister Roselyne Bachelot says the drought could be a sign of profound climatic change caused by global warming.

If that's the case, Greenpeace spokesman Michel Luze has a dire prediction.

He said, Europeans and others may well have to start getting used to more extreme climatic conditions, like this one, in the years to come. 

We are counting on some funny stories
It's time to tickle that funnybone if you have one
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica is a land of contradictions, and contradiction is one of the chief concepts of humor.

So now is a time to gently explore our foibles in the mid-winter humor contest sponsored by A.M. Costa Rica marking the second birthday of our Internet daily newspaper.  (Yes, it is "winter’ in Costa Rica.)

Send your humorous writings for publication to:


Make your fellow readers laugh and win great prizes, such as:

• water skiing at Lake Poas.

• annual subscriptions to A.M. Costa Rica

• sunbathing expeditions to the sand dunes of Quepos

• Whale-watching expeditions at the patio of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica

• A night of guaro excess with the A.M. Costa Rica editor (your treat).

Any money prizes will be paid in post-dated checks.

We expect to have some famous judges. At least we will have judges.


Consider the possibilities:

• The Escazú Witch Project
• Fear and Loathing in Santa Ana
• Waiting for Enrique
• How Would You like to be President for a Day?
• The Attack of the 100-foot-tall ICE
• The Return of the Arias.
• The Taxista Always Rings Twice
• Mr. Smith Goes to Arbitration

But you can do better than that. The important thing is to be funny. You can use satire or straight humor. But you must write about Costa Rica. (George Bush is out. We can’t make this too easy.)

Your stories can be true, but exaggeration is a tool of humor. We will publish the good ones as fiction.

Some people say our readers cannot possibly top what really has been happening in Costa Rica. But we have faith.

Our second birthday is Aug. 15, and that’s the deadline.

Now some folks will be upset with us, thinking that we are picking on them. These are the folks who are humorously challenged. Why should we take the credit for them being so funny? Nevertheless, if you wish to send us hate mail or death threats, please do not clog up the editor’s mailbox like before. Send your hate mail or death threats to:


Let the contest begin.

Who's that strange guy in the bed with me?
The individuals in this story are frequent visitors to Costa Rica. And what happened there could easily happen here!

My nephew Yanick and I attended a wedding in Earlton, Ontario, and upon arrival July 25 he set up his travel trailer. I was sleeping at a local motel with my 31-year-old son and my sister who happens to be Yanick’s mom. 

One thing led to another, and finally my sister and I went to bed at 1 a.m. leaving Yanick and my son to have a few beers at a campfire. 

At 4 a.m. someone moved into bed with me and awakened me.  Thinking it was my son I made no concern of the matter.  My sister awoke, and we took turns using the washroom and of course the room being very dark and not having our eyeglasses on, we squinted and stared as a fellow I thought was my son who had crashed on my bed was having a good snore. 

Curiosity set in, and I turned the light on and LO AND BEHOLD a complete stranger was in my bed.  He was in his early 40s and clad with a pair of bermuda shorts and an unbuttoned short-sleeved shirt and was barefoot. 

My sister gasped and moved back asking all the while who that person was? I tried to wake him up, but I could smell the liquor on his breath and knew it would be quite a task. 

I walked out into the hallway and noticed the hallway door and the parking lot door opened to motel room number 103. We were in 108, and a lady dressed in her PJs was out in the parking lot. 

I asked her if she was looking for something and she replied that she was looking for her husband.  "Look no further," I said. "He is in my bed!"

Very sheepishly, she tried to wake him up by touching his arm and calling out his name and telling him that he was in the wrong room.  Finally he sat up looked at his wife (in her PJs) and me (in my briefs) and shook his head, got up and walked to his room.  End of story!  Not so.

The next morning we were having a continental breakfast and waiting for the nocturnal visitor to show up. Unfortunately for us and fortunately for him, we saw his red car leave the parking lot at a quick pace and guess what?  His wife was driving.

NOTE:  how did he get into my room?  At 1 a.m. when I went to bed, I did not want to awaken the patrons, so I gently closed the door and it did not latch. 

Mister visitor, I presume, got up to use the washroom, and instead of turning right to go back to bed with his wife, turned left and ended up in bed with me!

From Tom Turnbull

Drug flights over Colombia will be resumed soon
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration is preparing to resume U.S.-backed drug-interdiction flights over Colombia after a two-year suspension because of a mistaken shoot-down of a missionary plane. An announcement of the decision is expected later this week. 

Officials here say Secretary of State Colin Powell has recommended to President Bush that the anti-drug flights be restarted and that an announcement could come as early as Thursday, the one-year anniversary of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe taking office.

Colombian officials view the flights as a critical way to fight the vast cocaine trade in the region and have been frustrated by the lengthy U.S. policy review which has delayed their resumption. 

The flights, in which the United States provided Colombia and Peru with radar and other support to track and interdict illegal drug shipments, were halted in April 2001 after a Peruvian fighter mistakenly shot down a civilian plane, killing U.S. missionary Veronica Bowers and her infant daughter. 

The incident set in motion an official investigation and painstaking review of the program, especially on how U.S. radar controllers on surveillance flights communicate with fighter pilots. 

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said a resumption of the "Airbridge Denial" program is imminent. "We want to make sure that this is done safely, get it right," he said. "You recall the program had been suspended pending a full review following the tragic shooting down of a missionary aircraft. And so that process has been going forward. I can't give you any final determination on that. I would expect actually that this is something the White House would make any announcement on in the very near future." 

Officials say Secretary Powell recommended the 

resumption of the Colombia flights after the conclusion of negotiations with Colombian officials on new safeguards to prevent accidents and rules for the use of U.S. radar intelligence. 

The program with Peru remains suspended but U.S. officials say they hope to have an interdiction operation with that country going again by the end of the year.

Right-wing rebel
wants talks with U.S.

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BOGOTA, Colombia — A Colombian paramilitary leader says he wants to meet with U.S. officials to talk about drug-trafficking charges against him and another militia leader. 

Salvatore Mancuso, a commander in the rightist United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC, made the comments Monday in an interview. 

Mancuso also said he wants to invite the U.S. State Department to send a commission to Colombia to clear up the cases of commanders such as himself who face extradition requests. 

Last September, Mancuso said he would not turn himself in to U.S. authorities to face charges of drug trafficking.  A U.S. indictment charges him and fellow leader Carlos Castano with smuggling more than 17 tons of drugs into the United States and Europe since 1997. 

Mancuso has said the paramilitaries are not drug traffickers. He says leftist rebels are the ones involved in the cocaine trade and responsible for pushing Colombia to the brink of catastrophe. 

Colombia has been mired in a 39-year civil war involving the outlawed groups and the government. The conflict leaves thousands dead each year.

U.S. diplomat John Dawson, who worked here, dies in Long Island
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

John Dawson, the U.S. ambassador to Peru and a former U.S. foreign service official in Costa Rica, has died in Long Island. The U.S. Embassy in Lima said that death was due to pancreatic cancer.

The embassy said in a formal statement that Dawson, 52, died Friday at Mercy Hospital in Long Island, N. Y.

Dawson, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1950, lived in Latin America for most of his childhood.  During his long career in the U.S. foreign service, Dawson served as the State Department's director of the Office of Mexican Affairs, and before that as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador.

 He also served as country director for Panama, office director for Andean affairs, and as economic counselor in  both Panama and Costa Rica.

Early in his career, he held positions as financial economist at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New  York, at the U.S. Mission to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, and in  Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

He received a master of arts degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher  School of Law and Diplomacy in 1975, after achieving a bachelor of arts degree with honors from the University of Michigan in 1973, where he majored in economics and Latin American studies.

Dawson "faced a difficult struggle against pancreatic cancer with courage and dignity," the U.S. Embassy in Lima  said. "Despite the ravages of this cruel disease, the ambassador kept his characteristic good humor." The embassy said a small private family funeral will be held for Dawson in Long Island, followed by a memorial  service in Washington.

Martin case hearing
scheduled for Sept. 3

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Court officials in Golfito have set Sept. 3 as the day for a preliminary hearing for three persons implicated in the murder of Shannon Martin, the University of Kansas senior killed there. 

Miss Martin died of at least 15 stab wounds May 13, 2001. She was there completing a senior thesis.

The Juzgado Penal de Golfito also said that Jeanette Stauffer of Topeka, Kan., the girl’s mother, may participate in the case.

Investigators arrested a woman with the last name of Cruz Nov. 21, 2001, as a suspect in the case.  She implicated two men with surnames Castro, then-38, and Zumbado, then-47, when they were arrested July 16.

The preliminary hearing will allow judicial officials to better determine if the two men, both local individuals, really had a role in the killing.

Venezuelan jurists
extend vote process

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The Venezuelan Supreme Court has given national lawmakers another 10 days to select an electoral council to organize a referendum on President Hugo Chavez's rule. 

The court said Monday that if the National Assembly cannot select an electoral authority within the 10-day period, the court will make the selection. Venezuelan law requires an electoral council before any election can be held. 

Chavez supporters and opponents have been haggling over the composition of the council.  Under Venezuela's Constitution, a referendum on the president's rule can be held at the midpoint of his term. In Chavez's case, that would be Aug. 19. 

A May 29 agreement negotiated by the Organization of American States set out the framework for the recall referendum.  The accord was negotiated with support from a six-nation "Group of Friends of Venezuela," which includes Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the United States. 

Shining Path duo
end hunger strike

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CALLOA, Peru —  The jailed founder of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla group and his imprisoned lover have ended a hunger strike which protested an isolation order keeping them apart. 

Abimael Guzman and Elena Iparraguirre broke their fast Monday, three days after refusing food to protest solitary confinement here. Prison authorities say the 15-day isolation order, which took effect Friday, will remain in effect. 

Solitary confinement restricts prisoner visitors to lawyers, removes radios from the cell, and bans meeting with other inmates. 

News reports say prison officials imposed the disciplinary measure after Guzman and Ms. Iparraguirre refused to re-enter their cells following free time in the prison courtyard in late July. 

The two prisoners claim guards stole Ms. Iparraguirre's diary, which reports say indicated Guzman continues to lead the Shining Path from his cell.  Ms. Iparraguirre had been the rebel group's second-in-command. She and Guzman were captured together in 1992. 

The Maoist-inspired Shining Path had up to 10,000 fighters at its peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, when it tried to topple Peru's government with a terror campaign of bombings, assassinations and peasant massacres.  The group was weakened considerably after Guzman's capture.

New telephone scam
pretends to be raffle

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telephone company is warning users with telephone cards to beware of a scam from callers who seek to steal your pin numbers.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that persons have been calling telephone users who have a Colibrí 197 or Viajera 199 type of calling card. The caller says that the user has won a raffle and simply has to provide the pin number of the calling card to verify their winnings.

Of course, once the caller has the pin number, he or she also can use the card number to make unauthorized telephone calls.

The Institute did not say how the crooks got the telephone numbers of cardholders in the first place.

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