The upward spiral: Colombia’s defense expenditures and U.S. military aid Medellín minus the “Leviathan”
Jul 252008
  • Former paramilitary leader Éver Veloza, alias “H.H.,” has given prosecutors a USB memory drive that once belonged to top paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño, killed by his own men in 2004. Messages from Castaño signal that collaboration existed with the Colombian military, that Castaño was angry about the “narcotization” of several paramilitary blocs, and that he planned the formation of a “United Self-Defense Forces Venezuela Bloc” to target Hugo Chávez and Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, who today is Chávez’s interior minister.
  • Former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, a close Castaño associate extradited in May to the United States, may have negotiated a plea deal with U.S. authorities that ties sentence reductions to his cooperation in revealing illegally acquired property in Colombia, which would be distributed to the paramilitaries’ victims.
  • For aficionados of Latin American defense ministers’ visits to Washington (you know who you are), two from this week: video of Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos at the Center for American Progress and audio of Ecuador’s Gustavo Larrea at CSIS. Perhaps CSIS will post multimedia of Uruguay’s José Bayardi and make it three.
  • In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa, saying that his country’s armed forces are in “a disastrous state,” announced that “in response to the March 1 Colombian military incursion,” Ecuador will buy 24 Super-Tucano aircraft from Brazil and six unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as renovating its Israeli-made Kfir fighter aircraft.
  • Only 34 percent of 12,401 people interviewed around the region for the “Iberobarómetro” poll gave the United States a positive rating, compared to 48 percent for the European Union and 41 percent for China.
  • In Peru, the Christian Science Monitor asks why President Alan García’s approval rating has fallen to 26 percent. It’s not “the economy, stupid,” which is booming.
  • An inauspicious beginning: as Colombia’s Congress begins a new legislative session, the newly seated vice-presidents of Colombia’s Senate and House are both facing Supreme Court investigations for corruption or collaboration with paramilitaries.
  • Did FARC leaders Iván Márquez, Pablo Catatumbo, Pastor Álape and Rodrigo Granda pay a visit to Nicaragua last weekend? It’s not clear, but Colombia’s OAS ambassador, former defense minister Camilo Ospina, had strong words for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at yesterday’s Permanent Council meeting.
  • Meeting in La Paz at 5:00 AM Wednesday with Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, Bolivian President Evo Morales showed the U.S. official transcripts of personal e-mails from USAID officials, which he presented as proof of the agency’s “conspiring” with the country’s rightist political opposition. Bolivia’s ambassador to the United States, Gustavo Guzmán, said he had no idea how President Morales obtained the e-mails.
  • Mexico has voiced discomfort with the U.S. military’s recently established Northern Command, whose “area of responsibility” includes Mexico’s national territory. However, a delegation of Mexican congresspeople from all three major parties visited Northcom’s Colorado headquarters this week, where they attended a course “to familiarize [them] with the U.S. Northern Command and Southern Command, as well as to emphasize the strong cooperation association with Mexico, which is critical for the security of both countries, North America and the hemisphere.”

26 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Lou Says:

    CNN recently reported on how the Colombian government not only pretended to be Red Cross officials. They also pretended to be reporters from Telesur. This is getting more and more sketch.

  2. jcg Says:

    One Red Cross official and two journalists, along with non-existent “International Humanitarian Mission” NGO personnel, to be more accurate.

    We already knew that some of the members of the rescue mission were pretending to be reporters. It just wasn’t immediately clear what news organization -if any- they were using as cover, but it doesn’t surprise me that it would be teleSur (who continues to insist on calling hostages in Colombia “retenidos”, to say the least…).

  3. jcg Says:

    That doesn’t mean that the use of the Red Cross emblem wasn’t a violation of international law, as I’ve said before, nor that the mere act of pretending to be journalists -even generic ones- could increase already high risks or at least force journalists to take additional precautions when dealing with FARC (or vice versa), however. The operation could have taken place without using such symbols and it is regrettable that it didn’t. Regardless of what I think of teleSur (honestly, I don’t think FARC will even think about retaliating against them, all things considered…).

  4. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, if you take pains to watch the film released by caracol, of the staged recue, you will notice that the journalist-actors don’t have a venezuelan accent. I would say they have rather a colombian accent. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  5. jcg Says:

    Jaime: That’s true, but teleSur also has personnel in Colombia who wouldn’t need to have Venezuelan accents, if that’s the idea behind the deception.

  6. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Thanks for confirming, I read an article in the colombian press about the accents of said journalists being venezuelan, and after watching the video several times, I still had my doubts about it.

  7. Camilla Says:

    Using Telesur as a front is valid because when Telesur was launched three years ago, its first broadcast featured a starry-eyed feature on Manuel ’sureshot’ Marulanda. Its staff were photographed wearing FARC tshirts, as if just anyone could go down to the local Kmart and get themselves one of those – a Che tshirt would have been far easier. If they’re going to be TeleFARC, they better not complain if they get to be used as bonafides. If they were a serious news outfit instead of a FARC propaganda outlet financed by none other than the man who promised FARC itself $300 million, they would not be making FARC propaganda features for general broadcast. Too bad if they don’t like Colombian soldiers using them as a front to fool FARC terrorists.

  8. Camilla Says:

    The YouTube of Santos speaking at CAP was really good. My favorite part: when Santos said he had no idea what the Brazil-Colombia defense alliance was really about, rolling his eyes. Pretty funny coming from a defense minister!

    That guy Dan Restrepo came across as a decent sort, someone who understood very well the despicable nature of FARC. Considering that he is a key Obama man on Latin American matters, that makes me less worried about Obama.

    But I wish the topic of free trade could have been brought up, I would have been interested in seeing how Restrepo reacted – is he serious about Colombia’s future or is he serious about what the protectionist goons of BIg Labor will do to him if he strays from the party line?

  9. MZR Says:

    Camilla, how stupid are you? This isn’t just about reporters working for TeleSUR. It creates huge problems for all journalist working in Colombia.

    Again, you continue to argue that Chávez promised the FARC $300 million. Do we really have to go down this road again? The evidence to support this claim is extremely weak, to say the least. So, if you are going to accuse Chávez of giving the FARC $300 million, you surely have to provide caveats highlighting the problems with such an assertion (or overwhelming evidence to prove such a serious claim). Now, as I’ve been down this road so many times with Camilla, I really can’t be bothered to re-write my arguments again. So, here’s analysis from Gary Leech (followed by Adam Isacson) which helps back-up my argument that the Colombian government’s accusation that Chávez provided (or promised to provide) $300 million to the FARC is very dubious indeed:

    “Firstly, the documents from Reyes’s laptop again fail to corroborate the Colombian government’s allegations. The only documents that mention Chávez or his government directly illustrate that Venezuela sought to: include the FARC in an international group to analyze Colombia’s conflict; request documentation from the rebel group of civilian casualties caused by Colombian military attacks in FARC-controlled regions; persuade Latin American governments to help get the FARC removed from international terror lists. None of the above constitutes an illegal activity.

    And secondly, the only “amount” that the communiqués mention is the number “300,” without any reference to any currency, or any other type of, denomination. The Colombian government claims that the number “300” stands for $300 million. While the communiqués do suggest that the FARC was negotiating potential deals with someone in Venezuela, they imply that if the deals were to be consumated then the rebel group would receive some sort of merchandise that it could sell for a profit rather than a delivery of cash.

    Most importantly, none of the sections of the communiqués referrring to the “300”—re-named the “dossier” at one point in the communiqués—mention Chávez or any other representative of the Venezuelan government. In fact, with regard to the “300,” the FARC refer to their contact as “Angel.” The Colombian government claims that “Angel” is a code name for Chávez, but fails to explain why the Venezuelan president is referred to by his actual name in other parts of the same communiqués. If “Angel” is indeed a code name for Chávez, then why did the FARC not use it for every reference to the Venezuelan president? Ultimately, the communiqués, which were only discussions between FARC leaders, could have been referring to anybody in Venezuela and, therefore, they amount to very flimsy evidence upon which to publicly accuse a head of state of “sponsoring and financing genocide.”

    Also, from Adam Isacson:

    Several points need to be clarified:

    – Whether President Chávez or top Venezuelan officials approved of any payments. The intercepted communications talk of contacts with a Venezuelan “boss” who is code-named “Ángel.” He is apparently someone important, but is “Ángel” Hugo Chávez? The Colombian government thinks so, but the documents made available are far from clear.

    – Whether any payments were delivered. The last communication, from mid-February, indicates that they were not, that discussions about how to deliver the goods were ongoing with the code-named individuals.

    – How serious Venezuela was about this offer. We are reading the accounts of FARC leaders who are eager to make the deal happen. We do not have a sense of the real level of enthusiasm on the part of “Ángel” and the Venezuelans.

    – Why this would be a good deal for Venezuela. If Hugo Chávez’s goal is to spread leftist “Bolivarian” politics in Latin America and Colombia, why would he believe that the FARC would be the right vehicle? Why lavish $300 million on a force that is widely despised in Colombia, and which has seen its military capabilities reduced from a late-1990s peak? It simply doesn’t make sense.

  10. Chris Says:


    None of this has to be sketchy… they implemented a covert operation, and like most covert operations, they don’t place much emphasis on international laws. SpecOps does what it has to in order to get the job done; however, in this case, the Colombian govt was so happy with the results that they publicized the whole thing, which exposed the details of their covert op.

    For doing so they deserve the flack they’re getting, but doesn’t negate the results and won’t result in much happening against the Colombian govt.

  11. Camilla Says:

    MZR: No it doesn’t. They are legitimate news organizations. Telesur is a terrorist propaganda front and deserves to be treated like one. Not all groups that call themselves news agencies are really that and they shouldn’t be treated the same, any more than all NGOs are alike.

  12. Camilla Says:

    MZR: As for your claims on the $300m, I think you are leaving out the FARC computer notes from FARC thugs marveling at how Chavez offered the money ‘without blinking.’ It was in the Wall Street Journal with the last batch of FARC computer revelations.

    I’d be curious what your alternative explanation is to this, by the way. Who exactly has $300 million to throw around other than Hugo Chavez and why would he or she give it to FARC? If Angel isn’t Hugo, who could it be and why would FARC be dumb enough to believe such promises?

    You are also leaving out the part about Hugo offering FARC a significant oil stake with lotsa government contracts from Venezuela to launder cash through for FARC. There’s so much out there you haven’t considered.

  13. MZR Says:

    “No it doesn’t. They are legitimate news organizations.”

    What a ridiculous statement. Camilla, again, you are completely missing the point. Do you think the FARC thinks, “Wait a minute… You’re not from TeleSUR are you?! Wait a minute, you’re CNN? Ah, this is a legitimate news station. It’s CNN. Come and join us!”. No Camilla, it means that the FARC will now be even more suspicious of ANY news organisation. If TeleSUR is TeleFARC, as you claim, and now the FARC might suspect that any TeleSUR employee could potentially be a Colombian government agent, then what about all the other news organisations? The FARC will now be even more suspicious of them too. Being a journalist in Colombia has become even more dangerous.

    “Telesur is a terrorist propaganda front and deserves to be treated like one.”

    You sound like a fascist with statements like that. TeleSUR is no more a “terrorist propaganda front” than CNN news. But, if Camilla says it is, then it must be true.

    “As for your claims on the $300m”

    As I pointed out in my post, the claims about the $300 million weren’t my claims. I gave evidence from two prominent analysts of the Colombian conflict: Gary Leech and Adam Isacson.

    Also, I wasn’t leaving out the ‘without blinking” statement. Camilla, the email didn’t say Chávez approved of the $300 million request “without blinking”. Here’s the statement:

    ““He approved completely and without blinking [at] our request (300). (Colombian authorities believe the request is for US$300 million.)” [From the WSJ].

    Camilla, this is the SAME EMAIL! There was no stipulation in the email of who “he” is, other than ‘Angel’. The email proves NOTHING! It doesn’t state the amount was from Chávez. As the aforementioned analysts mentioned above, the number is 300. No denomination. No reference to what the 300 is. No mention of any names. Camilla, this is the same email I was talking about. The email proves nothing. Moreover, I assume you’re not a lawyer, Camilla? Such “evidence” as this simply will not hold up in any court. Stop wasting our time, Camilla, and get your facts straight before posting.

    So, whom shall I listen to… Gary Leech? Adam Isacson? Or Camilla? Moreover, if the evidence is as strong as you’re suggesting, why hasn’t the ICC pursued Chávez, a track the Colombian government “claimed” it wanted to pursue? Because there simply isn’t a case that would hold-up in a court of law. Now, I can guess from your posts that you’re probably not a big fan of democracy. However, usually, in a democracy, you are innocent until proven guilty.

    Also, you are very contradictory with your posts and view of the FARC. In many of your posts you talk about how stupid the FARC are, how they are liars, how they are thugs, etc, etc. Then you post “If Angel isn’t Hugo, who could it be and why would FARC be dumb enough to believe such promises?” I thought the FARC WERE stupid?! This is one of your beliefs, no? And ‘Angel’ could be anyone. It could be a Venezuelan business man. It could be a Venezuelan drug runner. It could be a Venezuelan arms dealer. The simple fact is this: WE DO NOT KNOW. I can just imagine you in the ICC:

    Camilla: “Your honour, if Angel isn’t Hugo, then who could it be?”

    Judge: “Hmmmm… Compelling evidence, Camilla. Guards, take him down to the cells!!!!”

    Moreover, EVEN if the FARC claimed that Chávez did this or did that, again this would prove nothing! The FARC are liars, no? They can’t be trusted? They are the scum of the earth, no? This is what you believe. This is central to most of your arguments. But on this case you’ll make an exception? Let’s imagine, for a second, that the email did state that “Chávez will give us $300m”, this time the FARC would be telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

  14. MZR Says:

    Actually, I’ve just realised that I’ve completely accepted the WSJ’s translation of the Spanish text without questioning it. So, is there someone else out there who can find this in the original Spanish version “He approved completely and without blinking [at] our request (300)”. (From the Nov 12, 2007 email, I think). I can only seem to find the English versions of the Nov 12 email (which proves little) and the original link provided on this website to El Tiempo doesn’t seem to work now. Plus, Camilla didn’t provide a link and the ones I’ve found, once clicked, don’t work either. I know you probably hate me, Camilla, but you don’t happen to have the link do you? Pretty please? With sugar on top? Maybe the Spanish version implicates Chávez more than the dubious English version? And I might actually find that the translation is acceptable and therefore we’d practically be partners. Imagine that…

    Many thanks,

  15. Camilla Says:

    This ain’t a trial, MZR. Answer the question with your opinion.

  16. Camilla Says:

    I’ll find the link for you. It was the last batch of wsj reporting done on farc computer emails. i might have to email it to you if it’s subscription only.

  17. MZR Says:

    Hmmmm… But, Camilla, will the WSJ version actually be the Spanish text? I think it might be the English also. Nonetheless, thank you for your kind offer.

    But, again Camilla, I have to be totally honest with you… The English text I have read (with regards to this particular email, as opposed to the “series” of emails, which are also problematic) still doesn’t stipulate a monetary denomination. Nor name Chávez specifically with regards to this “300″ figure, whatever that figure may or may not be (although, I was reading a copied and pasted version from the WSJ on another website. Maybe the original from WSJ is different?). But even if it did name Chávez, without stipulating what the “300″ is, the email is extremely weak as source of evidence.

    Again, thank you for your kind offer and I feel compelled to apologise for anything that I’ve said which might be less than flattering. Ahem… Sorry Camilla and thank you for your offer. Maybe we should give peace a chance? Be a beacon of hope for Colombia, maybe?

    But, Camilla, I also still feel compelled to maintain my line of argument with regards to the problems with these emails. For example, when you said:

    “As for your claims on the $300m, I think you are leaving out the FARC computer notes from FARC thugs marveling at how Chavez offered the money ‘without blinking.’”

    Well, the email doesn’t actually mention money. As with the whole series of emails, and like Isacson and Leech have argued, simply stipulating “300″ leaves a lot to the imagination (I think this number has been mentioned in a total of two emails). This could, for example, relate to 300 hostages. Or hamburgers.

  18. Santiago Garcia Says:

  19. Chris Says:


    Because of the conditions in which the information was acquired, and because of the consequences to interested in parties… it will be a while before we can get a handle on what was really happening.

    However, I would like to point out that the evidence on the laptop computer isn’t as important as the actions taken by said interested parties following revelations by the Colombian govt that it had acquired it.

    For example, Chavez moved quickly to distance himself from the FARC in front of the international community when the Colombian govt announced it had information from Reyes’ computer that implicated Chavez… the moment I reference is when he openly suggests that the time to move-on has approached and that armed warfare is not the solution.

    To me, his actions lend a lot of credibility to the notion that there was a substantial amount of contact between his govt and the FARC under his auspices.

  20. MZR Says:

    Chris: “To me, his actions lend a lot of credibility to the notion that there was a substantial amount of contact between his govt and the FARC under his auspices.”

    Yes, Chris, you’re absolutely correct. And the emails certainly prove this part – that Chávez had contact with the FARC. Indeed, Chávez was in direct contact with the group to secure a hostage exchange. And this is what happened, with the release of hostages such as Clara Rojas. Moreover, a subjective interpretation of somebody’s actions also wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.

    Sorry to disagree with you again Chris, but…

  21. Chris Says:


  22. Paul Says:

    Amazing how anyone can still deny Chavez supports the FARC. Or at least he did until Uribe smashed them up so badly that Chavez recently realized he needed to cut bait.

    Here’s a few examples that Chavez supporters may try to argue individually, but look pretty damning in totality:

    According to the Washington Post, ” Declassified U.S. cables and Pentagon intelligence reports show that as far back as the late 1980s, Colombian and U.S. officials were reporting that Chávez and people close to him were meeting with Colombian rebels. They discussed, among other things, how the guerrillas wanted to create a semiautonomous region along the border between the two countries, according to the documents, obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University and shared with The Washington Post.”

    *Captured Reyes laptop reveals FARC delivered a large sum of money to Chavez when he was in prison. An honest mind would ask, why would they be so generous?

    *November, 2000, Olga Marin, Tirofijo’s daughter,spoke at Venezuela’s National Assembly and thanked the Venezuelan government for the “support.”

    *A June 2000 video leaked by dissenters in the Venezuelan military showed FARC and Venezuelan officers meeting and cooperating.

    * 2004, FARC commander Ricardo Granda, living openly in Caracas, was captured and taken back to Colombia. Hugo cries Granda’s car trunk extradition was a violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. FARC said Granda was in Caracas for a conference “at the invitation of Bolivarian organizations based in Venezuela, with the approval of (Venezuelan) government authorities.”

    *Pablo Beltrán affirmed that Chávez and the ELN were a part of the same organization: the Sao Paulo Forum, founded by Fidel Castro. The FARC are part of the same network.

    “The Venezuelan government lets Farc operate freely because they share the same left-wing, Bolivarian ideals, and because Farc bribes their people.”
    ~Quote from Ex-FARC terrorist to “The Guardian” online.

    *2004 Khadaffy Award winner Chavez is pals with Carlos the Jackal. Doesn’t prove FARC connection but is kind of a “birds of a feather” indirect evidence.

    *During the “Operation Emmanuel” exchange of prisoners, Chavez flunkie Rodrigo Chacin, who is known to have FARC connections going back many years, tells FARC terrorists to “keep up the fight” and “We are with you…Be strong. We are following your cause.”

    *In a classic example of “thou doth protest too much,” Chavez basically admitted he was harboring FARC leaders when he declared if Uribe were to attempt snuffing out some FARC terrorists inside Venezuela, there would be war. He declares he is sending 10 divisions to the Venezuelan border in response to the Reyes barbeque.

    *On Mar 2 ‘08, Chavez says, “We pay tribute to a true revolutionary, who was Raúl Reyes,” recalling that he had met the rebel in Brazil in 1995(almost assuredy the Sao Paulo Forum) and calling him a “good revolutionary.”
    He asks for a moment of silence in mourning.

    More, and video examples, at Devil’s Excrement:

    Sure, explain away items here and there, quibble over the exact meaning of “300″(though it almost certainly means some measure of money) but there are enough single pearls here to string together a grand necklace.

  23. MZR Says:

    This is so tiring… All of the evidence is circumstantial. None of this would stand-up in court. I know it. The Colombian government knows it. The ICC knows it. Giving ideological support is completely different from proving monetary support, logistical support, etc.

    “Here’s a few examples that Chavez supporters may try to argue individually, but look pretty damning in totality: ”

    None of the evidence is “damning”, in my opinion. I also think this is the opinion of many Colombian lawyers working for the Colombian government who would love nothing more than submit a case against Chávez to the ICC… But, again, there simply isn’t enough evidence.

    I notice, Paul, you didn’t include:

    “The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has called on the Colombian rebel group, FARC, to end its decades long rebellion and free the hundreds of hostages it’s holding. In his weekly television and radio programme on Sunday, Mr Chavez urged Mr Cano to “let all these people [hostages] go”. “There are old folk, women, sick people, soldiers who have been prisoners in the mountain for 10 years,” he added. “The guerrilla war is history. At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place.””


    “Colombia’s defence minister [Juan Manuel Santos] has welcomed a call by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for Farc rebels to end their four-decade struggle.

    Paul: “*Captured Reyes laptop reveals FARC delivered a large sum of money to Chavez when he was in prison. An honest mind would ask, why would they be so generous?”

    Again, is it really worth me reiterating the problematic nature of the “laptops” and the aforementioned emails, none of which prove Chávez is funding the Farc? Just read above (or listen to what analysts like Adam Isacson say when they also report their doubts about the captured laptops).

    Paul: “*2004 Khadaffy Award winner Chavez is pals with Carlos the Jackal. Doesn’t prove FARC connection but is kind of a “birds of a feather” indirect evidence.”

    Ridiculous to even use this as evidence. I don’t even need to comment on this.

    Paul: “Chavez basically admitted he was harboring FARC leaders when he declared if Uribe were to attempt snuffing out some FARC terrorists inside Venezuela, there would be war.”

    How on earth do you equate that Chávez “basically admitted he was harbouring FARC leaders” from this? You don’t mention that any incursion into Venezuela would be a violation of the sovereignty of Venezuela, the same as if Chávez launched an incursion into Colombia to attack paramilitaries who, as we have seen this week, had Chávez on their hit-list.

    Again, I’m losing the will to continually comment on this point. I have already posted quite a lot on this point. So, can we say Chávez 100% isn’t funding the Farc? No, nobody can. Can we say he is is funding the Farc? Also, no. And until there is substantial evidence that categorically proves this point, it is still baffling to me that people assert with certainty that he is guilty.

    Also, many of the same arguments could be used to link Uribe to funding/supporting the paramilitaries. But I’m not stupid enough to say “Uribe categorically supported the paramilitaries”. Do I suspect this? Yes. Can I prove it? No. So, in all honesty, I have to accept that Uribe is innocent until proven guilty. The same is true of Chávez.

  24. MZR Says:

    Well, I think I’ve posted enough on this point. For the reasons I’ve stated above (plus none of the evidence you’ve provided, Paul, would stand up in any court of law), we simply cannot say that Chávez funds the Farc. Does he ideologically support the Farc? I think so (although clearly he does not agree with all the Farc’s methods and, indeed, has called for them to give up their “struggle”). But this is different from funding the Farc. The same could be said about Uribe. Does he ideologically support the paras? I think so. Does he fund the paras (or has he accepted money from the paras, etc)? I suspect so but I can’t categorically prove it, therefore he is innocent until proven guilty. The same should be true of Chávez.

  25. MZR Says:

    Also, one last point:

    Paul: “Sure, explain away items here and there, quibble over the exact meaning of “300″(though it almost certainly means some measure of money)”

    Can you prove this Paul? How does it “almost certainly” mean a measure of money? This is the point I’m most interested in and, indeed, if you can prove this I would be happy to concede the point. But, until you prove it, I simply cannot accept it. Also, the reason we are “quibbling” about this point (300) is because is is this figure, the ‘300′, that the Colombian government is relying on to “prove” Chávez provided funds for the Farc.

  26. MZR Says:

    Sorry, let me correct myself: “Also, the reason we are “quibbling” about this point (300) is because it is this figure, the ‘300′, that the Colombian government is relying on to “prove” Chávez provided funds for the Farc.”

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