The Zapatistas and the Other Campaign: Pedestrians of History III
Part Three: The Longest Day and the Longest Year
By Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Translated by Narco News
October 3, 2006
1. The year 2006 started in the month of January… 2004
Vicente Fox’s mediocrity as the head of the federal executive branch and the personal ambition of his consort, Martha Sahagún, meant that the dispute over Fox’s succession was not only advanced early but also with unprecedented brazenness and shamelessness.
In any case, the basic “laws” of the politics of those at the top were clear. The scene was, and is, that of neoliberal politics. The actors can move from one extreme to the other (actually, that is what they did), as long as they do not stray from the established script (which is to say, maintain and increase “the macroeconomic variables”). The policy of those at the top was, and is, one of restricted access: the only ones allowed to play are the political parties; the citizen’s role is to be a silent spectator (who only applauds or boos on election day), watching as the scandals unfold. Besides, all of the political “actors” (never before has this label better suited them) seem to have recognized that the terrain of the mass media is the only suitable place for their tasks. In, and from, the media we have the new reference point for modern democracy: polls. Polls have become the postmodern version of the “applause-o-meter.” There was not, and is not, a single political player at the top who does not pay attention to them.
As should be remembered, the struggle for the presidential succession acquired a stronger tone around the beginning of 2004. Through a series of home videos, one-time PRD “boss” Carlos Ahumada was used by the mass media to land a blow against López Obrador. People close to the López Obrador administration were seen by millions of people gambling in Las Vegas and receiving large sums of money. In a work clearly brought to fruition with the hand of the “Coyote” Diego Fernández de Valle, the media (particularly the electronic media) took over the role of public ministries to convict, judge and condemn…to the most serious possible sentence for the Mexican political class: being discredited by the media.
Although the scandal started with the family clan behind the Green Ecologist Party, the blow mainly affected the then-leader in the presidential race, according the Federal Electoral Institute (the IFE, by its Spanish acronym) (in other words, according to the polls): Andrés Manuel López Obrador. To defend himself, López Obrador turned to what would become his most helpful resource and preferred phrase: “it’s a conspiracy.”
And it was. The filming as much as the handling of the videos was part of a maneuver designed to destroy him. The “Presidential couple” was starting to buy into a special fear: López-Obrador-phobia. This fear explains why they used the entire apparatus at their disposal and the “disinterested” help of some of the mass media outlets to “cure” themselves (it would have been cheaper, in all senses, to go to the psychoanalyst, but Doña Martha was willing to bear the costs for one simple reason: she wanted to show that she was in charge).
However, neither López Obrador nor the PRD (or any of the many apologists who began to surface) responded to the fundamental questions: why were these people accepting bribes and using the public treasury? And why were these people still close to the PRD front man? The brutality of the media maneuver against López Obrador (often referred to by his initials, AMLO) prevented them from taking on these questions.
The attempt to disqualify López Obrador from the race continued. Not only did Fox fail in that effort, but he also converted López Obrador into the strongest candidate, on a national level, in the presidential race.
2. A long, long 3rd of July.
While 2006 has become the longest year, July 3 (the day on which we were to find out who would be the next president) was the most drawn-out day. A fraud committed by the Mexican government, and supported by a sector of the most powerful business owners and by some mass media outlets, gave the presidency to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, of the National Action Party (PAN).
July 3 began the day before, at 1500hrs (3pm) and stretched on until September 4, the day that seven people on the Federal Electoral Tribunal (known as the TRIFE) usurped the votes of millions of Mexicans. With the TRIFE verdict (a true “jewel” of juridical stupidity: “yes there was cheating, but it did not affect the results”), the crisis of the Mexican political system’s self-proclaimed “representative democracy” (which is to say, electoral democracy) reached its most critical point.
After millions of pesos were spent on laughable campaigns; after the political players (most notably those from the mafia of criminals called the “Federal Electoral Institute”) held every form of debate, political advertisement, press conference and public declaration about the value of voting and the importance of civic participation; after many people were killed, disappeared, taken prisoner, and beaten in the struggle for the legitimate right to democracy; after the reforms and amendments; and after the “citizen-ization” of the electoral apparatus, the naming of the next head of the federal government was not determined by the largest number of votes cast, but rather by the decision of seven “judges.”
While it took more than 2 months to clinch the deal of electoral fraud, this was due, in a large part, to the actions of resistance carried out by the mass movement led, directed and controlled by Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
We denounced the fraud at 8pm on July 3, on the radio program “Sidewalk Politics” (produced by the People’s Front-UNIOS, an adherent to the Sixth Declaration), putting the number of manipulated votes at one and a half million. This led to an order being issued from Los Pinos [the Mexican presidential residence] to the owner of the radio station to cancel the program. (We later found out that the ban extended to all of the large chain radio stations and that, curiously, it was “lifted” after the TRIFE validated the election results.) Our report denouncing the fraud (and the subsequent cancellation of the radio program) only merited the disdain of the “respected supporters of López Obrador.” More than a week later, these leaders finally began to realize – and speak out against – what had happened.
What we are presenting here is what we know about one part of the story behind one of the most clumsy and dirty acts of fraud in the long history of the Mexican political class. The information came from people “from within” who were direct witnesses. Although it is not possible to confirm the information (there are no recordings or videos), it can be corroborated by “cross-checking” the facts that various citizens without party affiliation have publicly provided.
July 2, 2006. 3pm. – The exit polls indicate that the winner will be the candidate from the so-called “Coalition for the Good of All,” Andrés Manuel López Obrador, by a margin of one million to one and a half million votes over the candidate from the National Action Party, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. At Los Pinos, the official Presidential residence, the “Presidential couple” received the news with distorted expressions. Their calculations had failed. According to their calculations, the gigantic campaign designed to damage the reputation of López Obrador, as well as the maneuverings of our native Lady Macbeth ([teachers’ union boss] Elba Esther Gordillo) to transfer votes from the PRI to the PAN, should have been enough to overcome López Obrador by close to a million votes. But Plan “A” to make Calderón president was failing.
- Plan A: According to the calculations made at Los Pinos, in a universe of around 40 million actual voters (all of the political players predicted a 40% abstention rate during the weeks leading up to the election), López Obrador would receive about 15 million votes, and Calderón and Madrazo would hover around 13 million each. However, “the teacher” had promised to “transport” 3 million votes, “expropriated” from Madrazo’s pile, to the PAN party candidate’s balance. The result would be close: 16 million for Calderón, no more than 15 milion for López Obrador (and Madrazo with 10 million or less). With good management of the media, the results would be found “legitimate,” because it would be a “clean” maneuver, which is to say, it would be done without leaving any traces in the vote casting or polling places. It would be an exemplary election, one free of the “vices” with which the PRI had marred the electoral process before the “Fox era”: there would be no “crazy mice” [voters scurrying from one voting booth to another after being deleted from lists], no “casillas zapatos” [polling booths where one candidate unrealistically receives more than 95 percent of the vote], no “Operation Tamale” [taking voters out for breakfast and then giving them a free ride to polling stations; all these well-known dirty tricks from elections past] no robbing of vote boxes, none of the etc., etc. of tricks that were to be kept in the past.
But the balances were not working out: this July 2, López Obrador could have reached 15.5 million votes, and Calderón might not have even reached 14 million. There was no time to recruit and train the old “alchemists” of the PRI (besides, some of them – like José Guardarrama – were running as PRD party candidates).
- Plan B. – Nearing hysteria, Fox’s Martha Sahagún pressured the self-proclaimed President of Mexico, Vicente Fox Quesada, to get in contact with “the teacher,” Elba Esther Gordillo. Fox, as is his custom, obeyed Ms. Sahagún and used the “red telephone” to get in direct contact with Gordillo. She confirmed the information: López Obrador would come out on top with an advantage of about one million votes. “What do we do?” asked Fox. “I want to speak with Felipe,” responded Elba Esther. The hands of the clock had not even marked the passing of half an hour before the following three-way conversation took place:
Vicente Fox: Teacher, Felipe is on the line.
Elba Esther Gordillo: Felipe?
Felipe Calderón: Yes?
Elba Esther Gordillo: I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse…
When the telephone conversation was over, Plan B was set in motion: following the advice of Gordillo, Mr. Fox made another phone call, this time to Mr. Ugalde, president of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). He asked Ugalde to “administer” the Electoral Preliminary Results Program (PREP) so that results would begin to appear, and continue to appear in the appropriate doses, so as to position Felipe Calderón ahead of López Obrador. (This is why the result “curves” acted in such strange and abnormal ways – ways that were denounced by various specialists who voiced their concerns, more than anywhere else, in Julio Hernández López’s column “Astillero” in the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada.)
A new call to the large media companies established a pact of silence about the exit poll results. The agreed-upon version held that the exit polls could not produce results; everyone must wait instead for the IFE (ha!) to give the results. A scam. The mass media had done what they wanted with the “electoral institutions” and had imposed (in agreement with ALL of the parties and ALL of the candidates) the culture of polls as the “democratic model.” It was endlessly funny that Mr. Joaquín López Dóriga (anchorman for Televisa and minister of facts in the area of communication) and Mr. Javer Alatorre (anchorman for TV Azteca), as well as their “mirrors” in radio and print media, called for the public to wait for the “electoral authorities” to resolve the issue of the elections.
In the end, the objective of all of this was to obtain something fundamental: time.
“Time, I need time,” the “teacher” Elba Esther Gordillo said in the culminating moment of her three-way conversation with Fox and Calderón. “Give me a few hours and I will take charge,” she stated before ending their phone chat.
Gordillo then began to activate the telephone network (including via satellite) that she used for “cases of extreme necessity.” The “teacher” gave out orders to her operators dispersed to key points on the electoral map. The order was simple: modify the precinct results.
The absence of representatives from the so-called “Coalition for the Good of All” as part of the strategic plan for polling places was very helpful. The journalists Gloria Leticia Díaz and Daniel Lizárraga, from the Mexican weekly Proceso (#1549. July 9, 2006, “The Networks, A Failure”) point out how the so-called “citizen networks” made it difficult for the Coalition to participate in observation efforts at the polling places, as did López Obrador’s distrust of the party structure of the PRD and the buying and selling of elections observers: “According to official information from the PRD, the majority of resources – around 300 million pesos – were directed to this parallel organization (referring to the citizen networks) and managed by (Alberto) Pérez Mendoza. López Obrador only began to allow the PRD to intervene a week before July 2, distributing the lists of representatives at polling places to local leaders to coordinate observation efforts during the voting process. Despite the fact that this information had already been made public by the IFE, campaign headquarters had prevented the lists from going out to the party members in charge of observing elections, to prevent them “selling” the lists to the PRI or the PAN. A PRD party member who did not receive the list of representatives stationed at polling places until midnight on Friday, June 30 confessed to Proceso that while party militants were prohibited from taking part in the electoral structure, when he made a trip to coordinate with all of the representatives in charge of observing polling places he found that “some had PRI or PAN party propaganda on the fronts of their houses, which is why we had to start an operation on Sunday to monitor our own elections observers.” On July 2, his story continues, he went to look for the representatives who were not at the polling places where they had been stationed, and they told him that while the PRD had given them 200 pesos to monitor the elections, there were others who had given them 1,000 pesos not to show up. The absence of representatives at polling places across the country averaged about 30%, which inevitably weakened the expectations of votes cast for López Obrador, above all in the north and northeastern regions of the nation, zones originally assigned to Manuel Camacho Solís and Socorro Díaz. According to IFE figures, the coalition claimed that in Nuevo Léon its observation efforts would cover 90.55% of polling places, but internal PRD documents – to which this weekly was granted access – show that its actual presence was around 31%” (emphasis added).
Yes, the “teacher” had done her homework. She had in her power detailed information showing not only the location of polling places but also the composition of the electorate and its possible political preferences; she also had the names of those who were working as functionaries and representatives in each place. That is to say, she knew the “weak spots” of the entire electoral system. In addition, she had “passed off” her own staunch supporters to the ranks of the Coalition’s election observers.
So that is where the essence of the fraud lies. A new recount of votes would reveal a neat and transparent trick: in a significant number of polling places, what appeared on the record does not correspond to the pile of votes sitting in boxes.
The demand made by the Coalition for the Good of All, and by the citizen movement led by López Obrador, to recount “vote by vote, precinct by precinct” was not only legitimate and correct, it was also aimed at revealing where, how and by whom the fraud had been committed. And one last “small detail”: the new vote tally would reveal that the winner of the July presidential elections was, and is, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
That is the reason why Calderón, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the media outlets complicit in the fraud, and later the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TRIFE) all flatly and repeatedly refused to allow the vote by vote count. To do so would have meant providing evidence that López Obrador did indeed triumph in the elections, and would have made public a long list of electoral criminals (with Ugalde, the president of the IFE, at the head of the list).
Although one group of the “learned” cretins supporting López Obrador immediately “bought” the version that he had lost the elections, and launched a Holy Crusade to find those responsible for his defeat (this list included Marcos, the EZLN and the Other Campaign), the truth is that:
- López Obrador won the presidential elections on July 2, 2006.
- The president and the IFE committed fraud.
- A few mass media outlets manipulated the entire process.
- The opinion polls were just a trick. Polls do not “measure” public opinion; they “create” it.
- The party organization and citizen networks were ineffective, they worked against each other and some became corrupt.
3. Other lies
During the days following the elections, an effort to turn a lie into truth began to surface from the most diverse and prominent fields, claiming that the turnout for the elections on July 2, 2006 was the highest ever and that the level of abstention was down. But this is nothing more than a huge lie (almost as big a lie as saying that Fecal – Felipe Calderón – had won the elections). Since 1994 the drop in electoral participation has been constant. We will simply point out three things: while the voting register has grown – from 1994 to 2006 – by 26 million, the number of voters only grew by 6 million, which means that only 23% of Mexicans who began voting in 1994 voted in 2006. On the other hand, the rate of abstention reached 22% in 1994, 36% in 2000 and reached at least 41.5% in 2006. Additionally, the votes cast in presidential elections have dropped: Zedillo received more than one million votes more than Fox, and more than 2 million votes more than the total given to Calderón (even though the voting register for the most recent elections was 76% larger than in 1994). Abstention (including voided votes) in the current election included more than 30 million citizens, and the sum of votes given to Fecal and AMLO combined do not match this figure.
4. Why fraud?
Understanding how, where and by whom the electoral fraud was committed leaves open the question of “why?”
Even though, as we Zapatistas have said, AMLO was the “best” option (the “lesser evil,” in the words of the learned cretins) to continue along with the same neoliberal policy, and would have finalized with legitimacy (and even “critical” support from intellectuals) the privatization of oil, electricity and natural resources (through the process of “co-investing”);
Even though the difference between AMLO and Fecal was not between two different national projects, because both of them defended the founding bases of the neoliberal project (for the record: NAFTA, privatization, a Mexico of sweatshops, autonomy for the Bank of Mexico, punctual payment of external and internal debts, Mexico as a thruway for the world’s biggest markets – López Obrador’s proposal included the Trans-Isthmus Corridor, the bullet train, and finishing the 21st Century Highway);
Even though there was also no difference in the relationship they each established between society and politics (for the record: this holds that the political duties only belong to the political class);
All of this being as it was, why did the people at the top opt for Calderón? The presumption to ask this question is not the mere product of our “radical infancy.” Elena Poniatowska asked Andrés Manuel López Obrador the same question in an interview, to which he responded as follows:
E.P.: Andrés Manuel, I sincerely believe that the large business owners should not be afraid of you, because you becoming president would not affect them.
AMLO: No, no it wouldn’t. They closed themselves off because of a campaign of fear, they let themselves be scrapped and they believed the whole black legend, and now they have entered into a conflict.
E.P: If you make it to the presidency, would you take anything away from them?
AMLO: No, I have said it many times in the public plaza; I’ve said that I do not hate, that vengeance is not my strong suit.
E.P.: How is it possible that they have failed to realize that no country can continue forward with an immense mass of people who do not have purchasing power?
AMLO: They do not realize this because they are unable to understand that it is not possible to make a country governable, or to guarantee social peace, calm and public security in a sea, an ocean of inequality; political, social, economic, and financial stability can not be achieved while this situation of injustice, abandonment, backwardness, and poverty continues to exist for the majority of people. The business owners are very backwards, very reactionary.
In summary, López Obrador offered three fundamental things to the capitalists:
- The rise of a government that would not appropriate quite as much of the social excess. Corruption would continue, but with a much more developed level of self-control (and with less exposure to video camera).
- The capacity for social control, which would provide a base and guarantee for the investment of capital. One example: the idea of the Trans-Isthmus Corridor has existed since the era in which the so-called “Plan Puebla-Panama” was just a paper circulating from office to office, university to university. Since then, neither the PRI nor the PAN has been able to implement the Trans-Isthmus project (which envisions re-designing the national geography by overrunning borders). AMLO was confident that he could obtain social consensus to carry out this project (which, it is not too harsh to claim, would wipe out the indigenous population of the region).
- The reconstruction of state power, which would permit the re-consolidation of the political class so that it would not only protect its own personal interest, but would also become the instrument to build a longer-term project within the limits of neoliberalism.
In essence, AMLO promised them a strong, governable state, calm, social peace, public security and stability. In other words, exactly what capital needs in order to prosper.
Why then didn’t the corporate business owners “grab” the offer extended by López Obrador?
“They let themselves be scrapped and they believed the whole black legend,” AMLO says (actually, the large business owners were not the only ones to believe the “black legend” that López Obrador was a leftist; some leftist political organizations, social organizations and intellectuals also believed it).
Yes, AMLO is right in his response: it was because they believed the myth that he was a leftist… an anti-capitalist. But it was not just because of that. Here we will present “other” attempts to respond, always in line with our form of thinking as Zapatistas, which holds:
First: The business of Power. Politics from above in Mexico generates significant income (one just has to invest in a political party), and the process of privatization of the two pearls of the old Mexican State (oil and electricity) will generate millions for whoever authorizes their sale. Since it is believed that the price of PEMEX is 250 billion dollars, we can see that its sale would pad the pockets of whoever administers the sale. In this sense, the fight to become president is, above all, a fight for control of a very lucrative business.
Second: The real power of Narco-Trafficking. Privatization is not the only business for politicians (from president to secretaries of state to governors, municipal presidents, congress members and senators), there is also the business known as “the administration of drug trafficking,” which consists of currying favor to one of the drug cartels. It can be said that, in the “era” of Fox, the Chapo Guzmán cartel was the chosen and pampered cartel of the past six years. The entire structure of the state: the military, the federal police, and the judicial system (including judges and prison directors), was put into the service of this cartel in its fight against the others. This relationship was established not only with Fox’s group, but also managed to incorporate sectors of the PRD that, having won governorships, immediately entered into the ring of negotiation with the cartel, as was the case with the governors of the states Michoacán and Guerrero. In this way, much more than in the era of the PRI, the political class plays its part in organized crime. The Presidency of the Republic is also important because, well, when a political group reaches the level of Power that “administrates” the judicial apparatus, it reaches that place by the hand of one of the drug cartels.
Despite the advantages that AMLO promised the moneyed business owners, in the end they did not follow suit and take the direction that is being opted for all over Latin America: passing neoliberal projects into the hands of “leftist” governments that guarantee to “smooth out” barbaric capitalism. The tunnel vision of the majority of the political class, and primarily of its associated bourgeoisie, led the political elite to choose the familiar path of things previously tried, and by doing so provoked the worst crisis of power in recent years. At the very top, among those who really run things, it was decided to instate Calderón without concern for what that decision would bring about.
5. The political parties.
July 2 showed that the political parties have ceased to exist, whether because of their process of assimilation into organized crime, or because they have become nothing more than umbrellas for this or that boss, or for this or that owner of industry. The political forces at the top no longer possess any of the characteristics that used to define political parties. Now it is hard to say that they are anything more than the “cocktail” in which corrupt businessmen and criminals with or without white collars are mixed together. The program, the principles, the statutes? Come on! – that stuff is for infantile radicals and “ultra” extremists.
But let’s see what the different political options at the top are:
- PRI: The PRI side worked under the illusion that its old corporatist vote was going to show up when the votes were cast on July 2. The PRI’s electoral triumphs in the 2005 state elections permitted them to work under the assumption that, despite the polls and their repulsive candidate Madrazo, their strongholds would allow them to win the presidency. But they failed to take into account the “teacher” Elba Esther Gordillo.
In reality, the waste laid to the old corporatist structure of the PRI is more significant than what they had assumed. The old labor unions, which have become more and more diminished, and less and less operational, divided even further when the leadership of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Farmers (CROC) decided to support AMLO. In this way, the PRI – and all of its old corporate structure along with it – entered into a profound crisis that prevented it from creating new structures for bureaucratic control. The new labor federations, like the National Union of Workers (UNT), formed from old PRI extractions, decided to support AMLO with the conviction and the promise that they would become the new organism for bureaucratic control. A new form of corporatism arose this way, under the ideology of a “new labor culture,” one very closely tied to the bosses. This situation in the PRI highlights one of the essential characteristics of the present crisis: the old mechanisms of control are not only losing their operational capacity, but are also, more importantly, becoming burdensome. So many years of PRI domination have provoked a double-edged effect: on one hand, the PRI has become unable to regenerate itself; on the other, the PRI has become the “ideal” to achieve in terms of becoming the party of the State. For this reason, there is an abundance of “ex-PRI” party members in the PAN, the PRD and even the smaller “bonsai” parties.
- PAN: The National Action Party (PAN) has been pitching the final shovelfuls of dirt into the grave that Vicente Fox dug for the party. The party was just a screen that served the president (or, to be more specific: Martha Sahagún) to commit fraud – not just the fraud of July 2, but also the fraud committed throughout the preceding electoral process: the relationship with polling agencies, the alliance with mass media, the organization of a complete team of business owners and organizations to carry out a media war against AMLO; the alliance (which would later become a relationship of subordination) with Elba Esther Gordillo; the gaining of resources that were the product of six years of protection provided to the drug cartel of Chapo Guzmán; etc.
The PAN went through a definitive process of transformation: the old democratic-conservative party, which played a certain role in the struggle against the one party system, finally and definitively ceased to exist. If the PAN had been sufficiently beaten by the arrival of the “barbarians from the north,” this process was intensified by the arrival of the “presidential couple” onto the scene. Their presence made the PAN lose all of its identity and converted it into a blue-tinted PRI, especially in the sense of its use of nepotism within the state apparatus to benefit, its ties to organized crime, and the use of functionaries that were paid to not do their work (the similarities between Luis H. Álvarez, Fox’s “Commissioner of Peace” and Emilio Rabasa, who served the same function for Zedillo, are many).
At the same time, a secret ultra-rightwing organization – “the Anvil” (“el Yunque”) – has taken control of the party’s leadership. While the fascist nature of this organization is clear, it is also clear that the right is not united or indivisible (see the books written about this clandestine organization written by Álvaro Delgado). The Anvil’s presidential candidate was, at first, Martha Sahagún; then it selected Santiago Creel. Fecal’s triumph in the dispute over the PAN party nomination forced the Anvil to reposition itself and now it is bidding to have the same privileges with Calderón that it enjoyed with Fox.
Until this point, the PAN has been incapable of finding the mechanisms to build a stable and long-term form of social dominance (which is what capital needs in order to “invest”). While the current PAN leadership does not have the slightest idea as to what constitutes a “politics of the masses,” Fecal’s team is even worse off. That is why Elba Esther Gordillo will be the new ideologue-operator-leader. Yes, a PRI member will direct, in effect, the PAN party.
- The dwarf parties: The New Alliance (PANAL) and the Social Democratic Alternative (PASC) were two parties created to suit the times of this electoral and political moment. Their creation evidences the true objective of the current electoral law: those in power will determine who will be their “rivals.” There is no real possibility in the current existing legal landscape to create an authentic political party that can enter into the political debates independently and with autonomy. The electoral path has become a route closed off to those dedicated to honest struggle.
- PRD-PT-Convergence: Up until the day of July 2, the Coalition for the Good of All was reveling in its triumph… without having won anything. The intellectuals that are yelling hysterically today about the ultra-right taking control of the government limited themselves to repeating to us, “smile, we’re going to win,” and it is public knowledge that on July 1, the López Obrador team was already dividing up its “bones.” But we will speak more about the Coalition, the resistance movement against the fraud and the National Democratic Convention (CND) that backed López Obrador later on.
6. And below?
Well, below is something else entirely…
(To be continued…)
By the Revolutionary Clandestine Indigenous Committee-General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation.
Sixth Commission of the EZLN.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
México, September 2006.
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