SEMlac reports

SEMlac reports (330)

Mexico, September (SEMlac).- Local women's organizations will prepare a Beijing+20 alternative report to review the progress made and the setbacks identified in government policies under the Program of Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in China in 1995.

The methodology to be used for the document was agreed upon earlier this month in the Federal District. The meeting was attended by over 70 women from 22 states.

They now plan to address specific problems they are currently facing in reports that will be incorporated into the final document, which is expected to be completed by next December.

They will go over government actions in the last 20 years, including public policies for women's equality and against violence and discrimination, as established in the Beijing Platform for Action.

"The idea is to come up with a document that will make country realities visible," said Lourdes García, head of Ciudadanía en Movimiento (Citizens in Action).

"We plan to develop a post-2015 agenda for women, covering their approaches

to problem-solving, the dissemination of relevant information and the promotion of feminist cadres," stressed Magdalena García, a specialist at the Bufete de Estudios Interdisciplinarios (Interdisciplinary Study Center).



Representatives of 189 States and 30,000 activists from all over the world attended the Beijing Conference.

Government delegations and women's organizations reached major agreements after two-week discussions, including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which sought to promote women's equality and empowerment.

The Platform included 12 main areas: women and poverty, women's education and training, women and health, violence against women, women and armed conflicts, women and economics, women in the exercise of power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, women's human rights, women and the media, women and the environment, and girls.

The Beijing+5 review was made at the United Nations headquarters in June 2000. Around 1,000 NGOs gathered together with government representatives of 148 countries to discuss the progress made and adopt new measures to speed up the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The subsequent five-year reviews have consistently asked States to honor commitments, but no country has so far met the Program in full, especially in connection with gender violence and sexual and reproductive rights.

Next March, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women will examine and evaluate the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform in the last 20 years.


Alternative views

The Mexican government has already prepared its report, and local feminists will soon conduct an assessment of it, including both advances and setbacks.

"We will identify good practices on the basis of UN strategic objectives and indicators," García told SEMlac.

"And we will also address priorities like the situation of urban, rural, older, disabled, indigenous and HIV-positive women", she concluded.


Santo Domingo, September (SEMlac).- "Unemployment is affecting mainly young women (aged 15 to 24) in the country," said Vice-president Margarita Cedeño on August 28.

She made the statement at a forum on diversity organized by Philip Morris (company) in Santiago de los Caballeros.

"The time has come to put an end to gender violence and provide women with additional, better opportunities," she added.

"Out of 10 jobs available, six are taken by men," she exemplified.

"Most women are currently working in the informal sector, with no social security or other benefits," she indicated.

Liliana Cabeza, Philip Morris general manager in the country, highlighted

the efforts made by women to play the roles of mothers, wives and workers at

the same time.

"This forum aims to recognize successful professional women," she noted.



Wage gaps between men and women clearly show how challenging gender inequality is in the country.

The overall participation rate stands at 69.8 percent for men and 44.9 percent for women, according to the latest multi-purpose household survey.

Conducted by the National Office of Statistics (ONE) in late 2013 and published by Listín Diario newspaper last June, the survey showed that the gender gap is even greater in rural areas.

A World Bank report indicated that the Dominican economic growth rate had been the highest in the region last year (4.1 percent).

It said, however, that the island has failed to overcome poverty, which is still affecting four million people.

It added that inequality has limited social progress and will not make it possible to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

"The country is lagging behind in the generation of decent jobs," it concluded.


Mexico City, August (SEMlac Special).- Over 50 women reporters have been attacked in the last eight months for professional reasons, including 12 in the capital city, according to the Center for the Defense of Journalists' Rights (CDP).

"A total of 433 men reporters have also been attacked and four have been killed so far this year, while local authorities have shown no interest in conducting investigations," said Sara Lovera, CDP gender commissioner, at a recent Forum on Violence, Power and Freedom of Expression.

Last August 15, the Mexican government was expected to react to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which deems the country as the most dangerous nation for the functioning of journalists in the world.

The Commission got involved after Miguel Badillo, editor-in-chief of Contralínea magazine,

denounced that its offices had been assaulted and files and computing equipment had been stolen earlier this year. Its administrator had been killed a couple of years ago.

Against this background, the Commission asked the federal government to take recautionary measures because the magazine staff was at serious risk.

Speaking at the Forum, Manuel Granados, chairman of the Government Committee at the Legislative Assembly in the Federal District (ALDF), announced that a new comprehensive law is in the making to protect journalists and human rights defenders.

He indicated that six out of 10 threats against reporters come from civil servants and organized crime.

A representative of the Citizens' Movement undertook to support CDP and the establishment of a shelter for reporters at risk.

Lovera proposed that ALDF should investigate the final use made of the resources allocated to guarantee freedom of expression in the country.

She also requested the Forum to support the implementation of recommendations seeking to redress the current situation, which includes acts of intimidation, threats and economic damage.

She recalled that 76 journalists had been killed and another 16 had gone missing in the 2000-2013 period, including 25 women.

She indicated that CDP has identified 52 attacks on women reporters so far this year, including Citlali L. López in Oaxaca.

López had been threatened by Gervasio Martínez, leader of the Broad Front for the Struggle of the People (FALP), because she had covered the case of Elizabeth Sánchez, a local government official in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

The list of journalists who have been attacked this year includes Carmen Aristegui, director of a radio show, and Denis Dresser, a political scientist. They have both criticized government and business-sector actions.

Lovera said that, some years ago, a shelter for journalists in the capital city started to receive reporters from other states.

"A couple of offices to fight crimes against freedom of expression were established. They aim to promote dialogue between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. Everything seemed to go well at the time," she added.

"CDP is both a civil-society organization and a service provider," she noted. "It will probably be closed down because of lack of resources," she regretted.

"It has since early 2011 implemented 113 actions for 1,040 reporters in 24 states of the Republic, as well as 30 precautionary, 50 remedial and 32 preventive measures," she remarked.

CDP representative Rogelio Hernández told SEMlac that he had been taken aback by government officials who had declared that 70 percent of threats to reporters come from their own agencies.

"Acts of violence in the Federal District are a source of concern. There is an urgent need for

political will and social awareness," she concluded.

Buenos Aires, August (SEMlac Special). - States have the duty to guarantee a violence-free society for women.

Last July 24, however, a court ruling in Córdoba (Argentina) was a turning point in connection with the responsibility of the State in women's murder cases.

A 19-year-old girl and her six-month-old son had been killed by her sexual partner in 2000, after having issued several reports to the police.

Fourteen years later, the local justice system has forced the State to provide her family with over 12,000-dollar compensation for moral damage.

Judge Claudia Zalazar said that the ruling set a precedent regarding the responsibility of the State in gender violence prevention, punishment and eradication.

This is set forth in the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belém do Pará Convention) of October 1994, which was ratified by Argentina under Law No. 24,632.

Zalazar told media representatives that the ruling had been based on María da Penha's case in Brazil.

Fabiana Tuñez, head of Casa del Encuentro, a civil-society organization, highlighted the need for such a ruling to be replicated all over the country.


Paving the way for reports

The Córdoba ruling came in a country where there were 295 women's murders only in 2013, according to the Casa del Encuentro Observatory.

Tuñez underscored the need for the police and the court to provide gender-violence victims willing to report to their cases with effective protection and comprehensive support.

"There is also a need to establish long-term economic assistance mechanisms," she added.

"We strongly believe that the National Action Plan on Gender Violence Prevention, Punishment and Eradication should be implemented all over the country," she indicated.

Mexican lawyer Ana L. Delgadillo told SEMlac that States should give top priority to prevention rather than to criminal actions.

"Prevention and education provide the only way to gradually reduce deeply rooted social problems such as acts of violence against women," she concluded.



A campaign on the loss of authority over children

Casa del Encuentro has submitted a bill seeking to withdraw the rights of women's murderers over their children.

"It has had quite an impact on the media, the House of Representatives, the Senate and all of society. We hope that it will be passed into law," Tuñez remarked.


Santo Domingo, July (SEMlac Special).- Leonela Sánchez and Patria Cruz are 20 years old and have just given birth to their second children at the Nuestra Señora de Altagracia maternity hospital in downtown, Santo Domingo.

They can only hope that their husbands, who are working abroad, will help them out. They have merely completed intermediate-level education and have no support other than their mothers'.

They are part of the 98 teenage pregnancy cases seen in the country every year, twice the number in the world, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Hospital director Víctor Calderón highlighted that this age group accounts for 18 percent of mother deaths in the country.

On a global scale, around 70,000 teenagers die every year as a result of pregnancy- and delivery-related complications, according to UNFPA.

"We recently had a 23-year-old mother of four who had had the fetus dead for 23 days and exhibited septic shock and fatal multi-organ failure," Calderón told SEMlac.


Why do they die?

Around 98 percent of pregnant women are followed up and 98 percent of deliveries take place at healthcare institutions.

Last year, the Ministry of Health launched a National Strategic Plan to Reduce Mother-and-Child Mortality in the 2012-2016 period.

"We will not meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), however. One of them involves reducing mother mortality to 47 every 1,000 live births by 2015," Calderón noted.

"The rate has stood as follows: 229 every 100,000 born alive in 1996, 159 in 2004, and 106 in 2013. We would need another 17 years to get to 50," he added.

"It is a shame that there is no sex education at schools. This paves the way for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS," he emphasized.

The Dominican Political Observatory highlighted the need to implement training and awareness-raising actions for healthcare staff.

"The poorer women get pregnant more often. This is particularly the case of teenagers," Calderón remarked. Girls under 15 are five times more likely than women over 20 to die of pregnancy-related complications, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The mother mortality rate in the Dominican Republic is one of the highest in the region (106 every 100,000 live births, with teenagers between 15 and 20 years accounting for 18 percent of the total).

The main causes of mother deaths include preeclampsia (27 percent), hemorrhages (25 percent), and infections (24 percent).



Out of all teenage deliveries in 2013, 30 percent were vaginal and 28 percent involved Cesarean sections, according to the Ministry of Health. Mothers under 20 had 30 percent of stillborn babies.

The number of Cesarean sections moved from 40.9 percent in 2011 up to 44.4 percent in 2013, a report of the Women and Health Collective indicated last May 28 (International Day of Action for Women's Health).

Abortion was the fourth major cause of mother deaths in 2013, it added. Such a practice has not been legalized in the country.

Gloria Mejía, president of the Management Council, has helped organize training workshops for teenagers and private donations for equipment procurement.

"Forty percent of the State allocation to our hospital (five million pesos / 114.784 dollars) every month goes to the Essential Medicines Program," Calderón said.

"We have around 125 deliveries every day and spend three million pesos (68.000 dollars) a week. And we have 70 neonatal intensive care beds. This is a bottomless pit," he added.

The State has increased healthcare allocations to poor people and is devising new monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Care for pregnant teenagers requires 2.1 billion pesos (482 million dollars) a year, a study by the GenderStudyCenter revealed.

This amount is 1.7 percent higher than the allocation to collective health and accounts for five percent of annual public spending on health.

The country exhibits, however, one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the region, according to UNFPA.

Calderón feels that this is an unresolved matter, a disgrace on the government and its institutions.



Santiago de Chile, July (SEMlac).- A letter signed by 15 feminists and women's organizations was delivered to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on June 17, asking to decriminalize abortion in keeping with international recommendations under the Second Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Bachelet had undertaken to legalize such a practice in cases of mother's health in jeopardy, fetal inviability, and rape.

The international recommendations highlight the need to adopt measures to guarantee full, effective recognition of sexual and reproductive rights, especially by decriminalizing abortion, and urge to repeal laws criminalizing women who have resorted to this practice.

"The signatories hope that the State will actually protect human rights and meet its international obligations," the letter reads.

"We also hope that the opposition of conservative groups will not delay implementation of The Government Program," it added.

Carolina Carrera, president of Humanas Corporation, recalled that 84 percent of survey respondents favor the idea of decriminalizing abortion in cases where women's lives are at risk, and 80 percent agree to it in cases of fetal inviability or rape.

Erika Montecinos, a representative of Breaking the Silence (lesbian organization), indicated that it is essential to guarantee women's rights to make decisions over their own bodies.

Soledad Acevedo, a member of Freedom of Choice (feminist group), said that Chile is one of the few countries where abortion is not allowed. The move was adopted under Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Estimates show that around 160,000 abortions are performed every year in the country.

Tatiana Hernández, a representative of the Gender and Equity Observatory, indicated that time has come to regain women's right to decide on their bodies.

Buenos Aires, June (SEMlac Special). – The World Cup in Brazil this month has mobilized not only the Brazilian government, but also the entire international community, which has developed actions to further fight human trafficking, child sexual exploitation, and women’s objectification.

The local government has invested 3.3 million dollars to deal with child prostitution only in the host cities. Estimates showed that, on the occasion of the World Cup in Germany in 2006, new brothels were built and around 40,000 foreign women were brought in to be involved in prostitution.

Four years later in South Africa, reports indicated that the number of sexually exploited women and girls in the country had significantly grown. Some 600,000 foreign tourists are now expected to visit Brazil. They will account for 10 percent of overall international travelers in 2014.

The Regional Coalition against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean (CATWLAC) launched a campaign under the slogan Say no to sexual tourism.

Its regional director Teresa C. Ulloa told SEMlac that the Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment had incorporated prostitution on the list of authorized trades and professions in 2002.

“Those involved only need to have fourth to seventh grade of education,” she added.

“The government has been closing down some brothels and massage centers in the last few months, “she stressed.

Considering prostitution as a job runs counter to Article 6 in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which has been ratified by Brazil.

“Poverty, discrimination and gender violence are some of the underlying causes of prostitution in Brazil”, CATWLAC media officer Heysel Escamilla told SEMlac.

She quoted youth counselor Carlos Da Bomb as saying that buying a girl is as easy as buying a chocolate bar in Brazil.

She recalled that a man who had had sex with three 12-year-old girls had been prosecuted in 2012.

“The Court ruled that they were old enough to do this type of work,” she noted.

In this context, a wide range of organizations have also launched awareness-raising campaigns, including Don’t look away! by the Network to End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT).

Local feminists have organized marches against FIFA male-chauvinism, and the International Network of Gender-Conscious Journalists developed a campaign urging media representatives to help fight sexual tourism and human trafficking over the World Cup ( It has been widely supported by sports reporters and commentators.



Mexico City, June (SEMlac Special). – Around 12,000 Mexican indigenous women are currently in prison, mostly after arbitrary arrests. They often endure punishment and lack of medical care and appropriate food supply.

Leticia Escandón, a member of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), told SEMlac that she had submitted a comprehensive report to Congress demanding urgent care for these women.

On the other hand, Marcela Eternod, executive secretary of the National Women’s Institute, asked legislators to enact gender-sensitive laws and regulations along these lines.

Escandón indicated that the local penitentiary system has failed to apply the gender approach and has therefore made it possible to violate human rights at prisons.

“Out of 8,486 people incarcerated last year, 290 were indigenous women”, she recalled.

There are today 21 incarcerated in Oaxaca, 58 in Chiapas, 53 in Puebla, 19 in Veracruz, 8 in Guerrero, 31 in the Federal District, 18 in Yucatan; 6 in San Luis Potosí, 1 in Chihuahua, 11 in Hidalgo, 19 in the state of Mexico, 5 in Sonora, 2 in Nayarit, 8 in Michoacán, 2 in Quintana Roo, 1 in Campeche, 2 in Morelos, 2 in Tabasco, 3 in Sinaloa, 1 in Jalisco, 2 in Baja California, 2 in Baja California Sur, 3 in Querétaro, 1 in Nuevo León, 1 in Zacatecas, 1 in Aguascalientes, 9 in Islas Marías, and 5 in northwestern Nayarit.

They belong to 27 different ethnic groups: Náhuatl (79), Tzotzil (41), Mixteco (20), Otomí (20), Zapoteco (19), Maya (19), Tzeltal (19), Totonaca (18), Mazateco (15), Mazahua (8), Mixe (7), Tlapaneco (6), Chol (6), Chinanteco (5), Mayo (5), Purépecha (4), Huasteco (3), Amuzgo (2), Chatino (2), Cora (2), Huichol (2), Quiché (2), Zoque (2), Cuicateco (1), Pame (1), Matlatzinca (1), and Tarahumara (1).

They were said to have committed crimes such as homicide, robbery, and fraud, and are being provided with no legal advisory and translation services. Only 35.9 percent (4,198) are at women’s prisons; the rest (7,712) are at mixed penitentiary centers.

Eternod indicated that 67 percent of justice administrators at 15 high courts are not aware of international legal instruments for the protection of women’s rights. “This is inadmissible,” she stressed.

There is an urgent need to adopt and implement measures guaranteeing the full exercise of human rights at state and federal prisons.

A representative of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights recalled that the American Convention on Human Rights asks States to provide penitentiary staff with training for the appropriate treatment of inmates.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines the term discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”.

In the region, the Belém do Pará Convention establishes that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women and recognizes the rights of women to be free from violence and all forms of discrimination.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Inter-American Convention on the Concession of Civil Rights to Women set forth that all persons shall be equal and entitled to seek the protection of the law without distinction as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.



La Paz, December (SEMlac Special). – Enacted last March 9, Law No. 348 to fight violence against women has actually promoted impunity in the country. Not even one single abuser had been sentenced until September due to extremely long legal proceedings.

This came from two lawyers, one attorney and several representatives of Women for Justice Legal Services, the Center on Women’s Information and Development (CIDEM), the Gregoria Apaza Women’s Promotion Center (CPMGA), the Training Center on Human and Citizen Rights (CDC), La Paz Foundation , the Town Council in El Alto, the ministries of Justice, Health, Labor, and Education, and the local government and police in La Paz.

They interviewed a number of women victims who are expected to “prove” that they really are “good women.”

Women do not usually report their cases because of high legal costs, corruption, potential re-victimization, inadequate infrastructure and staffing, and social and family pressure.

Women for Justice had managed to solve over 50 cases in the first eight months of 2012, but merely got 25 cases in a similar period this year, when 10 women simply gave up. On the other hand, CIDEM used to process 45 reports every six months, but had only received 15 cases until last August.

CPMGA got no reports until April and merely received 15 between May and August, as compared to 28 last year.

“A similar situation has been seen at centers under the umbrella of the Ministry of Justice,” an official who asked not to be identified told SEMlac.

There are women who only seek maintenance for children and restraining orders on or divorce from abusers at family courts.


No effective service

Prosecutor Frida Choque indicated that there are eight specialists in charge of cases under Law No. 348 and Law No. 263 (on trafficking in persons).

“Abusers should be formally accused within eight days, but just the prosecutor appointment takes five to 12 days,” said Colonel Rosa Lema. “The entire process requires 30 to over 60 days,” she added.

“The investigation is then conducted during six months, and all criminal proceedings last over two years,” lawyer Marisol Quiroga stressed.

The women who report cases are supposed to cover expenses such as notifications, investigator transportation, telephone calls, document photocopies, photographic material, etc.


“Male-chauvinistic” justice

Quiroga emphasized that it was a mistake to assume that all women would be willing to take their cases to court.

“We fail to realize that there is male-chauvinistic justice here,” said gender expert María S. Álvarez. “A law can be perfect, but it will not work if there is no political will and money to get it enforced,” she added.

CDH technical secretary Mónica Bayá indicated that FELCV deals with around 58,000 reports a year, with 90 investigators covering 50 cases each.


No rules

Inés Pérez, head of the Gender Violence Prevention and Control Division at the Ministry of Justice, told SEMlac that not all operators are actually willing to work as they should.

Out of 339 municipalities in the country, only 158 are providing local comprehensive legal services, and many women argue that they are not being properly treated at these institutions.

Ombudsman Marcelo Claros highlighted the need to develop rules to enforce the law in an effective manner.

The Ministry of Justice hopes that the necessary protocols will finally be developed and that the Women’s Right Stewardship Office soon to be established will help redress the current situation.



There are NGOs providing specialized training to prosecutors, judges, police officers, forensic specialists, and medical doctors.

The Inter-American Development Bank (BID) has supplied 937,000 dollars to set up and operate a Comprehensive System to Prevent, Control, Sanction and Eradicate Gender Violence (SIPPASE) in the country.

The Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (COSUDE) and UN-Women are also supporting local efforts along these lines.

There is an urgent need for the central government to allocate a specific budget for this purpose.

Vice-president Álvaro García has so recognized. Estimates show that 36 million dollars have been required in 2013 and that another 20 million will be needed next year.

Buenos Aires, December (SEMlac Special).– The legislation is force has failed to put an end to acts of violence against women, including murder.

There were 209 victims in the January-September period alone. Over 60 percent of the murders were committed by their sexual partners. Around 70 percent of these women were aged 19 to 50. And 14 percent had reported their cases to the police.

Some five percent of murderers were or still are working for the police. Most of the 293 children who have become orphans are under 18 years of age. There were 293 victims who tried to help these women.

These data were advanced by the Adriana M. Zambrano Observatory on Women’s Murders under the umbrella of the Casa del Encuentro NGO, at a ceremony to launch the book Por ellas: Cinco años de informes de feminicidios (For Women: Five Years of Women Murder Reports).

The book was developed with support from the United Nations Information Center (UNIC), the Avon Foundation, and the U.S. Embassy in Argentina .

It contains women murder reports in the last five years and a number of reflections on justice administration, the incorporation of this criminal category into the local Criminal Code, and the psychological impact of violence on boys and girls.

It provides a major tool to really identify the social dimension of extreme violence against women. It indicates that 1,223 women had been killed in the 2008-2012 period, with one woman being murdered every 35 hours.

“A total of 1,520 children, including some 900 minors, have become orphans,” said Fabiana Túñez, Casa del Encuentro coordinator.

Available at, the book gives food for thought on gender violence prevention and control.

When the idea of writing the book came up in 2008, there were no official statistical data available or any related legislation in force. Law No. 26,485 was enacted a year later seeking to prevent, sanction and eradicate violence against women. Women’s murders were established as a criminal offence in 2012.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, UNIC director David Smith indicated that women’s murders are neither acceptable nor excusable.

Avon Foundation executive director Silvia Zubiri told SEMlac that significant headway has been made in fighting gender violence in Argentina .

“People used to call it crime of passion, but they now know that it is an extreme form of gender violence,” she added.

Túñez highlighted the need to formulate and implement new public prevention policies, especially at a time when women are reporting cases.

Observatory director Ada Rico recalled that many of these women continue to be abused.

Túñez underscored the need to provide them with protection and assistance on a permanent basis, and to properly train the relevant specialists.

“The main challenge now is to remove patriarchal culture and promote education based on equality and equity,” she remarked.


Act of murder

The concept of women’s murder was developed by Mexican anthropologist Marcela Lagarde some time ago and involves a number of factors such as impunity and State complicity.

“We in Argentina cannot say, however, that the State is actually accomplice to women’s murders,” Túñez told SEMlac.


Situation at home

Over 56 percent of women’s murders have been committed at households so far this year.

“The place where women should be queens and masters is actually the place where violent men keep them under control and isolation,” Rico concluded.

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