AfricaFocus (Washington, DC)

Guinea Bissau: Drug Trade in Broader Context

"In Guinea-Bissau, drug trafficking ... is a consequence of the pre-existing lack of stability that allows smugglers to establish their networks in the region and operate to and from there. Ignoring the structural causes of the problem (endemic poverty, corruption, impunity) will have an even deeper impact on the local population than the illegal drug trade, and will leave unaddressed the very conditions that continue to foster trafficking opportunities in the future." - February 2011 report from Norwegian Peacebuilding Center

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains (1) a recent essay by Marie Gibert from the African Arguments website, warning against allowing stereotypes about the drug trade to obscure the possibility of progress on other fronts even in such difficult conditions, and (2) excerpts from a recent comprehensive analysis from Norwegian Peacebuilding Center of the international cocaine trade in Guinea-Bissau.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out today by e-mail and available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/wod1106.php, contains excerpts from the new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, arguing for a fundamental change in the global approach to the "war on drugs," Continuing an approach based primarily on prohibition and law enforcement, the report argues, will not only fail to stop drug addiction and trafficking, but will also continue to fuel the growth of criminal violence and expansion of other negative consequences to more vulnerable populations, such as in Guinea-Bissau and other African countries.

Also of interest, a series of photographs on Guinea-Bissau by photographer Ernst Schade, at http://www.ernstschade.com/index.php?page=guinea-bissau-2006

A summary of trends in the international drug trade in Africa can be found in Chapter III of the Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board, at http://www.incb.org/incb/en/annual-report-2010.html

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Guinea-Bissau, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/guineabissau.php

Additional links and background are also available in "Guinea-Bissau: In Need of a State", July 28, 2008 http://www.africafocus.org/docs08/gb0807.php  - Editor's Note

Guinea-Bissau: A Narco-Developmental State?

May 24, 2011

By Marie Gibert

Marie Gibert is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

[For full text, including footnotes, see http://www.africanarguments.org

This article appeared in African Arguments Online, a new venture from the Royal African Society and partner organizations, featuring blogging from notables such as Alex de Waal and Richard Dowden, plus an interactive facility for comment and discussion. It is divided into 5 strands: African politics Now, Making Sense of Sudan, Rethinking Zimbabwe, the Central Africa Forum and Asia in Africa.

For a report on an earlier seminar on the situation in GuineaBissau, held in November 2010, see http://www.royalafricansociety.org / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/4jvygxl]

Guinea-Bissau has repeatedly, over the past few years, been dubbed a 'narco-state'. This label has tended to be associated with the image of a dysfunctional 'failed' state. Yet, a recent report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank shows remarkable improvements in the country's health and education sectors and calls for a more qualified understanding of the country's politics.

The evidence that supported the "narco-state" label was generally sketchy, but nevertheless undeniable. As in other West African countries, the Bissau-Guinean police have seized a number of major drug shipments from traffickers and planes -- generally originating from Latin America and headed to Europe -- in past years. Expensive cars allegedly owned by drugtraffickers or their allies were also seen in ever greater numbers in the streets of Bissau. The 'narco-state' tag was further strengthened by visible links between representatives of the state and drug-trafficking networks, as some of the arrested traffickers and seized drugs later vanished from the state's prisons and coffers, with no explanation forthcoming from the Bissau-Guinean authorities. Another sign of criminal state complicity was in the rapid and ostensible enrichment of some of Guinea-Bissau's senior military officers.

Although the government of Guinea-Bissau has signalled its willingness to address the issue, the series of political crises since 2009 has made this task very difficult. In spite of the peaceful legislative and presidential elections that took place in November 2008 and June-July 2009, the coup attempts, political assassinations and army mutinies during the same period underlined the persistent and violent rivalries in Guinea-Bissau's political leadership.

The assassinations, on 1st March 2009, of the head of the armed forces, General Batista Tagme Na Wai, and of the president, João Bernardo ("Nino") Vieira, paradoxically raised hopes. Many thought that the personal antagonism between the two men accounted in great part for the political paralysis preventing essential reforms, first and foremost in the security sector. In spite of the violence that preceded and marked the subsequent presidential election campaign, the smooth running of the two election rounds and the unanimous, domestic and international, recognition of its result -- the election of Malam Bacai Sanh´, of the ruling party PAIGC -- as democratic and transparent, raised hope that Guinea-Bissau was finally entering a new era of peace and greater prosperity.

The return in December 2009 of Rear-Admiral José Américo Bubo na Tchuto -- who had been accused of organising a failed coup attempt in August 2008 and had taken refuge in The Gambia -- and the army mutiny organised by some of his allies the following April, however, cast a further shadow on Guinea-Bissau's future. The events led to the dismissal of Chief of Staff General Zamora Induta, who had been appointed following his predecessor's assassination and had promised to proceed with the long awaited reform of the army. It also saw the reinstatement of RearAdmiral Bubo na Tchuto, cleared from charges of coup attempt and involvement in drug-trafficking activities by a military court, at his old position at the head of the country's navy, and the rise of his ally General AntÃ'nio Indjai.

Many analysts have seen in these events the hand of a narcotrafficking mafia eager to prevent any political reform that could lead to repression of their activities and to protect their accomplices within the army and civilian administration. While the influence of narco-trafficking over the current power relations in Guinea-Bissau cannot be doubted, the direct involvement of narco-traffickers in the above crises is still the object of much speculation. Analysts and journalists alike hastily drew on some rumours -- for example that the bomb that killed General Tagme Na Wai in March 2009 was made in Thailand, a country known for its involvement in the international drug trade -- to draw a link that we should still treat with the greatest caution.

Nonetheless, the events of 2009 and 2010 have come to confirm Guinea-Bissau's narco-state label in the minds of many international actors. This has had, overall, negative consequences for Guinea-Bissau as the international community has been increasingly reluctant to support a country with such an uncertain political future. Most notably, in 2010 the EU decided to withdraw its initial plans to follow up EUSSR GuineaBissau (a mission in support of security sector reform), with another,similar mission. In reaction to the official appointment of mutiny leaders at the head of the army, the EU subsequently opened an article 96 consultation procedure with Guinea-Bissau, which could eventually lead to a definitive suspension of EU development aid. While there may therefore have been a time when the spotlight drawn on narco-trafficking suited Guinea-Bissau's political leadership -- providing renewed international interest in the small country and averting eyes away from its long-time, unsolved political rivalries -- this is hardly the case now, and Guinea-Bissau seems increasingly isolated.

However, not all donors have turned their backs. The Bretton Woods institutions have remained consistently present in the country, with IMF staff continuing regular visits to the country. And the government of Guinea-Bissau carried on with the implementation of the economic and administrative reforms agreed with the IMF and the World Bank. This is remarkable, given the political atmosphere of the last years and the general -- and seemingly sensible -- belief that political instability and violence necessarily disrupt governmental action.

What is more, the IMF, World Bank and government's joint efforts seem to have produced measurable, positive results for the welfare of the country's population. In their joint staff advisory note on the second annual progress report of GuineaBissau' s poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) published in December 2010, the IMF and World Bank teams thus note that the country has made significant progress with respect to most indicators covering education and health, Quoting figures obtained from the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) conducted by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 2010, they underline that primary school enrolment rates rose from 42% in 2000 to 45% on 2006 and 65% in 2010. Gender equality in education has followed a similar trend, with the ratio of girls' to boys' enrolment expanding from 0.67 in 2000 to 0.83 in 2006 to 0.94 in 2010. The illiteracy rate among women of 15-24 years has accordingly decreased from 83% in 2000 to 61% in 2010. Results are also impressive in the health sector, with child mortality falling from 223 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006 to 155 in 2010. The cholera awareness and prevention programme led by the national health authorities and their NGO partners also seem to have effectively prevented any new outbreaks in 2009 and 2010.

The IMF-World Bank report attributes these improvements to broadening access to social services thanks to government reforms supported by NGOs and the private sector. Among these, the report quotes the elimination of school fees and the introduction of school feeding programmes in most primary schools, large-scale vaccination campaigns, the effective distribution of bed nets and improvements in health facilities, as well as an incentive premium for healthcare workers operating in isolated rural areas (and its effective payment).

Although this positive assessment must be treated with great care -- all specialists of Africa know how unreliable such figures can be -- it does call for more caution in our descriptions and analyses of states like Guinea-Bissau, which many would hastily call 'failed'. It is important to note, first, that dynamic governmental action, supported by external and private actors and no doubt also strengthened by GuineaBissau' s history of state presence in rural areas, can result in significant improvements in health and education over a remarkably short period of time. While these short-term results remain terribly fragile and insufficient, they indicate that adequate -- and sufficiently supported -- governmental action can have a significant social impact extremely quickly.

Second, while the Bissau-Guinean state may be 'failed' enough, notably in the security sector, to attract narco-trafficking interests, it clearly seems to have been strong enough to lead an effective campaign in two sectors that are of vital importance to the country's population. This is not to say that the recent political events, and the many signs of narcotrafficking' s pervasive influence in Guinea-Bissau are not extremely worrying -- indeed, the IMF and World Bank teams underline that political instability has repeatedly compromised the ability of the government to provide essential public goods and services and has contributed to the exodus of qualified personnel. Nevertheless, this shows that a state can be failed in certain -- especially politically sensitive -- sectors and remain, or become effective again, in others. Perhaps more importantly, it shows that a state can continue to function, at least partially, in the kind of 'no peace-no war' situation that Guinea-Bissau has been experiencing for many years.

Finally, these recent improvements in Guinea-Bissau's health and education sectors call on donors and journalists/analysts alike to be extremely weary of easy and quick labelling tendencies. Guinea-Bissau's security sector is indisputably in need of a reform that would, inter alia, put an end to narco-trafficking's detrimental influence on the country's politics. It is also clear that this reform is unlikely without a strong political will, at the heads of both the state and the army. The above results obtained by the government in adverse political conditions also seem to indicate, however, that there may be a greater need for constructive -- and possibly selective and target-orientated -- external support than for all-encompassing sanctions and conditions on the part of donors. Not least because a government able to make a significant difference in the daily lives of its citizens will no doubt be more popular and thus have a strong advantage over a still reform-resistant army.

The international cocaine trade in Guinea-Bissau: current trends and risks

February 2011

Luís Filipe Madeira, Stéphane Laurent and Sílvia Roque

Norwegian Peacebuilding Center Noref Working Paper

[Excerpts only. For full text, including footnotes, see http://peacebuilding.no / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/3mxn9do]

Luís Filipe Madeira teaches International Relations at the University of Beira Interior (Portugal). He holds a PhD in Political Sciences from IEP, University of Montesquieu-Bordeaux IV, and he regularly collaborates with CIDAC (Portuguese NGO)

Stéphane Laurent was trained at the University of Bordeaux in Management of Development and Humanitarian Aid. He is a member of the Board of CIDAC where he coordinates the development cooperation sector. Since 2002 he has been responsible for the NGO's cooperation with Guinea-Bissau.

Sílvia Roque is a researcher at the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra. She holds a master's degree in African Studies from ISCTE (Lisbon) and a BSc in International Relations from the School of Economics of the University of Coimbra. She is a completing her PhD in International Politics and Conflict Resolution and has been conducting research on Guinea-Bissau since 2006.

Executive Summary

This paper analyses the international, West African and national conditions that fuel the spread of the international drugs trade in West Africa, particularly in Guinea-Bissau, and examines the impact of the international cocaine trade at a social, economic and governance level in this small West African country.

Although drug trafficking has a long history in West Africa, over the past five years the region has increasingly attracted international attention as a new hub for the illicit cocaine trade between Latin America and Europe. In the case of GuineaBissau, that attention has been all the greater for a number of reasons:

the visibility of the authorities' involvement in trafficking, causing international agencies and the media to dub it the "world's first narco-state";

the amount of drugs seized on its territory and the increasing presence of South Americans, to whom this type of activity is attributed; and lastly

because the country is totally dependent on aid and uses the media attention given to drug trafficking as an argument for keeping aid flowing into the country.

Following significant seizures of cocaine in 2006 and 2007, the trade appeared to go into decline in 2008 and 2009, for which the authors outline four possible scenarios, the most likely being that it is continuing but through the employment of other less visible methods, with the traffickers having made only a temporary tactical retreat.

Favourable conditions for trafficking

Both the global operation of the cocaine market and a number of specific national conditions favour the development of drug trafficking in West Africa and especially Guinea-Bissau. At the systemic level, the enforcement of the global drug-control system tends to push traffickers to select transit routes through states that are already weakened by internal conflict, poverty or both.

In recent years, the Latin American drug cartels appear to have shifted their attention to supplying the lucrative European market by developing networks in West Africa, focused around Ghana in the south and Guinea-Bissau in the north. From there the drugs are smuggled into Europe on commercial flights by mules. At the same time, by paying local collaborators in both cash and cocaine, the traffickers are creating a local consumer market for the drug.

The geography of Guinea-Bissau, with its myriad of coastal islands, makes it the perfect destination for unloading drugs that have been transported by sea, often from Brazil or Venezuela. The virtual collapse of the country's administration, the inadequacies of the police and justice sector, impunity, endemic corruption and widespread poverty create fertile conditions for the flourishing of the cocaine trade which, in turn, has further adverse consequences at the social, economic and governance levels.

The presence of resourceful and potentially violent South American cartels in Guinea-Bissau has aggravated a situation that was already unsustainable, and drug-related incidents are on the rise. After reporting the involvement of the military and their civilian allies in drug trafficking, several journalists and activists have had to flee the country or go into hiding. Drugs have been discovered at military bases, and seizures made by the police have disappeared after being confiscated by the military. Senior government officials have also reportedly received death threats when seeking to investigate cocaine seizures.

Social and economic impact

The influence that cocaine-trafficking is having on the country's economy is not yet clear but, as it gains in importance, it is likely to soon generate more wealth than traditional legal activities and thus be more attractive to the local population. The extent of the impact will depend on whether Guinea-Bissau's role in the trafficking chain is predominantly active or passive.

At the social level, domestic drug use is growing, with the resultant addiction and violent crime; addiction to cocaine, and especially crack, is reportedly rampant. Guinea-Bissau lacks the material resources, expertise and experience to address these problems. From a long-term perspective, the attraction of the drugs trade for disenfranchised youth may also undermine social control mechanisms that prevent crime and violence. So far, however, Bissau's youth, though faced with unemployment and few opportunities, have shown little desire to go down that route. Nevertheless, the consequences of globalisation, the food crisis and the inability of external aid to respond to such problems could quickly change the situation.

Policy options

The authors argue that, in the long term, in order to tackle the enormous challenges that the drug trade poses in route countries, a less securitizing agenda needs to be put in place globally, and the prohibition-based international consensus should be debated and reconsidered. In the meantime, a number of shorter-term measures need to be taken urgently to halt the negative effects of this activity at international and national level. These include improving the coordination of efforts at national, sub-regional, regional and international level, reforming the country's institutions, supporting civil society, rehabilitation initiatives and conducting further research to gain an accurate understanding of the scale of the problem.

Methodological note

The international drugs trade in West Africa, and specifically in Guinea-Bissau, has had a lot of exposure in the media but has been little studied. Since it is an illegal trade, accurate data on it is hard to come by, especially for countries where it is a relatively new phenomenon and where statistical research and analytical skills and tools are limited, as in the case of Guinea-Bissau.

This paper is based on secondary data that has appeared in the media, and reports by international organisations (academic research on this specific issue and country is virtually nonexistent); interviews with national and international stakeholders who have privileged information on the issue; the authors' extensive fieldwork experience in the country over the past nine years in the context of development cooperation and research projects in the fields of human security, youth and gender violence; and the international peacebuilding intervention in Guinea-Bissau, where the issue of drug trafficking has repeatedly been highlighted and analysed by international organisations, national officials and the population.

A history of trading

In Guinea-Bissau the drugs trade only emerged as an acute problem in 2005. This does not mean that the trafficking, smuggling or even consumption of drugs is completely new to the country. As in other parts of the world, trafficking is an ancient economic activity in West Africa (including GuineaBissau). The transporting of people and goods across frontiers is a specialised activity that has been going on for centuries and is characteristic of populations living in border regions. Guinea-Bissau is well-known in the region for the illegal trafficking of small arms. High-ranking government and military officials have been directly involved. Over the past five or six years, the illegal arms trade seems to have diminished only to be replaced by the trafficking of cocaine, involving, in particular, military actors.

...

The prohibitionist paradigm and the inefficiency of drug control systems

Over the past century, the universal ban on illicit drugs has been a global policy established by international treaties ... However, despite this consensus on policy, three key factors play into an underground transnational relationship which may produce a number of unintended consequences both at national and international level. The cocaine trade illustrates these factors: 1) the concentration of world production in just three countries (Peru, Bolivia and Colombia); 2) the relative efficiency of the national drug control systems in the largest cocaine markets of North America and Western Europe (with around 7 and 4 million consumers respectively); and 3) the incentive to break the law given the enormous economic worth of the illegal drug trade.

...

Market and route changes

Large-scale cocaine trafficking through West Africa was first detected in 2004. This development reflected a shift in the global cocaine market's centre of gravity from the United States to Europe. ...

Over the past decade, US and Mexican cocaine seizures have declined dramatically, indicating a reduction in the cocaine supply to the US market. This is probably the result of a deliberate policy by the Latin American drug cartels, for which there may be two reasons. On the one hand, the North American market seems to be less accessible to the traffickers than the European one. ... On the other hand, cocaine prices in the European market are far more attractive to traffickers than those in the US. ...

Europe has approximately 4 million cocaine consumers and average annual use amounts to 36 grams per individual. It may have imported around 144 tons of cocaine from South America in 2006 alone. Considering that around 27% of European cocaine seizures passed through West Africa, it can be estimated that 40 tons of the cocaine consumed transited through that region. In 2006 the average wholesale price per kilogram was $46,700, therefore the value of those 40 tons amounts to approximately $1.8 billion. Police sources estimate the traffickers' profit rate to be around 25%, which in this case represents a yearly profit of approximately $500 million.

... This is the transnational background against which West Africa, over the past six or seven years, has been increasingly pulled into the transatlantic cocaine trade.

The creation and development of West African networks

Africa is not a producer of cocaine and was traditionally only a very marginal trafficking route for it. Between 1998 and 2003, annual African cocaine seizures averaged at something like 0.6 metric tons -- an insignificant proportion of global cocaine seizures. Since 2004, however, when Latin American traffickers decided to stockpile cocaine in West Africa, the situation has changed dramatically.

The countries most affected by cocaine trafficking are Cape Verde, Guinea, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Gambia and Nigeria.

According to European law enforcement agencies, cocaine trafficking in West Africa is focused around two hubs. The Southern Platform has Ghana as its entering point from where the drug is taken to Togo, Benin and Nigeria. The Northern Platform has Guinea-Bissau as its entering point and, eventually, Sierra Leone and Mauritania, with the cocaine then being distributed by air to Senegal, Guinea and Gambia. Mali is served by land from Guinea-Bissau as well as from Guinea.

...

Administrative collapse and impunity

Guinea-Bissau is one of the most dependent countries in the world. Since gaining independence from Portugal, the country has pursued an extroverted governance strategy based on the demands of donors, which has ended up creating a growing dependent urban population, and an economy based on the production and exportation of the cashew nut. Political legitimacy is a facade and neopatrimonialism has been the rule throughout the past decades. The local political and military elites -- the generation that won independence from the Portuguese in the 1970s -- behave as if the country was their own personal property. A developmental state was therefore never consolidated. This situation deteriorated further with the imposition of structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s, leading to the virtual collapse of the state administration.

Public services, especially those related to justice and the police, have been systematically underfinanced. As regards the police force, an indispensable tool in the repression of drugrelated criminal activities, officers earn low salaries that are only sporadically paid and the police stations lack telephones, computers and often even electricity. The force has virtually no boats for patrolling the coast line and little fuel for the few police cars they have. Many officers are unable to fire a gun or swim. When someone is arrested, the prisoner has to be taken to the police station by taxi because no police cars are available.

...

Even though it may have acquired large proportions, drugs smuggling still remains in the hands of specific groups, such as certain military leaders. It was stressed that traffickers have the capacity to accurately map the political situation of the country (alliances, antagonisms, and personal rivalries) in order to know who, when, and where to press or bribe to obtain support and co-operation. According to police and judicial sources, the local Latin American traffickers act under the protection of the Guinea-Bissauan military which forces judges to sign release orders whenever a cocaine trafficker is arrested. It is worth mentioning, therefore, that the distinction between military and political actors is not always easy to establish in Guinea-Bissau, as "each politician has his own military and each military has his own politician".25

...

The main risks for Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, drug trafficking in itself is not the main cause of destabilisation -- it is a consequence of the preexisting lack of stability that allows smugglers to establish their networks in the region and operate to and from there. Ignoring the structural causes of the problem (endemic poverty, corruption, impunity) will have an even deeper impact on the local population than the illegal drug trade, and will leave unaddressed the very conditions that continue to foster trafficking opportunities in the future.

...

Military power

The military has tremendous power in Guinea-Bissau. If the country's position in the international drugs trade depends on the nature of the relations that the drug traffickers are capable of establishing with politicians and high-ranking officers of the armed forces, then the future of the country will also depend on the capacity of Guinea-Bissauan society itself, as well as on the international community, to respond by forcing the military to withdraw from the political and judicial spheres of government. The separation of powers, the primacy of the rule of law and the participation of citizens in the political decision-making process must be ensured if Guinea-Bissau is to successfully overcome its present challenges.

...

Social impact

In addition to the country being a staging post, general concern about the increase in drug use is growing and several local reports of crack use, which was not usual until recently, need to be further investigated. Drug trafficking is increasingly associated with a potential rise in violence. There is the risk that these routes may become a desirable source of income for unemployed youth in Bissau, in a context in which alternative resources, such as international aid, are decreasing. The widespread feeling of impunity and low life expectancy make it even more acceptable to grasp any opportunity for quick moneymaking: 'Drugs are going to bring development!' said one of the people we interviewed for previous studies in Bissau.

The immediate social impact of cocaine trafficking in GuineaBissau is that local drug consumption has increased. Unfortunately, there are no official data available to substantiate this claim. However, all respondents agreed that addiction to cocaine, and in particular crack cocaine, is rampant.

...

Guinea-Bissau lacks the material resources -- and expertise and experience -- required to address these problems. As far as cocaine addiction is concerned, for example, in the whole country there is only one drug-addiction treatment centre. The Desafio Jovem centre for drug rehabilitation and mental illness was set up in 2002 by Father Domingos Té and since then has sought to rehabilitate drug addicts through a faith-based residential rehabilitation programme. However, the institution has nothing -- there are no psychologists, doctors or medicines; all it can offer is guidance, a mattress and basic meals.

...

Security considerations

Also, while Guinea-Bissau's ruling elite is perceived by the international community as a threat to the security of both its own citizens and the international system, international intervention is focused mainly on securing only the latter. The crucial issues for the international agencies and donors, and sine qua non conditions for the maintenance of aid, have been the security sector reform and the fight against drug trafficking with the purpose of "protecting" the central countries against the penetration of illegal products. The security in question is not that of the population of the country; given the state's shortcomings, that remains society's responsibility.

This has meant in practice the repeated postponement of long-term programmes for bringing about the socio-economic development of the country, since the primary objectives are focused on seeking to establish a penal state in a context in which the state has been being continuously dismantled for decades. This skewed focus does nothing to change the structures and exercise of political and economic power or the social hierarchies. On the one hand, impunity and distrust remain. ...

Focus on human security

The justice and police sectors are critical not only to any attempts to eradicate drug trafficking, but most of all to efforts to ensure human security. Guinea-Bissau needs assistance to finance, staff, train and equip its justice and police departments. Such efforts should, however, not only be focused on securitizing measures.

The authors believe that if the national police and justice systems only receive training and resources because of the impact of drug trafficking on western countries, the local impact of criminal activities -- as well as the daily lack of security experienced by the population -- will remain secondary and will not be tackled. ...

The involvement of the armed forces in destabilizing activities impedes long-term political reform and development. Therefore, drug trafficking cannot be tackled without reforming the armed forces and reducing their role in political activity. ...

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