Venezuela

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Template:Venezuela infobox Template:Portal Venezuela, officially known as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Spanish: República Bolivariana de Venezuela) is the northernmost country in South America and part of Caribbean South America. It borders the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Off the Venezuelan coast are also found the Caribbean states of Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and Trinidad and Tobago.

Since December 2005, Venezuela is a member of Mercosur, joining with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, although it has yet to finalize policy changes in order to gain voting rights.

A former Spanish colony, Venezuela is a Federal Republic. Culturally and geographically it is the most Caribbean country of South America, having in its possession over 600 islands in the aforementioned sea. Historically, Venezuela has had territorial disputes with Guyana, largely concerning the Essequibo area. This issue is not yet resolved. To this day, Venezuela is known for its petroleum industry, the environmental diversity of its territory, and its sheer natural beauty. It has been claimed that Christopher Columbus was so enthralled by Venezuela's landscape, when arriving to its coast in 1498, that he referred to the land as Tierra de Gracia (Land of Grace), which has become the country’s nickname.

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Origin and history of the name

The name "Venezuela" is believed to have originated from the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, who together with Alonso de Ojeda led a 1499 naval expedition along the northwestern coast (known today as the Gulf of Venezuela). On reaching the Guajira Peninsula, the crew observed the distinctive stilt villages (palafitos) that the indigenous Añu people had built over the water. This reminded Vespucci of the city of Venice and as a result the region was named Venezuela, which means Little Venice. On the other hand, Spanish conquistador and geographer Martín Fernández de Enciso, member of the same crew, says in his work Summa de Geografía that the above mentioned population was called Veneciuela, and that it was built on a large, plain rock. According to this theory, the name Venezuela could be a native word. Nevertheless, the first version remains by far the most popular and accepted version.

History

Main article: History of Venezuela

Venezuela was the site of one of the first permanent Spanish settlements in South America in 1522, and most of the territory eventually became part of the viceroyalty of New Granada. Parts of what is now eastern Venezuela became New Andalusia. After several unsuccessful uprisings, the country declared independence from Spain on July 5th 1811 under the leadership of its most famous son, Simón Bolívar. Nevertheless, the full control over Venezuelan territory was achieved after Bolivar, with the help of General José Antonio Páez and especially the then General Grand Marshall Antonio José de Sucre, whose battle plan Bolívar chose to follow, won the Battle of Carabobo in June 24th 1821, and after José Prudencio Padilla won the Naval Battle of Lake Maracaibo on July 24th 1823. Subsequently, Bolívar led the armies of Venezuela and other countries to freedom and founded what are now Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Antonio José de Sucre, who won many battles for Bolivar, was a to become his natural successor until he was murdered. Venezuela became, after the war of independence, along with Colombia and Ecuador part of the Republic of Gran Colombia (República de Gran Colombia) until 1830, when the country separated through a rebellion led by the aforementioned Jose Antonio Páez and declared itself as a sovereign republic. Páez became the first president of Venezuela.

Much of Venezuela's 19th and early 20th century history was characterized by political instability, political struggle, and dictatorial rule. Following the death of Juan Vicente Gómez in 1935 and the demise of caudillismo (authoritarian oligarchical rule), democratic struggles eventually forced the military to withdraw from direct involvement in national politics in 1958. Since that year, Venezuela has enjoyed an unbroken tradition of democratic civilian rule, though not without conflict.

Venezuela is member of the South American Community of Nations (SACN). (more)

See also: Discoverer of the Americas, List of Presidents of Venezuela

Government

Main article: Politics of Venezuela

The Venezuelan president is elected by a popular vote, with direct and universal suffrage, and functions as both head of state and head of government. The term of office is six years, and a president may be re-elected to a single consecutive term. The president appoints the vice-president and decides the size and composition of the cabinet and makes appointments to it with the involvement of the legislature. The president can ask the legislature to reconsider portions of laws he finds objectionable, but a simple parliamentary majority can override these objections.

The unicameral Venezuelan parliament is the National Assembly or Asamblea Nacional. Its 165 deputies, of which three are reserved for indigenous peoples, serve five-year terms and may be re-elected for a maximum of two additional terms. They are elected by popular vote through a combination of party lists and single member constituencies. The highest judicial body is the Supreme Tribunal of Justice or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, whose magistrates are elected by parliament for a single 12-year term. The Consejo Nacional Electoral is in charge of electoral processes; it is formed by five main directors elected by the National Assembly.

Politics

Template:POV-section Members of the Venezuelan military, including Hugo Chávez, attempted a coup in 1992 to remove the democratically elected president, Carlos Andrés Pérez from power. The coup, which resulted in the deaths of 80 civilians and 17 members of the armed forces, failed and its supporters were jailed for treason. President Pérez was eventually impeached and convicted of corruption and his successor Rafael Caldera released the coup leaders from jail in 1994. Chávez's role in the coup made him popular amongst the lower classes leading him to run for president in 1998.

Chávez was elected president in 1998 with 56% of the vote as part of a new political party, the Movement for the Fifth Republic. His platform, (Bolivarian revolution), called for the signing of a new constitution written by a Constituent Assembly and approved by referendum in 1999. Chávez was re-elected in 2000 under the new constitution with 59% of the vote. In November 2000, the National Assembly granted Chávez the right to rule by decree for one year, and in November 2001, Chávez made a set of 49 decrees, including large reforms in oil and agrarian policy which made him even more popular with the poor.

Chávez has enacted a number of socialist reforms in Venezuela, fostering close ties with Cuban President Fidel Castro, including expropriation of plantations that owner-occupants claim are private property. Although political parties supporting Chávez have consistently won a majority of seats in parliament, Chávez has slowly made party policy to garner control of most branches of the government. The government has often had to create new grassroots public services in the form of "missions." The government's claim is that this is necessary to avoid going through a "corrupt bureaucracy," but after six years in power, and with a almost absolute control of the several governmental branches, it has begun to raise questions as to its indifference - or powerlessness - to eradicate corruption. (see Transparency International).

In December 2001, the umbrella group of the nation's largest business organizations, Fedecamaras, several workers' groups, the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela and the petroleum workers' union, PDVSA, called the country to a general strike. It was a first in the history of labour relations; owners, executives, managers and a few rank-and-file workers joined together to protest Chávez's economic policies. In April 11th 2002, during massive opposition demonstrations that unexpectedly began to march towards the Presidential Palace, high-ranking members within the Armed Forces refused Chávez's order to carry out the Plan Avila.

Although the exact circumstances are unknown, many unarmed protesters were shot, resulting in 18 deaths. Television broadcasts at the time showed pro-government protesters firing guns into the general direction of the demonstrators, but footage shot from another camera-angle disputes this. To this day, the responsibility for these deaths has not been established. During the chaos that ensued, high-ranking military officials reported that Chávez had resigned (though, later on, Chávez insisted he had been taken hostage by the military and forced to sign a letter of resignation). During the confusion that followed the power void, Fedecámaras President Pedro Carmona Estanga stepped up and took power. Though initially supported by the high-ranking military that had rebelled against Chávez, he lost support after he proceeded to dissolve all democratic institutions formed under the Chávez regime - and part of the military that remained loyal to Chávez brought him back. Diosdado Cabello, Vice President of Venezuela, exerted his constitutional rights and temporarily assumed the position of president, until Chávez was restored to the Presidency.

File:Anti-chavez march.jpg
One of many anti Hugo Chávez marches in the capital Caracas. This protest was in favor of the 2004 recall referendum.
File:R2157456581.jpg
A pro-Chávez protest in support of Hugo Chávez during the 2004 recall referendum.

The following two years were marked by massive protests by the opposition, who managed in 2004 to obtain more than 3 million signatures to call for a referendum on Chávez, who in turn accused many of the signatures of being fraudulent. Nonetheless, a recall election was held on 15 August 2004, and Chávez won (that is, he was permitted to stay in office) with approximately 60% of the vote. Leaders and supporters of the opposition refused to accept the results of the election claiming fraud, despite international observers that endorsed the election as free and fair. Although the Organization of American States and the Carter Center certified the referendum, disillusioned protests continued. (See Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004)

On December 4, 2005, five of Venezuela's major opposition parties boycotted the elections (half of the candidates of these five parties actually withdrew from the elections, representing 10% of the total number of candidates), charging that they were not being administered fairly; a random verification of 45% of the electronic votes (verified open source software was used) with paper ballots proved that the results of these elections were accurate. The last opinion polls prior to the elections had indicated that the Chávez alliance would have won around 150 of the 167 seats in the National Assembly, an indication that the opposition may have tried to avoid an historical defeat. As a result of the partial boycott and the opinion polls, these parliamentary elections were marked by a low voter turnout of 25% (estimated 3 out of 14 million registered voters), compared to an historical turnout figure of around 45% in such elections, parliamentary elections being held separately from presidential elections. Historical figures of voter support for the winners of the parliamentary elections: in 1998, the Democratic Action Party won control of the then Congress with 11.24% of voter support (or 24.09% of cast ballots, with the remaining opposition parties taking 51.15% of the vote) from an electoral universe of approximately 10.9 million voters (52.70% of voters participated). This party received 1.24 million votes. In the 2000 elections, the Chavez Fifth Republic Movement won control of the National Assembly with 17% or 1.98 million votes of the electoral universe of 11.7 million voters (56.50% of registered voters participated). In the elections on December 4th 2005, the six parties in the Chávez alliance received 21% support of the electoral universe of 13.9 million voters or approximately 2.9 million votes (official results have not been released, but it is estimated that 25% of voters participated, with the opposition parties effectively having less than 1% of the votes). Chávez’s party, the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), won 114 or 68% of the 167 seats in the new National Assembly, with the rest going to allied parties. Venezuela now no longer has a coherent, elected political opposition to Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution. This gives Chavez extremely broad latitude to enact his social and economic policies, and his overwhelming majority in the legislature allows him to easily draft amendments to Venezuela's constitution. Chávez condemned the boycott as an attempt, largely backed by the United States, to destabilize both his government and its reforms as well as the election. His critics argue that the election is illegitimate, since a parliament majority of 65% elected by 25% of eligible voters cannot truly represent the electorate. The argument that the level of turnout calls into question the legitimacy of the elections would, if applied to any US "off-year" election, de-legitimize many congressional, municipal and gubernatorial elections. If we compare the voter turnout with the most recent election, which included the opposition (the August 2005 municipal elections), the abstention campaign accounted for only a 6 per cent increase in citizens who chose not to vote (69 per cent to 75 per cent). Re-elected MVR congressman, and current Assembly president Nicolás Maduro, has proposed to make voting mandatory in response to December's abstention. (See Venezuelan_parliamentary_election,_2005)

On December 9, 2005, National Assembly President Nicolas Maduro, MVR party leader Cilia Flores, and National Assembly Vice President Pedro Carreño claimed that Venezuelan state intelligence forces thwarted a plot to destabilize Venezuela during last Sunday’s parliamentary election. They presented recordings allegedly involving active and retired dissident military officers talking about causing 15,000 deaths, chaos, and attacks on government institutions. According to the lawmakers, the CIA supported this plan. The recordings allegedly included the voices of various retired officers who were involved in the April 2002 events and are currently being sought by the police. It is worth noting that this announcement was not made by any of the State's judicial bodies, but by the aforementioned group of congresspeople, who presented the alleged physical evidence to the media.

The explosion of two small devices known in Venezuela as "niple," a few days before the election, and the sabotage of a major oil pipeline on election eve were part of the plan, said the lawmakers. The night before the election, an explosion destroyed a part of the oil pipeline that supplies Venezuela’s Paraguaná oil refining complex, one of the largest in the world. Authorities later explained that the explosion was caused by C-4 plastic explosive. A day earlier, officials discovered 24 kilos of C-4 and various weapons and grenades in Zulia state, in western Venezuela. President Chávez and members of his government have repeatedly accused the U.S. of being involved in plots to kill him and to destabilize his government with terrorist actions.

The Chávez administration has so far presented no evidence supporting these accusations, however, although it has been documented that the U.S. government, via institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy and the US Agency for International Development, has provided opposition groups with monetary support.

Subdivisions

Main article: Subdivisions of Venezuela

Venezuela is subdivided into 23 states (estados), a Capital District (Distrito Capital) correspondent to the city of Caracas, and the Federal Dependencies (Dependencias Federales). The country is also divided into ten administrative regions (regiones administrativas), the administrative regions were established by presidential decrees.

States

File:Mapa-politico-venezuela.png
Political Map of Venezuela
Flag Coat of Arms State Capital city Population Area Region Location
50px 35px Amazonas Puerto Ayacucho 70,464 180,144 km² Guayana 50px
50px 35px Anzoátegui Barcelona 1,222,225 43,300 km² Nor - Oriental 50px
50px 35px Apure San Fernando de Apure 377,756 76,500 km² Llanos 50px
50px 35px Aragua Maracay 1,449,616 7,014 km² Central 50px
50px 35px Barinas Barinas 624,508 35,200 km² Andean 50px
50px 35px Bolívar Ciudad Bolívar 1,214,846 238,000 km² Guayana 50px
50px 35px Carabobo Valencia 1,932,168 4,650 km² Central 50px
50px 35px Cojedes San Carlos 253,105 14,800 km² Central 50px
50px 35px Delta Amacuro Tucupita 97,987 40,200 km² Guayana 50px
50px 35px Falcón Coro 763,180 24,800 km² Central - Occidental 50px
50px 35px Guárico San Juan De Los Morros 627,086 64,986 km² Llanos 50px
50px 35px Lara Barquisimeto 1,556,415 19,800 km² Central - Occidental 50px
50px 35px Mérida Mérida 715,268 11,300 km² Andean 50px
50px 35px Miranda Los Teques 2,330,872 7,950 km² Capital 50px
50px 35px Monagas Maturín 712,626 28,930 km² Nor - Oriental 50px
50px 35px Nueva Esparta La Asunción 712,626 28,930 km² Insular 50px
50px 35px Portuguesa Guanare 725,740 15,200 km² Central - Occidental 50px
50px 35px Sucre Cumaná 786,483 11,800 km² Nor - Oriental 50px
50px 35px Táchira San Cristóbal 992,669 11,100 km² South - Occidental 50px
50px 35px Trujillo Trujillo 608,563 7,400 km² Andean 50px
50px 35px Yaracuy San Felipe 499,049 7,100 km² Central - Occidental 50px
50px 35px Vargas La Güaira 298,109 1,496 km² Capital 50px
50px 35px Zulia Maracaibo 2,983,679 63,100 km² Zulian 50px

Administrative regions

Main article: Administrative Regions of Venezuela
Administrative Region States
Capital Miranda, Vargas, Capital District (Caracas)
Central Aragua, Carabobo, Cojedes
Insular Nueva Esparta, Federal Dependencies
Nor - Oriental Anzoátegui, Monagas, Sucre
Zulian Zulia
Guayana Bolívar, Amazonas, Delta Amacuro
Andean Barinas, Mérida, Trujillo
South - Occidental Táchira, Páez Municipality of Apure
Llanos Apure (excluding Paez Municipality), Guárico
Central - Occidental Falcón, Lara, Portuguesa, Yaracuy

Geography

Main article: Geography of Venezuela

Venezuela is home to a wide variety of landscapes, such as the north-easternmost extensions of the Andes mountains in the northwest and along the northern Caribbean coast, of which the highest point is the Pico Bolívar at 5,007 m.

File:Angel falls.jpg
The Angel Falls (Salto Ángel), world's highest waterfall

The centre of the country is characterised by extensive plains known as the llanos that stretch from the Colombian border to the river delta of the Orinoco east. To the south are found the dissected Guiana Highlands, home to Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall, and the northern edge of Amazonia. This is a classical division, however.

The country can also be divided into nine geographical areas, some corresponding to the natural regions, one being the Andes Range. The Lake Maracaibo region comprehends the lowlands near the Gulf of Venezuela. The Coro System, a mountainous block in the northern occidental territory, is the fount of several sierras and valleys. The Central Range is tied up with the coast and the hills surrounding Caracas, while the Eastern Range, separated from the Central by the Gulf of Cariaco, covers all of Sucre State and northern Monagas. The Llanos Region involves a third part of the country's area, above the Orinoco River. Under it, is the South Orinoco Region (the Guianas, above described). The Insular Region is formed by the Nueva Esparta State and the Federal Dependencies. The last geographical region is the Deltaic System forms a pantanous triangle, covering Delta Amacuro State, with the Atlantic platform branching off the coast.

File:Mt Kukenan in Venezuela 001.JPG
Mt. Kukenan, in Venezuela.

The Orinoco River is the largest and most important river of the country, originating one of the biggest watersheds in Latin America. Other important rivers are the Caroní and the Apure.

The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, though more moderate in the highlands. The capital, Caracas is also the country's largest city. Other major cities include Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay, and Ciudad Guayana.

Venezuela is one of the seventeen megadiverse countries, for the great number of animal and vegetable species that habitate there. (more)

Template:Seealso

Economy

Main article: Economy of Venezuela

The petroleum sector dominates the economy, accounting for roughly a third of GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government operating revenues. The sector operates through the government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, which among other things owns the US Citgo distributor, which has 14,000 service stations in the US.

Venezuela also depends highly on the agricultural sector. Venezuela has the potential to export coffee and cocoa on a grand scale.

Venezuela is one of the five founding members of OPEC. The idea itself (an international oil cartel) was the initiative of Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, who proposed it as a response to low domestic and international oil prices in August 1960. Template:Seealso

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Venezuela

The Venezuelan people comprise a rich combination of heritages. The historically present Amerindians, Spanish colonists and Africans were joined by Italians, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans, and others from neighbouring countries in South America during waves of immigration in the 20th century. About 85% of the population live in urban areas in the northern portion of the country. While almost half of Venezuela's land area lies south of the Orinoco river, this region contains only 5% of the population.

The national and official language is Spanish, but numerous indigenous languages also exist (Wayu, Pemon, Warao, etc), as do languages introduced by immigrants. 96% of the population is at least nominally Roman Catholic. Around 4% of the population adheres to other faiths. [1]

Military

Main article: Military of Venezuela

Culture

File:Joropo.JPG
Above, image of a crowd dancing joropo, the emblematic Venezuelan dance
Main article: Culture of Venezuela

The Venezuelan culture comes from a wide variety of heritages, mainly of the indigenous populations, Spanish and African provenance, dating from the Colony. Before this period, indigenous cultural manifestations were expressed in art (petroglyphs), crafts, architecture (shabonos) and social organization. Aboriginal culture was subsequently assimilated by Spaniards; over the years, the hybrid culture had diversified by region.

Venezuelan art is gaining attention within and outside the country. Firstly dominated by religious motives, in the late 19th century changed to historical and heroic representations, led by Martín Tovar y Tovar. Modernism took over in the 20th century. Some very remarkable Venezuelan artists include Arturo Michelena, Cristóbal Rojas, Armando Reverón, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez (who both contributed greatly to kinetic art), and Manuel Cabré.

File:DiablosDanzantesYare.jpg
Image of a traditional public performance by the Diablos Danzantes de Yare (Dancing Devils of Yare)

Venezuelan literature began developing soon after Spanish conquest, and it was dominated by Spanish culture and thinking. Following the rise of political literature during the Independence War, was the Romanticism, the first important genre in the region, whose great exponent was Juan Vicente González. Although mainly focused on narrative, poets figure with great importance, being Andrés Eloy Blanco the most famous of them, aside Fermín Toro. Major writers and novelists are Rómulo Gallegos, Teresa de la Parra, Arturo Uslar Pietri, Adriano González León, Miguel Otero Silva and Mariano Picón Salas. Another great poet and humanist was Andrés Bello, besides being and educator and a intellectual.

Other philosophers and intellectuals, like Laureano Vallenilla Lanz and José Gil Fortoul, along with many other writers, sustained the theory of the Venezuelan positivism.

The great architect of the Venezuelan Modern era was Carlos Raúl Villanueva, who designed and built the Universidad Central de Venezuela(World Heritage)) and its Aula Magna. Venezuelan architecture examples are the National Pantheon, the Baralt Theatre, the Teatro Teresa Carreño,and the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge.

Autoctonal music styles are sort of a crisol of the Venezuelan cultural inheritages, most noted in groups like Un Solo Pueblo and Serenata Guayanesa. The national musical instrument is the cuatro. The national songs are mainly from the llanos area and its environment, so is the case of the Alma Llanera (by Pedro Elias Gutierrez and Rafael Bolivar), Florentino y el Diablo (by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba) and Caballo Viejo (by Simón Díaz). The gaitas is also a popular style, played generally on Christmas, typical of Zulia State. The national dance is the joropo.

Teresa Carreño was a world famous piano virtuosa during late 19th century.

Venezuela is also a reference for their world famous baseball players, such as Luis Aparicio, David Concepción, Oswaldo Guillén, Andrés Galarraga, Omar Vizquel, Luis Sojo, and Johan Santana, winner of the Cy Young Award in 2004. Although baseball is tremendously popular, football (soccer) is also gaining popularity, due to the increasing performance of the Venezuela national football team.

See also:

Holidays

Date Local Name English Name Remarks
January 1 Día de Año Nuevo New Year's Day Beginning of the Liturgical Year
January 6 Día de Reyes Epiphany Christian feast, the visit of the three Magi to Jesus.
Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday Carnaval Carnival -
From Palm Sunday to Easter Semana Santa Holy Week Commemoration of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
March 19 Día de San José Saint Joseph's Day In honor of Saint Joseph
April 19 19 de abril Beginning of the Independence Movement Remembering the 1810 coup d'état and start of the Venezuelan Independence
May 1 Día del Trabajador Labour Day -
June 24 Batalla de Carabobo Battle of Carabobo Ensurance of the Venezuelan Independence; tagged also as Army's Day
July 5 5 de julio Independence Day Signing of the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence
July 24 Natalicio del Libertador Birth of Simón Bolívar Also tagged as Navy's Day.
October 12 Día de la Resistencia Indígena Columbus Day Previously, in Venezuela the holiday was called Día de la Raza, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas.
November 1 Día de Todos los Santos All Saints Day -
November 17 to November 19 Feria de la Chinita Feria of La Chinita Only in Zulia State; celebrating the miracle of Our Lady of Rosario of Chiquinquirá.
December 8 Inmaculada Concepción Immaculate Conception Celebrating the preservance of Mary, the mother of Jesus from the original sin by the Grace of God.
December 24 Nochebuena Christmas Eve Birth of Jesus (Divino Niño).
December 31 Nochevieja New Year's Eve Final day of the Liturgical Year

Personalities

National symbols

File:Orquidea.JPG
The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)

Venezuela's national symbols include the Flag, the Coat of Arms, and the National Anthem. Other elements relative to the typical flora and fauna of the territory are remarkable. The governments through history have officially declared these as national symbols:

National Flower
  • The orchid (Cattleya mossiae)

This kind of orchid is also known as Flor de Mayo (May Flower). Was first discovered in the northern land in 1839. Was given the status of National Flower on 23 May 1951.

File:Aragüaney.JPG
The araguaney, Venezuela's national tree.
National Tree

Called aravanei by the caribes, it can be found mostly in regions with temperate weather. It can reach a height between 6 and 12 m. The araguaney flourishes within the period following a rainy season, mostly on the first months of the year. Rómulo Gallegos referred to these months as "La primavera de oro de los araguaneyes" (the golden spring of the araguaneyes). Declared National Tree on 29 May 1945.

National Bird

Fully coloured with yellow-orange tones except in the head and the wings, which are black with a few tones in white; also has a blue spot surrounding the eyes. It can be found in woods, the llanos, at the shores of jungles, and in northern and southern Orinoco. The turpial is fairly appreciated due to its singing and was declared the National Bird on 23 May 1958.

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