Death of 3 Youngsters Shows How Cozy Brazil’s Army Is with Drug Traffickers

Brazilian Army soldier in a Rio favela There's something to be said about Rio de Janeiro. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities of the world, a beauty that cannot be hidden by the numerous favelas (shantytowns) that surround the city. The most famous postal card of Brazil embraces the ideal of beauty and joy, just like its most famous monument, Christ the Redeemer, with open arms overlooking the city.

Unfortunately, there is also a sad truth: Violence in all of its aspects is affecting the beautiful image, where the girl from Ipanema once used to walk.

Brazil and the world have been talking about last week's tragedy involving 11 Brazilian Army officials, who are being accused of triple-qualified homicide after surrendering three young men to local traffic dealers. The three victims belonged to the Morro da Providência (Providence Hill), a Rio favela.

The men were arrested following a routine check by the Army. The same day of the arrest they were released to traffic dealers from the Morro da Mineira (Miner's Hill), another favela. The three youngsters, including two minors, were tortured and killed.

According to police chief-officer Ricardo Dominguez, all military officials were very aware of the risks the young men would face since these two favelas are controlled by two opposing drug trafficking gangs. If condemned, the military officials could serve between 16 to 90 years in prison.

The investigation, which contains 200 pages, was concluded this Thursday, June 19, and points to possible involvement of the Brazilian military with traffic dealing in Rio de Janeiro.

Chief-officer Dominguez is asking the civil court to consider preventive detention against the Army officials , and believes that the Justice System should use eavesdropping for further investigation. "There was enough time before the deaths occurred for the Army officials to notify the authorities of their actions," he said.

In light of the recent event, the federal government is considering a reduction of Army patrol and control over the hills of Rio de Janeiro. Army officials involved in this case informed police authorities, that the three men were arrested, following a suspicion that they could be carrying weapons.

They were taken to the police station, and released with no further investigation. It is not certain yet, whether the Army officials will have a trial through a civil or military court. The suspects are being detained at the 1st Army Infantry Police at Tijuca, North region of Rio de Janeiro.

Débora Gonzaga Bastos, one of victims' sister, informed the press that her brother Wellington Gonzaga Bastos was returning from a party, when the army officials stopped them, and arrested them, releasing them to the criminals afterwards.

Wellington Bastos used to work at a social agency at Morro da Providência on housing recuperation. This incident involved 11 military officials including a lieutenant and a sergeant. Reports suggest that some of the military officials have already confessed the crime.

The bodies of Wellington Gonzaga da Costa, 19, Marcos Paulo da Silva, 17, and David Wilson Florêncio da Silva, 24, were found in a dumpster. Infuriated members of the Morro da Providência community organized a march against the Army and set eight buses on fire.

Rio de Janeiro is one of the wealthiest states of Brazil. Most of the state's profit originates from oil exploitation, which represents billions and billions of dollars each year. Not even 1% of this money, however, is invested in social programs.

According to a 2007 United Nations Report on drugs and crime, narco-traffic in Brazil is responsible for employing at least 20,000 people working with drug delivery. They are minors between the ages of 10 and 16 making a monthly pay between US$ 300 and US$ 500, way more than any regular job would pay.

That same UN report also indicated that Brazil needs to do more to socially include 50 million Brazilians.

None of this is really new and appalling for Brazilians anymore. Recent drug involvement in Rio de Janeiro even included a state-level representative. While the media reports drugs busts with enthusiasm, it shows very little or almost nothing on social reforming practices.

Brazilians still watch villain-hero themed TV novelas (soap operas) with genuine concern, still get upset at daily programs preaching death for criminals and dealing with the inefficiency of the medical system.

The elite, however, still dreams of New York watching get-out-of-the country touristic programs.

As the blame market keeps increasing its share prices on the poverty highway, Brazil forgets that in order to host the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, it will need to follow Adam Smith's advice: "No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part are poor and miserable."

Edison Bernardo DeSouza is a journalist, having graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo, Brazil. He lived in the US for close to 10 years and participated in volunteering activities in social works agencies. DeSouza currently lives in São Paulo where he teaches English as a Second Language, and is pursuing further advancements in his career. He is particularly interested in economics and human rights articles.


  • Show Comments (19)

  • Helena

    YOU should know better indeed
    This Ch.c couldn’t be more idiot and stupid. Some cheap jounarlists are disgusting just because they want people to see their ” truth” … And Ch.c is so cheap as them. It’s really easy to be a false revolutionary with the ” O, so bad people who kill “inocent” people… So inocent…” they say.
    Its sad that these crappy brazilians don’t acess the Brazilian Army’s website and see the true social programs that they do with every budget they have. Militarys spend their days and weekends in Brazil’s frontier and far sites taking care of sick and poor people, bringing drinkable water and suplies to poor comunnities of the north and northeast… O, they don’t know… they are worried in writing “nice” sensacionalist texts…
    The construction engineers opening roads in Amazon forest, falling sick, and keep working because they have a schedule to follow, because they must get access to any community, or link places, or any BLOODY thing! And they don’t complain. Because they are brazilian “soldiers” and must work for they country.
    These cheap journalists study in cheap universities, full of false revolutionary students, with their narrow mind (but they actually think they are so inteligent and full of culture) corrupted by this dirty red government. And the only thing they know is to be sit in the confort of their homes in front of their damned computer and criticize the people who are actually working. i’m not saying that there aren’t any corruption in any federal insitution (army, police or whatever).
    But one cannot write what they want without making any research and not analyze the whole picture. That shows how unprofessional these guys are. This is not surprising… They keep doing their jobs, screaming for ” justice” , blaming who they want, and practically NOT DOING ANYTHING for nobody. This is really beatiful.

  • Shelly


    Any brazilian trying to expose the truth is seen as anti-brazilian. Yes, the title is misleading, but we now have a clarification from Brazzilmag. By the way, in Brazil not only the police officers in Rio are “cozy” with drug dealers, but other state and federal officials must be involved. Why? Because Brazil is a corrupt nation, every politician is for sale (just like everywhere else, but here corruption is in your face).

    It is a real shame, but what do you expect? Pay the military a decent wages, give people better opportunities, and educate (although, someone will always be for sale).

  • João da Silva

    [quote]Why have you not read with more attention my 1 or 2 days old comments….WITH PROOFS…..of your Defense Budget….for 2008 ???????????????[/quote]

    You are not infallible all the times.The pensions paid to the “ex-revolutionaries” is not included in the Defense budget. But comes out of INSS to which we the good “bobalhÀƒµes” contibute.This is what I was protesting against.

    [quote]Ohhhhhh was it not your then famous Defense Minister (in charge of the Army…by definition) and ALL your government members who found the U.S. pilots were guilty….in the Amazon Air Tragedy ???????????[/quote]

    The “FAMOUS” defense minister Waldir Pires is probably getting the pension too, because he was supposed to have “fought” against the “Dictatorship”. Before Pires, the “Defense” minister was your “good friend”, Alencar

    [quote]I could continue for hours and hours.[/quote]

    So could I 😀 😉

  • João da Silva

    [quote]Joao, Skol is pony-piss, I prefer Bohemia. [/quote]

    Bohemia=Moose piss 😉

  • João da Silva

    Thanks for the info. I read through all his comments!

    The reason for my first comment was because of the title and subsequently the Brazzil mag clarified that they were the ones who were responsible for it. After reading through JosÀƒ©À‚´s comments, I realized that we totally differ from each other philosophically!! I don’t live in London nor read Folha often and so I missed his comments. Thanks for giving the link.

    Edison does write good articles and he lives in S.Paulo and JosÀƒ© missed these facts.

  • Friend

    comments for Jose W Cavallaro
    If you like your nation, you should return to it, and help resolve the greatest gap between rich and poor. This is not about boys being boys, it is about people killing people, in name of what? Piece. Journalist Bernardo did a great job. For those with who can understand more of Portuguese, hereÀ‚´s some of Cavallaro comments on other blogs.

  • Gringo

    Jose, my apologises for the stereotype remark, I’m TPMing, today. I could have made my point without the cheap shot. However, I stand by the rest of my post.

    Brazzil, thanks for jumping in.

    Joao, Skol is pony-piss, I prefer Bohemia.

    Everyone a great safe weekend. FUI!

  • João da Silva

    [quote]The responsibility for this article’s title, like most titles, belongs to Brazzil’s editors. The original title of this piece was “Re-inventing Rio, a postal card or an illusion?”[/quote]

    Thank you for the clarification and it confirms what the following people have been saying:

    Ricardo Amaral, Gringo and myself!

    To: JosÀƒ© Cavallaro

    Welcome to this interesting blog. But please remember that Edison is also a Brasilian and a Paulistano. He has written many nice articles questioning corruption and crime in Brasil. Like Augusto Zimmermann and Ricardo Amaral who are Brasilians too.

    Hey ZÀƒ©, I know that you are not Xenophobic. Nor were our Military leaders. What bothers me is that we are getting paranoiac about the Gringos, which in my opinion is not a healthy attitude. I am sure you share my view. I hope you will keep blogging, as I have always emphasized that we do need good rational Brasilians to project our image.

    To: Gringo

    Have a Skoll and relax (e gozar)!

    To: Ch.c

    Have some schnapps in my honor

    To: Jon

    Keep consuming large quantity of Molson. I am a bit upset with Alberta Liquor Commission for not supplying you with enough of Skol and Antartica (Original)

    To: Edison DeSouza

    Keep writing and ensure that the editors don’t alter the titles of your articles. The same recommendation to Ricardo Amaral too!!

  • BrazzilMag

    A clarification
    The responsibility for this article’s title, like most titles, belongs to Brazzil’s editors. The original title of this piece was “Re-inventing Rio, a postal card or an illusion?”

  • Gringo

    Good jornalism benifits Brazilian society, I would hope.
    For starters Jose, you can loose the fascist gobbledygook and stop telling people where and when their opinions are warranted. mmmk.

    Secondly, both you, and to an intelligent and far more sober degree Joao, lashed into the author for the article`s TITLE, which I would bet was created by the site administrator and NOT the journalist. I’ve published articles here too, and I know how the editors fiddle with the headlines. So you tell me, who is being biased and unfair in their rush to judgments? It is OBVIOUS to all the the author also laments the problems of Rio and is equally concerned with Brazil’s image (My God you Brazilians and your precious IMAGE), but instead of doing what most in Brazil do, which is pretend everything is just fine OR blame others, this bloke Edison, a true journalist, is doing what his trade dictates: he’s shinning a bright light in the darkest corners of society. If you want a decent image of Brazil, start by changing Brazil. If you want journalists to write puff pieces on how great Brazil is, well, you already have the tourism board.

    [quote]To what you foreign guys are saying… I do understand… you have something against Brazil.[/quote]

    This is simply childish, insecure, nationalistic whining and xenophobia. Cry me a freaking river, and do your nation a favor and stop reinforcing stereotypes.

  • Jose W. Cavallaro

    Cui bono?
    To Mr. Gringo:
    I agree with you that a little bit o rationality is needed here.

    You need to read the full text before you come with any debate. As for, when I said, “I will make sure, as a real Brazilian, that your comments reach the Brazilian Army so that they can deal with your comments” there no “witches hunting” on that but that he is leaving in a democratic state and the army has the right of replying to his comments.
    If you had spent some proper time on reading my text you would observe this line I wrote: “being biased and untruthful like you have been here is typical of journalists of states under the dominium of tyranny other than democratic ones”… and the reason I wrote this was because he did wrote a lie. There is not a single piece of evidency that could link the Brazilian Army to being cozy to the traffic of drugs.

    To what you foreign guys are saying… I do understand… you have something against Brazil. But about what this Brazilian said I was shocked. Lies and lies. Poor knowledge of the Brazilian reality.

    To him I let another Roman Empire adage: “Cui bono?” Cui bono, Edson? Of your comments? Certainly not us Brazilians.

  • ch.c.

    “it is one the main principles of a democratic regime that its citizens pursue the truth and the justice,”
    So true…to free the murderer of Sister Dorothy !
    So true…to do nothing against the Deaths Sqauads !
    So true…to have put NO ONE in jail for the 720 killings in 15 or 20 years…of poors in PARA alone !!!!! Killings ordered by large
    farms owners.
    So true…to put girls in the same cells with 20 or 30 males. Sex for food exist in Brazil
    So true…to have killed several tens of innocents during the SP chaos. Innocents killings ADMITTED BY YOUR SP MAYOR AND GOVERNOR !!!!! You should review their own statements….not mine !
    So true….to put a young woman, aged 19, to 4 years in jail because she has stolen….A TUBE OF BUTTER !!!!!!!
    So true….to FREE an acknowledged murderer…because…… HE HAD NO PREVIOUS POLICE RECORD !!!
    So true…to put petty thieves for many years in jail…but not the criminals !

    I could continue for hours and hours.
    May I suggest you to read or re-read the thousands and thousands reports from International Organizations….about the truth and the famous INjustice… Brazil !!!!! And just as well as the tens and tens of articles….in this site…by the way !!!!!!!!!!

    Therefore your “main principles of a democratic regime that its citizens pursue the truth and the justice” are only words….but neither FACTS….or REALITY !!!!!!!!!!!

    PROVE ME WRONG….if you can !

    Ohhhhhh was it not your then famous Defense Minister (in charge of the Army…by definition) and ALL your government members who found the U.S. pilots were guilty….in the Amazon Air Tragedy ???????????
    Why dont you re-read all the chapters ?


    RED FACED ?????? you better be…..not by anger…..against those telling the truth.

    Not yet over :
    Your Bin the Crook and his 4000 thieves caress their navel regularly on the GOOD, ADVANCED AND FREE HEALTHCARE…. they are providing !

    Thus why…as per the article above and thousands of others available we read : ” and dealing with the inefficiency of the medical system ????????????”

    And why your Vice President went to the USA for his 4 heart surgeries ??????????????????????? Not good enough….in Brazil ???????
    Of course, as a Vice President, he was entitled to travel FREE in a government jet, with many of his staffs, in a private clinic, top surgeon and all fully paid by the government !!!!
    I admit this time….top healthcare, top service, EXTREME HIGH COSTS…!!!!

    Is this the Brazilian Social Justice…you were reffering to ?????????????????????????????????????????

  • Gringo

    Jose, you would have made Senator McCarthy proud. You sure you’re not meerrriiikkkan?
    Why lionize a civil service?

    Sorry Joao, I am utterly lost at why some citizens have an unhealthy love affair with their armed forces. From the US, to Canada and beyond, these individuals are treated like sacred cows, and any criticism of them or their workings is met with bullshit nationalistic hyperbole like the response from Jose. The author of the article did nothing wrong at all, and if anything he has consistently provided a fairly balanced approach to his journalism. Objectivity is a rarity these days and this individual, by laying out facts as ugly as they may be, probably does more for his nation than the seething rabid attacks aimed at him from chest pounding nationalistic blowholes. Look at the language employed by Jose: BETRAYER? That’s a FOX news republican let`s blow up the world mentality, not the mentality thats aimed at building a better future.

    I personally think your military owes your nation a lot of answers. To this day, their records are sealed tight. Operation Condor? Where are the missing? Brazil enjoys blaming the Americans for 20 years of dictatorship, the problems associated; the disappearances, and now everyone jumps to the defense of those who actually shut Brazil out from the world? Granted, the dictatorship here was not as violent as say Argentina`s or Chiles, but it was on par with what we have currently in Myanmar. IMO

    Look at Jose’s words.

    [quote] I will make sure, as a real Brazilian, that your comments reach the Brazilian Army so that they can deal with your comments.[/quote]

    How Mccarthyesque! “Snitch on those who may not be patriots” ! And of course, there is the obligatory hope that the military will show up at his door and “deal with his comments”. What democratic consequences are involved with freedom of speech?

    On the flip side, I don’t want to demonize the army either. They should be treated like all other societal servants and complimented when doing a good job, and scrutinized when necessary. To me, they are no different than cops, doctors and plumbers. Actually, right now, I’m in greater need of a plumber than the army.

    A little bit of rationality is needed here.

  • ch.c.

    “putting all the blame on the military government and extracting fat pensions from the tax payers pockets. ”
    I really laugh !
    Why have you not read with more attention my 1 or 2 days old comments….WITH PROOFS…..of your Defense Budget….for 2008 ???????????????

    2008 Budget 42 billion Reais
    19 billion for pensioneers
    12 billion for administrative costs

    IF I AM NOT WRONG….THIS EQUALS TO 45 % for the pensioneers only, 28 % for the administration !!!!!!

    And to the idiot of Cavallaro :
    Are you not for a free speech nation ????????
    Does the sad truth hurts you so much ?
    Your threats are typical of a guilty people….also involved. Yesssssss….in Brazil, revealing and disclosing the truth is subject to….DEATH THREATS OR……STRAIGHT DEATH !!!!!!

    Why dont you re-read the articles as to why the journalists were killed… many instances !

    You are within the majority of Brazilians…….APPLAUDING……..DEATHS SQUADS KILLINGS INNOCENT CHILDREN !

    I would not be surprised you work in the army, in the police forces, or is a local political figure.

    Therefore the threats coming from you is typical….of your daily filthy lifestyle !!!!

    You are addicted to bad behaviour and can no longer differentiate the good from the bad.
    Of course the bad behaviours is very much rewarding……FOR YOU !!!!!!

  • João da Silva

    [quote]Joao….Joao……dont you feel sick and mad ?
    You should…if you are sincereely honest !!!!!!! [/quote]

    I feel sick and mad about many things as you might have observed in my comments. BUT I am ALSO sick and tired of listening to the constant bashing of the Armed forces (especially the Army and Air Force) and scapegoating them for the ills of Brasil. I am ALSO sick and tired of seeing the “ex-revolutionaries” in power putting all the blame on the military government and extracting fat pensions from the tax payers pockets.

    Please do read the comments of JosÀƒ© Cavallaro. Though I think he was too harsh on Edison who has also written good articles on corruption and crime, JosÀƒ© has pointed out many accomplishments of the military [i]government[/i]

    A question: What do the politicians want, to unionize the armed forces?


  • Jose W. Cavallaro

    To a betrayer
    To the À¢€œjournalistÀ¢€Â Edson Bernardo de Souza
    I am commenting with utter disbelief to your comments made: do you really think that the Brazilian Army is cozy with traffic dealers. Do you really understand the meaning of the word À¢€œcozyÀ¢€Â?

    Cozy means: snug, comfortable, and warm, marked by friendly intimacy.

    Are you really a prepared to face the legal and democratic consequences of what you are saying? I will make sure, as a real Brazilian, that your comments reach the Brazilian Army so that they can deal with your comments.
    Also, I would suggest that you understand any history before you go making malicious suggestion and innuendoes about an institution which has proved to be one of the prides of Brazil, heavily involved in many strategic issues in the past. Enough to say that Petrobras, Vale and so many others companies and all the infrastructure that is the cause for he actual Brazilian economic prosperity come from the Army Forces. You insulted not only the Army but the entire force that is united in only one goal: the good of Brazil and the Brazilian people.
    I am particularly disgusted by hearing something from a person who is supposed to say À¢€œI am a Brazilian.À¢€Â Not because – again if you wish to be biased – you would say that I am being anti-democratic and not allowing you to say anything BUT SOLELY BECAUSE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS NOT TRUE AT ALL! And, it is one the main principles of a democratic regime that its citizens pursue the truth and the justice, not the untrue and the injustice: thatÀ¢€™s being anti-democratic Mr. Edson, as being biased and untruthful like you have being here is typical of journalists of states under the dominium of tyranny other than democratic ones.
    As you would say Рagain whether you wished to be dishonest Рthat Brazil is an anti-democratic country unlikely the USA, where you thought you could say anything when you lived there. The Brazilian Army wasnˢ۪t deposed but conducted the Brazilian society throughout a democratic stage without a violent transition that is why you and any other person are allowed to say anything now. The democratic political institutions in Brazil are in a singular position in the World, whether you have dedicated time to research.
    Mr Edson, I donˢ۪t know who pays you to say what you have said, who you wish to benefit, or whether you have said it only self-motivated by your own reflections on the Brazilian Army, but I canˢ۪t find the reasons which would take a Brazilian living abroad to make such hurtful comments on his own nation: itˢ۪s very unlikely that an Englishman would do the same or an American one.
    I felt sick with your text title. I would not be though, whether what you said was reflecting the truth. As Voltaire would say: À¢€œI may not agree with a single word of what you have said but I would fight to death for the right that you have to say what have said.À¢€Â
    But, an entire institution cannot be condemned and called corrupt because of the attitudes of some of its members acting by their own wishes and in a heavily gross misconduct.
    Also you said that À¢€œBrazil is responsible for employing at least 20.000 people working with drug deliveryÀ¢€Â… again I think that you was very silly on your comments: you can not use the word Brazil as if you was talking about an entire nation, as she the Brazilian nation, is also a victim of the drug dealers, who acts against the law and not following it. You used the word À¢€œwork with drug deliveryÀ¢€Â… you should understand that the word work would be employed in this case only whether you was talking about a regulated profession in Brazil and À¢€œdrug delivererÀ¢€Â certainly is not, unless if you were talking about the courier who makes deliveries for pharmacies.
    You talk about the À¢€œpoorÀ¢€Â youngsters that got killed but you donÀ¢€™t mention that the Army soldiers didnÀ¢€™t kill them but the other gangsters. You donÀ¢€™t mention that those gangsters should be arrested but that the soldiers should!!! Were you on drugs when you wrote that?
    I am a Brazilian who was born in 1968 and grown up in years of the military dictatorship. I was a militant of the left parties as well during my high school and university time. My father was a poor workman who worked in a textile company in the Sao Paulo state countryside who is now receiving a very poor salary. Although not leaving in Brazil at this moment, and having also Italian nationality I am proud of my Brazilian nationality and of my people and country.
    I can not understand your attitude of writing in English in a very popular magazine on the Internet with the intention of damaging the image of our Army, unless you are a betrayer of the Brazilian nationˢ۪s interests. Who do you work for? Not for Brazil for sure.
    I will leave to you a Roman adage “Quando debent optare, vertitas sequi” À¢€“ when you have to opt; opt for the truth.

  • ch.c.

    “Rio de Janeiro is one of the wealthiest states of Brazil.”
    And……”Not even 1% of this money, however, is invested in social programs.”

    Joao….Joao……dont you feel sick and mad ?
    You should…if you are sincereely honest !!!!!!!
    What have I told you one way or the other—-HUNDREDS OF TIMES ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Yesssssss…….Viva Bin the Crook and his 4000 thieves and their world famous….SOCIAL PROGRAMS….that other emerging countries…are apparently PRETENDING (as per Bin Lula and his gang) to take as a model for their own countries !!!!!

    And to my preferred Tranny, one who also got a Brazilian University Degree… a pack of detergent :

    “That same UN report also indicated that Brazil needs to do more to socially include 50 million Brazilians.”

  • ch.c.

    “For Edison to say that Brazilian Army is cozy with drug traffickers is highly insulting.”
    MAY BE NOT !!!!!
    How many times the Rio POLICE (not the army) have killed drug dealers and favelas gang chiefs….just to take over….their traffics PLUS extorting funds from the favelas citizens……for providing protection ??????

    And Joao why dont you re-read more carefully “If condemned, the military officials could serve between 16 to 90 years in prison.”

    doesnt that rings you a bell the ….IF CONDEMNED ?????
    iT SAYS IT ALL !!!!!!

    Just refer to my very recent comments on the Brazilian INjustice tricks :
    – first a high media coverage…to show how the medias and government care fpr justice.
    – then the murderers got a jail term. Hurrah…..Justice won….this time……as per the medias and government.
    – But…..but…..a few months laters (not years) a judge finds the trick to free the murderers one ways opr the other.
    And their is an appeal anyway from the lawyers defending the criminals.
    – Then silence for months or years. Criminals are still FREE…waiting for the final judgement.
    – And finally they are….. innocented….with NOT much media fanfare, and of course total silence from government officials.

    Yessssssss….where are the policemen who killed in a blood bath 32 innocents citizens just as a revenge…. near Rio…. 2 years ago ????????????????????????
    And this is one example within many many many thousands..AS YOU SHOULD KNOW !

  • João da Silva

    Death of 3 Youngsters Shows How Cozy Brazil’s Army Is with Drug Traffickers
    This headline is highly misleading and the article is not too informative. For Edison to say that Brazilian Army is cozy with drug traffickers is highly insulting. It fails to mention that the LT who took the three guys disobeyed his C.O who ordered him to let them go.The LT and the 10 others are in prison and facing military inquiry. The press says that the LT “might be” involved with drug traffickers.

    To say that the entire Brazilian army is “cozy” with DTs is pure sensational news. Edison could have done a much better job if he had written a less biased article.

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