Child domestic labor still legal in Haiti

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Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

Child domestic labor still legal in Haiti

Post by Ezili Danto » Thu Aug 14, 2003 3:36 am

One et respe to all;

At the end of the post above (Tue Aug 05, 2003)
I wrote something I want to clarify. I wrote:

"I want to point to the fact that Aristide's government has made child labor illegal."

That's statement is not true. I knew it as soon as I reread the post.

Fact: Child domestic labor in Haiti is LEGALLY on the books under the Labor Code.

The point I wished to make is VALID REGARDLESS. Child domestic labor in Haiti is NOT chattel slavery in the way of Western European-styled slavery was.

I was just going to make this correction. But perhaps a Haitian rights advocate need speak up about this issue. So here goes my two cents on the issue. I write this in order to empower Haitians but not to minimize the suffering of the restaveks. I write to give Haitians a few of the comebacks they need on this issue that is now being highlighted by the foreigners to make us feel ashamed, inferior. No need Beloved. You don't have to get played by the Man, yet again.



Rural agricultural societies all over the world are known to send their children to relatives in the cities in order that these children would have greater opportunities than the family in the rural areas have available. Pick any current developing country, and, a form of this phenomenon is going on.

Look at any pre-industrialized European country you'll note how parents sent their children to relatives in the richer urban centers where the hope is that they'll get an education and be exposed to better opportunities than are available in the destitute rural areas.

For the US authorities, to use the word "slavery" with reference to child domestic labor in Haiti is not only insidious but to mislead and minimize the Matah - European Slave Trade of Africans for over three centuries.

NOT A LEGAL ISSUE: Haitians don't even know, in general, that there are laws on the books authorizing child domestic labor and regulating it in Haiti. It's not and was never a legally contrived disenfranchisement, like for instance, the Slave Codes, the Black Codes, the Dred Scott decision and the Jim Crow apartheid/segregation laws in the US. Any comparison to the Haitian law regulating child domestic labor with these racist US slave or segregation laws is way off the mark. In such a negotiation with the US the task is to OWN and define this Haitian social reality as it is and not as the US ideologues are trying squeeze it to be.

Strategic basics dictates one should not work within the framework and eyeballs of the Powers-that-be, who, as we-Haitians know, are always in denial and creating and rewriting history to service their own privileged self-interests.

In such a negotiation, Haitians should NEVER let the Euro/US set the framework for discussion and then try to defend ourselves from that framework. That's pretty foolish. Any negotiator worth her/his salt would tell you, always set off from your own reality, not the reality of the guy across the table, trying to win over you at all cost.

The Haitian reality: 90% percent of our peoples are left vulnerable, in the hinterlands of Haiti, to live under pulverizing rural poverty, crushing unemployment, no schools, health, electricity, sanitary or other such state services. And when there are some technical rural schools, the destitute agricultural parents have no money to pay for sending their children to these schools.

The Haitian reality: Haitian peasants were oppressed by the local imperial agents of US/Euro power in Port-au-Prince beginning, more or less in 1806, with Dessaline's assassination. Haitian peasants have traditionally been exploited, their lands stolen with their taxes returning no services. For instance, the already destitute peasants where the ones who shouldered the backbreaking 1825 French debt, promised by Boyer so that France would recognize Haitian independence by growing coffee and export products to fund Port-au-Prince's debt.

The Haitian reality: Up until the 1990 Aristide election, the poor in Haiti had never had a voice in Haiti's governments, run mainly by the pro-etranje, anti-Ayisyen elite's ever since the assassination of Dessaline in 1806. Said elite's themselves have endlessly been fighting tooth and nail against the US/Euros to maintain even that little turf called the Republic of Port-au-Prince, and, by extension, to maintain the national

Haitian reality: Before the US corporations made the light/Black and moun andeyo paradigm in Haiti worst with it's Jim Crow and the "no land, no food" exodus from the rural areas to the cities, the urban centers had been richer and "more sophisticated" and cosmopolitan than the rural centers. Peasants, who wanted their children to have some "sophistication," better economic and social opportunity and access to education and jobs when they got older, send their children to the richer urban centers.

Haitian reality: The restavek phenomenon was founded on the often-fruitless poor peasant Haitian's thirst and search for education, acceptance and upward mobility. My point is the intent of the parents, when they placed their children with relatives or a "wealthier" Haitian was not to legally enslave or promote moun vini inferiority. Au contraire, it was to elevate as best as they could, given their limited resources. These Haitian parents' intent DO NOT compare to the barbaric intent of the Europeans when they enslaved Africans and then created laws to make said enslavement legal.

INDENTURED SERVANTS: There is absolutely no comparison in terms of societal intent. In application yes hungry and poor Haitian children are and have too long been left unprotected and lost their innocence and childhood because of child labor. But the more correct legal term, in the more severe cases, would have been to identify these destitute children as "indentured servants", not "slaves." Many orphan children in the US did not stop being indentured servants until the first quarter of the 20th century! These US children's rights and best interests were not even paramount until the late 1960s! And, I guarantee US officials know this.

DEFINITION: An indentured servant was someone who voluntarily or involuntarily committed to working for someone for a fixed number of years ...usually 4 to exchange for passage to America, or some other financial advantage. As the lowest person on the totem pole, an indentured servant had few, if any rights, but people without skills or money accepted this position in order to emigrate. After the period of work was over, the servant usually became a freeman." and )

So, if the US is looking for Triangular-trade epoch labels, than this definition, fits a bit more, though not completely, than "slave." Especially if you really know Haitians and how proud they are NOT to be slaves!!! But this is all academic discourse with little or no relation to Haitian reality. A restavek is not a "slave" as slaves were slaves for life and not given their freedoms after a certain length of time. Nor, are the children of restaveks made slaves too, as the laws of European chattel slavery required.

US/UK COMMON LAW: Look at children in pre-industrial Europe, specifically England where we inherited US common laws and all our US pathologies. Before the industrial revolution, agricultural work was the norm and the more children one had, the richer one was because life was so hard so difficult that many hands were needed for the family unit to survive.

RETARDED MONARCHS: Would the European workers/serfs, of pre-industrial time, deem their children doing agricultural and domestic work "slaves?" Please! They all were serfs actually sold with the land no less! Except those-retarded-never-did-an-honest-work-in-their-life-European-monarchs who mostly all married their underage first cousins to keep the bloodline and power in the Western European family tree!

These Euro/US descendants are the ones now looking a Black woman straight in the face and calling all child domestic labor in Haiti, "slavery" in the same manner, degree and magnitude as US/Euro chattel slavery was! And we know full well how said Euro/US chattel slavery was a complete deprivation of humanity, of unbeknownst-to-the-world barbaric scale until these white Europeans invented it.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE: For these officials to compare said slavery, which, by the way is still LEGAL as a punishment for crimes in the US, to Haitian child domestic labor is absolutely too conniving and reprehensible for words. What can I say? They are just giving me WORK. Don't believe the hype. The Man (Category One) is always promoting his clean hands, clean history, his divinity and our (Category Zero's) barbarity.

Category One won't ever publicize that, with all His avowed enlightenment, slavery is still LEGAL in the US under the Thirteenth amendment "as a punishment for crime." No.

But don't get it twisted. You now know why we (Category Zero) are always criminalized in the US!

Fact is: "When African Americans were no longer legally held as slaves or property, there was a tremendous increase in the number of African-American convicts." ... -time.html

Fact: After "emancipation," back in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, et cetera, the prison establishment would keep replenishing their Black and poor white inmate pool and then "loan" the prisoner out to US businesses.

Fact is: "In the late 19th-century South, an extensive prison system was developed in the interest of maintaining the power, race, and economic relationships of slavery." (id)

Fact: "This is illustrated by the fact that in 1878, Georgia leased out 1,239 convicts, 1,124 of whom were African Americans. Through the convict lease system, bidders paid an average $25,000 a year to the state, in exchange for control over the lives of all of the convicts. The system provided revenue for the state and the profit of unwaged, unprotected workers for plantation owners or private industries. Racial and economic motivations were far more central than public safety and rehabilitation." (Same site as above: or read, )

The brutal chain gang concept these Southerners brought to Haiti during their first occupation (1915 to 1934) did not stop for US-Blacks until the late 1950s, to be replaced, again, by convict leasing and other types of convict labor programs. The chain gang briefly returned to Alabama in 1995. In some states, each day worked reduces a prisoner's sentence by one day! Visiting right with families, telephone calls and other privileges are conditions on the Black prisoner "volunteering" free labor…..

That's, perhaps why, US AID's legal "experts" in Haiti and other foreign strategic advisors to Haiti want to promote the CRIMINALIZATION of our young people. It's the better to bring their treatment of the destitute US-Black into Haiti. These racist imperialists know no other way to "contain Black people" and maintain their development edge in the world. Our forced labor is their get-rich-quick-card.

In the US, such involuntary servitude is still taking place right now, in some form, as I write.

Hey, but what do I know? I'm just the daughter of two Haitian peasants, from a peasant Haitian family lineage.


Perhaps I could tell you that all of us unpretentious Haitians know Restaveks. We are them to put it plainly. I believe that generally, most peasants are descendants of Restaveks. Let me explain:
(To be continued)

Ezili Danto

Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

Part Two - Child Domestic labor still legal in Haiti

Post by Ezili Danto » Thu Aug 14, 2003 3:41 am

My mother, for instance, was sent to live with "reste avec" my grandfather and grandmother to help my grandfather out when grandmother became too blind to work in her fields. Later on, when mother got older, she was sent to Port-au-Prince to live with "reste avec" a wealthier relative who was to help her learn how to sew and embroider. They weren't "slaves" though I understand many restaveks aren't so lucky. But the rural lakou is where most of the children of my mother and grandmothers' generation were raised.

My father ran away, at the age of nine, when his " ti malerez" mother wouldn't send him to school. Family legend has it that grandmama didn't want father learning how to read so he would "steal her lands!"


It was selfish and ignorant, but if one knows Haitian history, one wouldn't blame my Grandmama for not trusting "education." Eurocentric educated Haitians have, until recently, brought no good to Haiti.

It goes back to our struggle for national existence.

For instance, Toussaint, the legend goes, had these two sons: Isaac and Placide. Once Toussaint had achieved some military renowned for his service in the French colonial army. As it was with such military officers, Toussaint earned the right to send his two sons, Isaac and Placide, to France, to be raised and educated at the expense of the French Republic. This was a pretty big honor. The ultimate a Haitian parent could do for his child was to send him to Paris to be educated!

Dovetailing with the restavek issue here, it's important to note, Haitian schools where fairly secondary to sending your kid to b e a u ti f u l PARIS. That was the ultimate. Besides, to keep the military happy this tradition of giving priority to children of the military continued way after independence. Obviously not that many could go to PARI. So in Haiti, even rural schools, not to mention city schools gave priority to the military's child, the connected politician and the business elite. So, Paris was the best Haitian parents, who had money could do for their child. Rural or church schools or restavek labor for the girls was the best a Haitian parent without money could do.

Anyway, guess what? Legend has it, that the so-called "educated" Isaac and Placide later returned to Haiti on the Lerclerc warships sent back to re-enslave Haitians and capture/destroy Toussaint, their very father. Sure enough!

Yep, Eurocentric education has been the BANE of our existence. So, it really wasn't to uncommon for old illiterate Madam Sarahs in the hinterlands, who lived by their wits and kept their lands by said wit, to be weary of every "educated" Haitian, or the Grandom. Distrust of one another, is, one of the things we-Haitians still need to overcome today.

So, Me father can't get schooling in his rural village. The real cause was probably his ti-malere mother couldn't actually afford it, or wasn't high enough up the Gros Habitan social ladder to place him in school herself. She was an unmarried woman with no Gro Neg protector. So, father had to fend for self. He saved-up the few coins he had made from selling straw hats, sandals and purses made from "pit" he had cultivated and harvested.

When this small, nine year old, still-in-short-pants-boy felt he was rich enough, he left his rural home with his coins in his pocket. He walked all the way to Port-au-Prince from Southern Haiti hoping to make a better living for himself.

Imagine, he was only nine years old and still scared of the dark! It just breaks your heart to think about what Haitian children must endure alone with no help or emotional support.

When father got to Port-au-Prince, they called him "moun vini."

He was homeless for a while until he found a job, as a dishwasher in a private home, that would later become the Ibo Lele. (Aside: at the Ibo Lele, father met the aging US military, State Department and corporate business honchos who didn't leave with the end of occupation in1934 and their intelligence cadres. He served coffee, tea, lunch, dinner and supper to a certain "Mr. Roosevelt" whose brother was US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yep, same bunch who rewrote the Haitian Constitution, establish the vicious pro-etranje trained-in-Fort-Bennin-Georgia-Haitian-military and set the stage for a daughter's U-turn to try and support pro-Ayisyen development in 1994-5! For it was, FDR, who, as sub-secretary of the navy under the Wilson administration, had pompously took it on himself to rewrite the Constitution the US would impose on Haiti during the US 19 year occupation.)

Anyway, in Port-au-Prince, Dad tasted and burnt his mouth on his first fresco. Eventually Dad hustled, learned three languages enough to be useful in the tourist trade and got himself out of Port-au-Prince and into the US within thirty years. He had risen from the ashes of the illegimacy stigma, past the light/skinned dark skinned stigma, past the moun vini stigma. My peasant Haitian father had made, on his very own steam, that long, long, long miraculous trek from rural Fond Des Blan to Port-au-Prince successfully landing at Kennedy airport with a green card in his wallet and a sponsorship job waiting for him. Although perhaps my work may have influenced him a bit now, I remember the time my Dad would tell you, straight up, that Haiti doesn't merit his consideration because Haiti never did a DANM for him or his ti malerez mother beyond preying on them. Interestingly enough, father likes Aristide. And though father has said "Haiti se chyen" and that he would never make the U-turn, he didn't change his Haitian citizenship for over 35years, not until the new 1996 INS laws threatened his hard earned retirement income. Father still thinks I am unhinged for making the U-turn. It's ironic.

THE MASCULINE SYSTEM IS ALL OVER THIS GLOBE NOT JUST IN HAITI: Anyway, I go into all that to say: "Who are these US officials talking about restaveks as if they know!" I know that there are some things too painful to share with your child and perhaps both my peasant parents suffered much more than they may admit to for the shame of it all. Haitians are always ashamed of something. It's really trying. That's why I refuse to teach this or past it on. No way.

I know too, from living in a Haitian family and listening carefully that some of my ancestors have had good, caring family members who treated them relatively well, or, just below the treatment they would give their own children. And, some depraved family members of mine have severely beaten, mistreated even impregnated the Restaveks in their families, the maid, every young girl they came into contact with! My light skinned, long "straight hair" grandaunts have tons of stories of how they barely survived some "Arab" home they where sent to in Port-au-Prince. These restavek girls in Port-au-Prince meet that "moun vini" prejudice and, are, I think, sitting ducks, treated, perhaps far worst than the restavek in the rural parts, who are sometimes indistinguishably as poor and as miserable as the biological children of their host families. At least that's my impression.

Either way, fact is there was no official authority to go to for protection. This still goes on for most of the little Haitian girls who make up the Restavek population. Fact is, it doesn't much change when they get older and must face some Gro Neg with a Duvalier or FRAPH or, now, a ZENGLENDO gun wishing to exploit them. Women and the girlchild are the most devalued and exploited in Haiti. But women and girls are second class citizens worldwide. The poorer the country the more they are vulnerable. And, guess what? Where there's vulnerability, some opportunists will exploit. Sure enough!

I'm told, by my great-aunts, cousins and their Madam Sarah makomer that it's an absolute trial to be an attractive and miserably poor women in Haiti. It's a wretched existence, they say. I say, the poorer a country, the more so. This unfortunately happens all over the world.

But, for the US to exploit the pain of Haitian children and women for their OWN political purposes against Aristide is beyond criminal. It reminds one of how they kept showing pictures of the Taliban-exploited-and-beaten-Afghan women before the US Afghan invasion. The message: the US Powers-That-Be cared about Afghan children and women rights! I mean this is the country that has CAPITAL PUNISHMENT for children! The country that once didn't have a government agency for protecting its poor orphans and homeless children until the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to ANIMALS had to do the honors!!!!!

H E L L O…..?

(To be continued..)

Ezili Danto

Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

Final Part - Child domestic labor is still legal

Post by Ezili Danto » Thu Aug 14, 2003 3:43 am

This is the country that today still refuses to put in place universal health care and proper schools for destitute children. Did any one really think Bush/Chenney were really concerned about the rights of Afghan women? Yeah right. If so, why not help pass the Equal Rights Amendment to protect US women in the US first? Why don't they tackle their own US women's historic subordination to US men and guarantee US women full constitutional rights and equal pay for equal work, first. (See, )

Afghanistan simply opened the door to bomb Iraq, where Chenney and the Bush boys had oil interests, wanted a US base to keep the Muslim world in check. The US invasion sanctioned the bombing of an Iraqi population where 50% of the Iraqis are children under 15!;allowed for Chenney's Halliburton to milk more money from US taxpayers than ever. The US/UK/Israel just brought more pain, suffering and underdevelopment to Afghanistan and Iraq. Someone in the know tells me 8 MILLION BARRELS of oil has simply gone "missing" from Iraq. So that today, the second largest oil producer in the world doesn't tonight have enough electricity to light up Iraq for the Iraqi people. Especially since the reserves are gone and the rebels are blowing up the oil pipelines. 8 million barrels of oil has gone missing! Halliburton has received millions in consultant contracts at taxpayers expense. Poor US servicemen are paying the price with their lives and the Iraqi people have lost their infrastructure, their oil riches and their children's futures. Both Saddam and Osama are still out there.

And the US wants to talk to Haitians about how it CARES about Black Haitian CHILDREN? Tell it to Microsoft and Tommy Hilfiger who hire underage child labor all over this globe.

Let Haitians resolve their own pathology thank you. The poor everywhere, especially women and children, are the ones being tormented and miseducated by these masculine, patriarchic systems, not just in Haiti, but in the US ( )and all over this globe. Systems that allow men in relationships of power to abuse the less powerful, especially the poor woman, girlchild, and boychild with impunity.

But hey, "might-makes-right," that's the Bushes moto, no? No matter how shaky the merits of the US case? Where was the US's concern for Haitian restaveks and moral high ground for all these centuries?

What? They only begin to see child domestic labor when Aristide came to power? Give me a break? Until recent times, there's not one US Ambassador whose house hasn't been full of underage children doing the domestic work and gardening.

But OK, I'll play too. Let's look at this thing. For the US to dub all restavek child domestic labor cases as "slavery" is to make one ask this question: When a family in the US, adopts a child, or, takes on a foster child, assigns said child with daily domestic shores, is that child's domestic labor "slavery?" The common sense answer is NO.

The US/Euros still actually believe there are no Haitian rights' advocates around except the ones on their payrolls, or, the ones they've cowed with their "I've-got-clean-hands" hype!

My point is that it is, in many instances, a failure to acknowledge Haitian economic history, the one-hundred year US/Euro embargo, racism, patriarchy and the nature of an agricultural society that would lead the US imperialist to make such a blanket IGNORANT statement.

Does the US officials making these pronouncements on Haiti think we-Haitians don't understand that the US public school system wasn't designed for humanitarian purposes or to simply educate every US child? Public schools in the US came about because the Barons of US Industry needed semi-skilled literate workers to put in their factories and plants. It had nothing to do with outlawing child labor on the small US farms, or anywhere else. Minimum wage and outlawing child labor was a long civil society struggle in the US. (See, Howard Zinn "A Peoples History of America.")

Or, read this "Brief History of Child Welfare in America," where it notes, inter alia, that "In the United States, an early means of caring for orphans was by INDENTURE. The first American child was indentured in 1636, in Massachusetts. Indenture was often FREE LABOR RATHER THAN PROTECTION." (Cap. Emphasis Added)

H E L L O…???????

But let's leave imperialistic, racist, patriarchic politics aside and have a chat with the Haitian family. Most of Haiti's restaveks (74%) are little bitsy, malnourished, frail GIRLS. Many (not all) are abused in all kinds of ways- emotional, physical, psychological. They are at the mercy and disposition for sexual services of the man in the house and his sons, male relatives, even their domino playing male friends. Most of these beautifully little girls get no education and many are beaten unmercilessly. This treatment of little girls and the systemic societal devaluation of our woman-child are not unique to Haiti but Haiti is my country and I say this misogyny is not only retarded but cowardly. Its "sell-by date" is long come and gone. It's rotten to the core. Domestic child labor of the "indentured servant" sort should be ILLEGAL in Haiti. All children deserve some semblance of a childhood, even destitute children. I know things are miserable in Haiti. I know, in the best of circumstances, the parent who gives away her little girl or boy until they come of age, was hoping the child would have a better life than the parent(s) had.

This generation must succeed at breaking old blueprints and paradigms for the sake of our children. This generation must make child domestic labor, resembling indentured servitude in any form, and illegal. Empowering woman and the girl child will empower our society and help break the imperialist hold over our development. Historically the Haitian nation has done zilch to protect its rural citizens – the majority of Haitians.

Anyone, any Haitian men or women, who stands before us for political office must understand and commit themselves to equal rights and equal treatment of women and especially children. If you drive around Petionville and happen to get a flat tire, like I once did, the number of young boys, on the streets, ready to help for a few dollars, is amazing. Shouldn't we adults be adults and give them a sense of self with educational outlets. Why is it easier to follow US advice and criminalize our children instead of directing their young energies?

The strong is NOT supposed to destroy or, even worst, torture and sexually exploit, the powerless, especially a small child who cannot fend for her/himself. I have no words strong enough to oppose the abuse of a children. It's reprehensible - plain Neantherthal retarded. I understand too that Haitians are just starting to have the power to speak out without being put in prison. I understand the neocolonial history and male prejudices that has made that so.

Even the US took until fairly recently to get rid of indentured servitude for orphans. Now that we can freely speak we cannot allow the government to go backwards because the imperialist doesn't like it that Haitian civil society is waking up. We, as I've said started to make our own laws to try and protect children without, thank you very much, US prompting. This Johnny-come-lately must be ignored. Haitians must continue to expose and rectify Haitian pathologies, Haitian fratricide, and Haitian Eurocentric attitudes.

To bring transformation to our alienated and isolated society, we must continue, together as a society, or, individually wherever we are, to tell our stories and to value our women, little girl-children and boy-children, more.

We can start by exposing and then APPLYING the Haitian child protection laws- the anti-corporeal punishment and abuse laws that are already on the books in Haiti and by creating educational campaigns on proper parenting. I swear to you I have run into a few Haitian parents, in the US, who firmly believe that their child's sole purpose in life is to grow up and take care of them!

Parenting is about nurturing and educating and yes protecting a child so that he/she reaches the fullest potential. It's not about setting up a living entity that will financially provide for you. That's an agricultural mentality that's way past obsolete.

Bottom line is I can't even advocate that there be adoption agencies and foster care run by the government. We know its politically mesmerized by the shenanigan's of the Euro/US and their imperial agents of local rule. All this hurts our Haitian children's futures, adds and increases to the poor Restaveks' suffering. That's why we must decimate their blueprints. Too many generations of Haitians, all Haitians, have suffered, for too long.

It's urgent!

I believe all Haitian adults should take note of the next little restavek they come by at their friend's home and ask about her/his welfare. But it's not only the restavek, tons of Haitian children have mothers and fathers who simply CANNOT provide for them in Haiti. If you can, financially adopt her/him and buy the books, send the tapes, buy a generator, buy the computer, hire a tutor, make the child feel valued. Each one teach one. I've done it. Fifteen times, six of them boys. And it's the most pragmatic and tangible thing I've done in all the things I've tried to do in Haiti over the years. (Aside: If I return to Haiti and find that son-of-a-coward who impregnated two of my less-than-16-years-old-little-girls, I assure you I'll make a scene and call the authorities, even if he's some distant so-called relative!) Our families must stop tolerating this as only a private wrong. It's not. It's a public cancer. No law will rectify it, only an aware Haitian society with good will.

Our task is to create Black youths with self-esteem and whose lives are deemed as valuable as everyone else's. That's one difference that would help built us future leaders who will, stand up against the imperialist and be pro-self, pro-Ayisyen and say, when some Blan or Blan-minded Black waves a wad of dollars under their noses asking for collaboration in Haiti's underdevelopment: "I cannot be free and have peace of mind if my Haitian peoples are mostly contained-in-poverty and not free."

Ezili Danto
Li lèd li la.

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