More than ten years have passed since Fidel Castro entered Havana in triumph. It is almost as long since the Alliance for Progress was proclaimed. A great deal has changed in this period, both in Latin America and in the United States. Much has happened in the hemisphere; more has failed to happen.

Whatever its motivations and results, President Nixon's attempt to revise policies of the United States toward Latin America is timely. Many of their premises had been exposed as faulty or actively undermined by the events of the decade. Slogans without much substance and programs without clear purpose had come to characterize the approach. Contradictions and confusion abounded; the gap between the Alliance's rhetoric and inter-American reality had become painful and embarrassing.

One purpose of this essay is to contribute to current redefinition of U.S. policy toward Latin America by showing that many of the basic premises of the Alliance for Progress must now be discarded. Many of the Alliance's programs were based on unwarranted assumptions, challenged by the past decade's experience. There is a danger, however, that new clichés may arise to replace those of the 1960s, and that the easy optimism and excessive ardor of the Kennedy administration's initial approach may be displaced now by exaggerated pessimism and detachment. The second aim, therefore, is to counter the current tendency to discredit entirely all aspects of the Alliance, and to focus instead on conclusions relevant for improving U.S. policy in the 1970s.


Overall U.S. policy toward Latin America in the early 1960s can be conveniently discussed in terms of the key premises of the Alliance for Progress. Not all of these tenets were accepted by every architect of the Alliance, but taken together they represent a fair summary of the opinions shared by those who shaped Washington's pronouncements and practices during the Kennedy years.

It was widely believed that Castro's Cuba represented the advance base of a Soviet (or even a "Sino-Soviet") threat to U.S. interests in the hemisphere, and that the U.S.S.R. would seek other such bases, Cuba was thought to pose a potentially grave security threat to the United States, directly because of its links with the international communist movement and indirectly because of its support for subversive groups elsewhere in Latin America.

Washington felt a genuine sense of urgency. It was feared that discontent was growing fast in Latin America, especially in the burgeoning cities and among campesinos and workers, and that radical political movements would gain strength. It was expected that Castro's example might soon be followed elsewhere in the hemisphere. It was said that in Latin America it was "one minute to midnight," that either "evolution or revolution" would soon occur there, and that only U.S. support for far-reaching reforms could stave off shattering violence.

At that time, Latin America seemed to be experiencing the "twilight of the tyrants." Although the rise of Castroist movements was feared, many persons then influential in the United States and in Latin America believed that evolutionary reform could be advanced as an alternative under the leadership of social democratic politicians of the generation of 1930. These leaders were expected to build their political base on the support of the "middle sectors," supposedly committed to political democracy, social progress and economic growth. U.S. support for Latin American democratic leaders would greatly aid them, it was believed.

Rapid economic growth was predicted for Latin America and was pledged at Punta del Este in 1961. Sustained infusions of external capital, from both public and private sources, were expected. And it was thought that the expansion of foreign exchange available for investment, from public and private sources, would have a significant positive impact on the rate of economic growth.

It was also believed that economic growth would be substantially aided by the U.S. Government's acceptance of two instruments long championed by Latin Americans: regional economic integration and international commodity agreements.

Particular importance was attributed to proposed agrarian and tax reforms in order to improve Latin American economic and social development policies, and to increase the effectiveness of resources allocated to development, through national planning, comprehensive annual reviews, and the use of international aid as leverage.

It was believed, or at least fervently hoped, that direct political intervention by Latin American armies was on the wane. In this climate U.S. programs of military assistance and training--particularly the emphasis on civic action programs-would increase the influence of the United States on Latin American military establishments and thereby discourage Latin American officers from making golpes. By supporting civilian régimes, they would contribute more effectively to national development

It was assumed that economic growth, social equity, political stability and constitutional democracy all went hand in hand and could therefore be advanced simultaneously in Latin America. All these objectives were also thought to be compatible with protecting various U.S. interests in the hemisphere, including national security and private U.S. investments.

Latin American countries were deemed ready, for the first time, to coöperate closely with each other in multilateral arrangements. It was also thought, by some at least, that positive initiatives by the U.S. Government would make possible truly effective inter-American coöperation. A switch in Washington's approach from the studied disinterest of the 1950s to active encouragement of Latin American development was expected to produce major gains.

Finally, it was believed that the American public, and particularly the Congress and various élite groups, were particularly concerned about Latin America and would willingly support a sustained commitment of U.S. economic assistance for the area.


The Alliance for Progress was launched in 1961 by an administration which proclaimed that Americans were willing to "pay any price, bear any burden. ... to assure the survival and the success of liberty." By 1970, Americans have evidently wearied of the costs and burdens of foreign involvements and become skeptical about their benefits.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. Government's perspective toward Latin America is now very different from that of the early 1960s. Urgency and optimism keynoted the Alliance in 1961; complacency and disappointment mark Washington's approach in 1970. It is especially instructive to reëxamine the premises outlined above as they are generally assessed by many in Washington in 1970.

Cuba under Castro is no longer perceived as the advance base of a Soviet (or "Sino-Soviet") threat to U.S. interests. The administration's cool reaction to Governor Rockefeller's call for a Western Hemisphere Security Council stems not only from Washington's realization that the plan is opposed throughout Latin America but also partly from the fact that no immediate security threat to the United States is now expected in or from that region. A direct threat, such as the introduction of strategic missiles, seems unlikely to occur because of the state of Russian-American relations since October 1962. It is now generally agreed that the international communist movement is fragmented, that the Soviet Union has no great interest in promoting "more Cubas" in Latin America, that the U.S.S.R, seeks to avoid confrontations with the United States in this hemisphere and that Cuba is no mere satellite. Nor is the indirect threat posed by subversive groups in Latin America likely to materialize. No insurgent movement in Latin America seriously threatens governmental authority on a national scale. Direct Cuban support for guerrilla activity appears to have dropped off sharply, at least since Che Guevara's death, and Russian non-coöperation with such movements was clear long before that.

The sense of urgency felt in Washington about Latin America had by the end of the decade been replaced by almost universal unconcern, at least until Governor Rockefeller's ill-fated trips. Numerous analyses show that the urban poor crowded into Latin America's shantytowns have been nonrevolutionary, even anti-revolutionary. Campesinos, too, have usually resisted radical appeals, and labor unions have been a politically conservative force in most situations. Castro's takeover is now generally attributed to factors unique to the Cuban case, including a particularly exaggerated American presence, an unusually unbalanced pattern of economic development, and Fidel's own charisma. Castro's example has not been followed in Latin America, which has not experienced anything resembling another successful revolutionary movement during the decade. Neither major reform nor violent revolution has occurred in most of Latin America; some observers argue that stagnation, even decay, has taken place.

The replacement of a number of military régimes by constitutional governments from 1957 to 1961 turned out to be temporary, as the cycle turned again after 1962. Social democratic leaders from the generation of 1930 did reach office in a number of countries, but they turned out on the whole to be poor reform-mongers, unable or unwilling to mobilize and sustain widespread political support or to implement major social and economic changes. Some were more adept at the politics of exile than that of program; others accommodated all too easily to opposition. The hoped-for democratic and progressive commitment of the "middle sectors" turned out to be largely illusory. Middle-class politicians have shown themselves to be committed most of all to their own advancement; often they ally with the traditional élites-whose values, attitudes and consumption patterns they emulate-rather than with those promoting change. And U.S. support for democratic leaders turned out to be insufficient to prevent military coups in one country after another, even after Washington actually tried withdrawing recognition and suspending aid to back up its opposition to such coups.

General disappointment is now felt about Latin America's rate of economic growth under the Alliance, which did not achieve the goals adopted at Punta del Este. No massive infusion of external capital into Latin America occurred after 1960. The capital inflow which concessional aid and direct private investment represent has been counterbalanced by debt-servicing and the outflow of private sector capital remittances. Concessional aid never reached predicted levels; it has actually been declining in recent years. And private U.S. investment in Latin America has been encountering increasing difficulties as economic nationalism intensifies. U.S. investments in extractive industries are already under intense fire in most of the area, and investments in services like banking and shipping are expected to face heightened pressure in coming years. President Nixon and others have pointed out that the overall rate of economic growth in Latin America under the Alliance has been no higher than it was during the previous decade nor as high as elsewhere in the world. Many of the gains that have been made, moreover, have been eaten up by the unchecked population explosion; Latin America's current rate of population growth is the highest ever recorded anywhere.

The U.S. Government's belated acceptance of regional economic integration and international commodity arrangements as legitimate instruments for assisting Latin American development did not have the dramatic impact Latin Americans predicted. The progress of the Latin American Free Trade Area slowed, and then almost stopped, as the different interests of its members clashed. The Central American Common Market was badly hurt by the war between Honduras and El Salvador. Even before that tragic confrontation, the Central American Market had begun to encounter severe problems, as members troubled with balance-of-payments difficulties and insufficient revenue undertook unilateral measures in violation of regional accords. Nor have internal commodity agreements made a major contribution to solving Latin America's economic problems. Except for the International Coffee Agreement, which has benefited Brazil and Colombia considerably, the countries of the hemisphere have been unable to reach accord on any concrete arrangements.

Latin American economic and social development policies still leave very much to be desired. Most Latin American governments have lacked the political support, the administrative capacity, and in some cases the will to translate paper economic plans into actual programs. The leverage of external aid in influencing resource allocation or otherwise improving development policies has proved to be very limited. Land redistribution has been slow in most of the hemisphere, except where agrarian reform antedated the Alliance, and many other promised reforms remain to be accomplished.

Political intervention by Latin American armies is back in style. Military governments of one kind or another now rule in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru; even Chile and Venezuela have recently been threatened by military movements. To the extent that they have aimed to encourage Latin American officers to abstain from politics and to support civilian régimes, U.S. programs of military assistance and training are perceived as dismal failures. In fact, the U.S. emphasis on counterinsurgency may even have tended to legitimize the political involvement of Latin American military institutions. Even civic- action programs may actually have expanded political activities by some Latin American armies.

The key premise of the Alliance-the simultaneous compatibility of all its objectives: economic growth, social equity, political stability, constitutional democracy, the promotion of U.S. private economic interests and the protection of U.S. national security-has been continuously undermined since 1961. It has become clear instead that each of the Alliance's objectives is difficult to achieve, that they may be impossible to accomplish simultaneously (at least in the short run), and that U.S. security may not be threatened in any immediate sense even if none of the other goals is attained* Recent economic growth in Latin America has tended, in many cases, not to promote social equity but to exacerbate the inequality of income distribution, not to stimulate fundamental change but to reinforce existing structures, not to promote stability but to raise expectations and intensify frustration.

The goals of economic growth and social equity, in turn, no longer appear compatible with that of constitutional democracy. Latin Americans from various parts of the political spectrum have come to reject representative government, arguing that parliamentary régimes cannot amass enough power to undertake the "structural changes" they feel must take place if economic growth and the redistribution of its benefits are to occur. Conflicts between private U.S. investors and Latin American investors and governments- and also between various U.S. private and public interests-have punctuated the Alliance; they have been exemplified by the recently modified requirements of "additionally" and "tied" aid (both of which subsidized uncompetitive U.S. exports) and by the still unresolved International Petroleum Company imbroglio in Peru.

Despite the "Western Hemisphere idea" that the states of North and South America are bound together by their common background and aspirations in a special and close relationship, the experience of the past decade has underlined the fact that profound differences exist in culture, attitudes, aims and interests among the nations of Latin America and between them and the United States. Coöperation among the Latin American states has proved to be difficult to achieve. Many nations have preferred to deal directly and separately with the United States rather than with each other, thus undercutting the effectiveness of several multilateral arrangements. Various forms of intra-hemispheric conflict have beset inter-American organizations. Coöperation between Latin American governments and the United States seems farther away in 1970 than it did at the outset of the Alliance. Perhaps President Kennedy's personal diplomacy and the lofty rhetoric of Punta del Este temporarily obscured the fact that, far from identifying the United States as a fellow member of their community, many Latin Americans define their intensely felt nationalism in terms antagonistic to the United States. Latin Americans fear the encroachment of U.S. business and technology, reject U.S. "cultural imperialism," and resent the overwhelming U.S. presence in their midst

Developments abroad and at home have produced in the United States a period of disengagement from foreign commitments. The national mood of withdrawal produced by the Vietnam tragedy, together with this country's balance-of- payments difficulties and with the diminished perception of a security threat from Latin America, have combined to make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. Government to secure from Congress enough resources to support extensive programs of direct U.S. economic assistance for Latin America. Separate hearings on the Alliance for Progress held in 1969 by subcommittees of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee revealed the skepticism with which many in Congress now regard the Alliance.


Excessive rhetoric, exaggerated urgency and unwarranted optimism accompanied the Alliance for Progress from the start During the 1960s, the U.S. Government toned down its rhetoric considerably, put Latin American problems into better perspective, and came closer to understanding the intractable nature of many of the area's problems. Washington's focus on Latin America has undoubtedly sharpened; there is a risk, however, that its new perceptions may in turn become distorted because of a tendency to overcorrect for past errors. U.S. policies for the 1970s may come to be based on premises as inadequate, albeit in different directions, as those which underlay the Alliance. To become a less obtrusive and domineering partner is one thing; to reduce our real interest in the common enterprise of inter-American development would be quite another. Further consideration suggests that there may be both more reason for concern and more cause for hope about Latin America than is currently realized.

In regard to hemispheric security, the absence of an immediate threat should be taken not as a reason to forget about Latin America but rather as an opportunity for the United States to deal with fundamental problems of the area rather than subordinating them to immediate defense priorities. It should not be assumed, moreover, that no future security threat can arise from Latin America, in the absence of constructive U.S. policies in the region. Governor Rockefeller's concern about the supposed communist threat is anachronistic, but conditions unfavorable to U.S. security could still arise. Attention in advance to the problems of the Caribbean would be particularly prudent, for the unviable, unstable and dependent enclaves of that region are especially susceptible to sudden convulsions and shifts, from which future security problems might emerge.

Complacency about the absence of radicalism in Latin American politics should be challenged on two different grounds,, First, it may well be premature to write off the possibility seen in 1961 that the area's politics would become increasingly radical and violent. The second generation of urban poor may well be more revolutionary than their parents, for whom the move from the countryside to the city seemed a distinct improvement. Blue-collar workers still may become radical when regional integration forces a productivity showdown in protected industries. Middle- class students and professionals, their anti-American predispositions fueled by such episodes as the Bay of Pigs and the Dominican intervention, have certainly become more strident during the 1960s; they may become more influential in the 1970s.

Second, it may be time for the United States to welcome some strengthening of radical movements in Latin America. If we are really concerned with "the quality of life in the Americas," we should consider carefully who is doing what to improve it. Young priests, university students and professionals, peasant organizers, new-style entrepreneurs, militant labor leaders, nationalist military officers-none of these particularly friendly to the United States nor likely to become so-are often those doing most to advance Latin American development. U.S. policymakers should drop their bias against radical movements in Latin America, unless they are shown to be part of an international alliance directed against the United States.

Again, as far as the democratic alternative is concerned, President Kennedy and his advisers were undoubtedly oversold on the ability and potential of some of the social democratic politicians, but considerable growth and reform were accomplished during the 1960s under civilian leadership, notably in Venezuela, Colombia and Chile. Constructive analysis should no longer focus on debunking the leaders who failed, but on analyzing the politics of successful reform-mongering and learning lessons from it. And the realization that American power is limited and that democratic reformers cannot be sustained from outside against strong domestic opposition should not lead the United States to underestimate the influence of its decisions and its example on Latin American politics. For the United States to treat all Latin American régimes exactly alike, regardless of their degree of liberty or repression, as long as they do not export revolution-as Governor Rockefeller seems to propose-would not only violate this country's values but would undoubtedly weaken decent elements in Latin American politics. The United States should try to maintain at least minimal diplomatic relations with all the governments in the hemisphere, including Cuba's, but should continue to make clear its abhorrence of repression and dictatorship.

Regarding economic development, overall percentage figures on Latin American development obscure impressive absolute growth in a number of Latin American countries during the 1960s and remarkable growth rates in a few. Disappointment about the lack of massive concessional aid makes some observers forget that Latin America absorbed aid during the 1960s at a level three times higher than that of the 1950s. And despite the difficulties faced, foreign investment in Latin America (including that from Europe and Japan) continues to expand, particularly in the manufacturing and distribution sectors.

Even more important, many of the obstacles to Latin American economic development encountered during the 1960s may be at least partially overcome by revised U.S. and Latin American policies for the 1970s. Concessional aid has not been as productive as it might be because of restrictive and expensive conditions, because of the excessive debt burdens Latin American governments are carrying, because of the U.S. Government's frequent resort to aid as a means of pursuing short-term political objectives, and because the annual authorization process precludes effective long-term planning. The difficulties encountered by U.S. private enterprise have often been caused by failure on the part of Latin American régimes to establish clear and consistent guidelines for foreign investment, and on the part of U.S. corporations to adopt policies adjusted to contemporary realities. And the impact of population expansion on Latin American development has been permitted to multiply by the slowness with which Latin American countries have adopted national population policies and programs.

The United States can and should help remove these obstacles. Conditions on aid designed to promote special interests or to advance immediate political objectives should be ended, Latin America's debt burdens should be relieved, and long-term aid commitments should be authorized. The contribution of foreign investment (and divestment) to Latin American development should be maximized, first by recognizing that liquidation of U.S. investments in certain fields would be in the mutual interests of Latin America and the United States, and next by encouraging specific types and forms of investment U.S. tax laws should be revised to facilitate joint ventures abroad and to allow U.S. enterprises and foreign subsidiaries located in Latin America to offset their foreign losses against domestic gains.

Backing should be given to imaginative devices, such as those being developed by the Atlantic Community Development Group for Latin America (ADELA), which permit U.S. firms to transfer capital, technology and management skills to Latin America during fixed periods of time and at reasonable profits, without removing from Latin America control of the enterprise. And discreet efforts, private and public, to help Latin Americans face their demographic problems should be supported and financed by Washington in the context of overall social and economic development programs.

Although the expectations aroused in some Latin Americans during the 1950s that economic integration and international commodity agreements could be regional panaceas were not sustained by the experience of the 1960s, each of these instruments has made a substantial contribution to the region's economic growth. The Central American Common Market, particularly, has helped multiply trade among its members and thereby spurred the area's expansion. The Latin American Free Trade Area (LAFTA) has also registered notable gains in inter-regional trade and its recent overall slowdown has been at least partially offset by the establishment of the Andean sub- regional agreement.

Retrospective analysis suggests that the Johnson administration's decision to embrace the cause of regional integration in 1967 may actually have been counterproductive. Many Latin Americans came to suspect that LAFTA was really a stratagem for favoring U.S. businesses in Latin America and that therefore regional integration should be resisted. U.S. attempts to assist regional integration arrangements during the 1970s must be more skillful and sensitive. President Nixon's emphasis that the United States wishes to help only if asked was a commendable change in style. What is needed now are positive indications that the United States is willing to consider contributing to a regional "buffer fund" which would provide temporary credits to attenuate balance-of-payments deficits arising from the integration process, assisting with the retraining of laborers dislocated by regional integration, and helping Latin Americans prepare and finance multinational projects.

With respect to commodity agreements, what Brazil and Colombia have already gained from the International Coffee Agreement should not be underestimated, and efforts should be intensified to remove the imperfections of this instrument. It may be, moreover, that conditions in the 1970s will permit a further extension of such international measures, particularly to benefit the sugar-producing territories of the Caribbean. Beyond these possibilities, priority attention should now be devoted to designing new arrangements to benefit Latin American development The United States has begun this process by ending its restrictions against a few Latin American exports, by lowering some tariffs, by affirming its support for international preferences by the industrial countries to the less developed countries, and especially by indicating that it would be prepared to consider offering general tariff preferences to less-advantaged countries not already receiving special preferences from some metropolitan country or group. What is needed is further action along these lines- lowering import quotas on farm and other primary products and reducing the high effective tariffs on processed raw materials, for instance-and intensified efforts to win Congressional approval where it is needed.

Regarding Latin American economic and social development policies, certainly much needs to be improved-particularly regarding the allocation of scarce resources-but considerable progress was made during the 1960s. Budgets for military expenditures declined in some countries, and allocations for education and infrastructure climbed in almost all. National planning agencies gained competence in most countries and important influence in a few. Several countries introduced tax reforms, both legislative and administrative, thereby increasing revenue and making taxation somewhat less regressive. U.S. aid officials used program and sector loan techniques to back particularly well-designed development programs.

What is necessary in the 1970s is to reinforce these trends, especially by encouraging multilateral institutions-including the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank-to incorporate self- help criteria into their review procedures. President Nixon's October 31st speech completely neglected the U.S. Government's interest in supporting Latin American reforms; the continuing priority accorded by Washington to such measures could best be demonstrated by tying much of U.S. assistance to the pace of reform programs, as analyzed by the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress (CIAP) or a similar multilateral advisory group.

U.S. military assistance programs have actually been worse than ineffective during the 1960s, for in some cases their real impact probably was to decrease U.S. influence with particular Latin American armies. In some countries, at least, Latin American officers have come to resist civic- action programs as U.S. impositions and they have particularly objected to North American attempts to decide what equipment they should have. Governor Rockefeller's recommendations to terminate permanent U.S. military assistance missions and to refrain from vain attempts to determine what equipment Latin American countries buy should be implemented, bureaucratic and other vested interests to the contrary notwithstanding.

Paradoxically, the failure of U.S. influence to prevent the resurgence of military governments in Latin America does not necessarily mean a setback for the Alliance's basic objectives. Some military régimes-most notably that in Peru-seem to be cut from a new mold and to be implementing many of the major development-oriented reforms civilian politicians have been promising for years without result. The United States should be alert to the need to analyze each situation on its own, without reference to established stereotypes, and should seek to help military régimes which are implementing economically and socially progressive policies, if they avoid repression.

While it is essential to recognize the inadequacy of the original Alliance's premise that all of its stated and unstated objectives could be simultaneously pursued, what is needed for the 1970s is not elimination of its major goals but more careful definition of the essentials and a better structuring of priorities in terms of time. American security should be conceived, not merely in terms of the absence of missiles or guerrillas but in terms of the environment for the development of national and hemispheric ideals. Political stability should be thought of, not in terms of permanence in office of a particular régime, but of the expanding capacity of political institutions to respond to social demands. Promoting democracy should be conceived of as enlarging effective civic participation, not just providing the forms and trappings of representative government. Economic development should be understood, not merely as increasing gross or per capita product, but importantly, as the more equitable distribution of economic and other opportunities. And the objective of assisting U.S. business should be advanced over the long term by helping Latin American countries develop and thus expand their own purchasing power, not shortsightedly by attaching niggardly conditions to U.S. aid or using international credit as a means of pressuring Latin American régimes to accept particular U.S. investments.

Given Latin American feelings toward the United States, the extent to which the Alliance's programs were presented as North American undoubtedly decreased the chances for their successful implementation. President Nixon's emphasis on the importance of Latin American initiatives and on the U.S. desire to be a partner is certainly salutary, as long as American actions demonstrate soon that the President's words were not merely a euphemism or a cover for U.S. inaction.

It may be, moreover, that the increasing frictions between the United States and Latin America may produce curiously productive results. For the first time last year, Latin American governments were able to offer agreed positions on significant subjects for discussion with Washington, The development of the European Committee for Coöperation in Latin America (CECLA) and other self-confident Latin American organizations to deal with the United States should be genuinely encouraged by U.S. policy in the 1970s. It might even be useful for Washington to dilute its overweening presence in some regional organizations by becoming a creditor instead of an equity partner in the Inter-American Development Bank, for instance.

In a period of general American withdrawal from foreign engagements, it is all the more important that the United States concentrate a major part of its attention, energy and resources on building satisfactory relations with its neighbors in the hemisphere. The symbolic priority accorded Latin America by President Nixon's proposal to elevate the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs to the rank of Undersecretary should be accompanied by more concrete steps to focus attention on the region.

Despite Congressional skepticism about the Alliance for Progress, there is considerable evidence-including the reports emanating from the 1969 committee hearings in the Senate and the House-that Congress would be receptive to a clearly designed program directed more specifically toward Latin America than is the overall AID apparatus. Efforts should be intensified to mobilize the constituencies which would support a long-term program of assistance to Latin American development; the recently established Inter-American Institute for Social Development is a step in this direction.

The United States cannot disengage from Latin America. The Colossus of the North is bound to cast its shadow southward no matter what direction it chooses to face. The challenge of the 1970s, for the United States and for Latin America, should be not to abandon the Alliance, but to forge a real one.

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