(en) Mexican Labor News, Vol. 2, No. 1

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Fri, 23 May 1997 11:37:53 +0100 (BST)


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MEXICAN LABOR NEWS AND ANALYSIS National Teachers Day Issue May 16, 1997 Vol. II, No. 10 About Mexican Labor News and Analysis Mexican Labor News and Analysis is produced in collaboration with the Authentic Labor Front (Frente Autentico del Trabajo - FAT) of Mexico and with the United Electrical Workers (UE) of the United States and is published the 2nd and 16th of every month. MLNA can be viewed at the UE's international web site: HTTP://www.igc.apc.org/unitedelect/. For information about direct subscription, submission of articles, and all queries contact editor Dan La Botz at the following e-mail address: 103144.2651@compuserve.com or call (525) 661-33-97 in Mexico City. MLNA articles may be reprinted by other electronic or print media, but we ask that you credit Mexican Labor News and Analysis and give the UE home page location and Dan La Botz's compuserve address. The UE Home Page which displays Mexican Labor News and Analysis has an INDEX of back issues and an URGENT ACTION ALERT section. ----------------------------------------------------------------- CORRECTION: The last issue mistakenly reported that the Authentic Labor Front (FAT) marched on May Day with both the Foro group of unions and with the May First Inter-Union group. The correct information is that while the FAT participates in both the Foro group and the Inter-Union group, and marched with both last year, in light of the importance of the up-coming workers' assembly which is being called by the Foro, the FAT decided to march with the Foro group this year. My apologies for the error.-Dan La Botz, ed. ----------------------------------------------------------------- IN THIS ISSUE: *Teachers' Opposition Group Threatens General Strike *Clinton's Visit Brings Repression to Unions, Workers *Mexico City Mayoral Election: Cardenas Leads in Polls *Canadian, Mexican and U.S. Groups Demand Renegotiation of NAFTA *Roche-Syntex: What Globalization Means for Workers *PEMEX Explosion Kills Two, Injures Two Others *Second Democratic Taxi Union Leader Murdered *CT and CTM Blame CROC for May Day Fiasco *Foro Group Debates National Workers Assembly *Social Statistics ----------------------------------------------------------------- TEACHERS' OPPOSITION CAUCUS--LA CNTE THREATENS GENERAL STRIKE by Dan La Botz The National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union (la CNTE), the powerful opposition caucus within the National Teachers Union (el SNTE), has threatened to call a general strike of teachers throughout Mexico if the Mexican government does not meet its demands. [See list below.] La CNTE leaders angrily rejected the 16 percent--six percent in wages and 10 percent in benefits--negotiated by Humberto Davila Esquivel, head of the el SNTE on May 14, calling it a "cruel joke." The opposition caucus has been calling for a 100 percent wage increase. According to La CNTE, teachers have lost 70 percent of their purchasing power since 1980. Davila Esquivel had earlier rejected a seven percent wage increase in a different package before accepting six percent. La CNTE wants his resignation, calling him a "traitor." Forty Thousand March in Mexico City To show their anger at the SNTE settlement, tens of thousands of teachers marched in protest in several major Mexican Cities on May 15, National Teachers Day. Demonstrations took place in states from Chiapas on the border of Guatemala to Tamaulipas on the border of the United States. In Mexico City, 40,000 teachers--25,000 from Oaxaca, 5,000 from the Federal District, 3,000 from Tlaxcala and 5,000 from Michoacan, as well as thousands of others from 14 other states-- marched for seven hours, attempting to get to the presidential residence Los Pinos in order to present their demands to President Ernesto Zedillo. Teachers' chants (most of which lose much in translation) were: "Six percent, ha, ha, ha--give it to your mama!" "Work stoppage, work stoppage, it's the state's fault!" "My wage to the president, let him see what it's like!" "Davila, you thief, you've sold out the teachers!" Riot police stopped the demonstrators, and in violent confrontations several teachers were seriously injured and had to be hospitalized. Teachers then chanted, "Stupid cops, we're fighting for your children!" Zedillo, who together with Secretary of Education Miguel Limon Rojas and SNTE leader Humberto Davila was at an official ceremony presenting awards to teachers with 50 years of service, told the press, "My government has given its best effort," in giving the teachers a six percent wage increase. Zedillo said his government had increased the education budget for Mexico's 25 million public school students at all levels by 7.2 percent over last year. Limon Rojas argues that with the 17 percent increase in wages and benefits which the teachers received in January, and this new increase of 16 percent, the total wages increase of the year has been 33 percent. Limon told the teachers to return to their schools and classrooms. In the streets the teachers chanted, "Sweet orange, rotten lemon [Limon, Secretary of Education], I'll take your pay and you take mine!" La CNTE has been meeting with the Mexican Secretary of the Interior (Gobernacion), the political ministry, and has demanded to be included in the negotiations with the SNTE and the SEP, and has also asked the state governments and the public employees social security administration (ISSSTE) be included in the talks as well. La CNTE Calls Out Four States, 250,000 Teachers Last week the National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union (la CNTE) called out approximately 200,000 teachers on an indefinite work stoppage in four states: Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacan and Oaxaca. Teachers in eleven states (out of 32) are now said to be prepared to joined la CNTE's call for a general strike, this would mean that about 40 percent of Mexico's more than a million teachers would be on strike. Last week, teachers' strike were accompanied by marches, protest demonstrations, the blocking of highways in some areas, and sit-ins in many places, including in the historic center of Mexico City. Like a Strike in the Midst of a Civil War La CNTE and a dozen other local opposition caucuses cooperating with it, are demanding breakfasts for school children, wages increases for themselves, freedom for their jailed and "disappeared" members, and the return of government troops to the barracks. If it sounds like a strike in a country in the midst of a civil war, it is, for these teachers come from the poor southern states of Mexico where government troops occupy towns and villages, where union activists, and community leaders in the towns in which they teach, have frequently been rounded up, beaten, tortured, jailed and sometimes killed. Teachers in the Southern States The center of La CNTE, the union opposition caucus, lies the southern states of Mexico, particularly Chiapas and Oaxaca where the movement began fifteen years ago. The heart of the movement have been the bilingual teachers. These teachers teach in one of 52 variants of 33 major Indian languages and Spanish. They work mostly in small towns in rural agricultural or in relatively small cities, and receive miserable salaries for long hours of work, often in poor facilities with inadequate supplies. In 1979 these teachers began to organize, but found that their first problem was their union. They spent years demanding the right to hold state teachers union conventions in order to elect their own union officers, and finally won several years later in Oaxaca and Chiapas. In the course of the struggle they created a remarkably democratic union organization, la CNTE. The teachers organization often helped inspired actually helped to organize other movements. The people in those Indian and peasant communities respect the teachers. The teacher, an Indian herself who speaks Spanish, has gone away to college, and has come back to the community, becomes a link between two worlds. The people look up to those teachers, and turn to them for help. The teachers do help, they speak on behalf of the community, and sometimes it costs them their lives. Return Our Teachers In the north of Chiapas, some 50 indigenous bilingual teachers went on strike on May 8 to demand that their colleague Domingo Vazquez Avendano who had disappeared on April 14 be released by whatever police or military authority was holding him. The Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (CIDH), a part of the Organization of American States (OAS), has agreed to look into the cases of Victor Pineda Henstrosa and Modesto Patolzin Moicen, two Oaxaca who disappeared. Pineda Henstrosa disappeared in 1978, Patolzin Moicen in 1988. Teachers, parents and children in Guerrero want Gregorio Alfonso Alvarado Lopez, who disappeared on November 26, 1996, to be returned to his friends, his family, and his classroom. The list goes on, because there are constantly new additions to it. Teachers in Mexico City The historic problem of Mexico City teachers is that they cannot make a living in this expensive city with one teaching job, so they have two: the "doble chamba" as they call it. The basic monthly salary of a Federal District teacher was 2,672 pesos (or about 330 U.S. dollars) before the present contract was negotiated; with the six percent increase offered it will be 2,871 pesos (or about 355 U.S. dollars). A recent poll by the SNTE Foundation for the Culture of the Teacher conducted among 3,724 teachers at 333 schools found that 53 percent of the teachers held two teaching jobs. Almost all of these teachers in their two jobs were responsible for 80 students. Union activists have complained for years that the "doble chamba" keeps teachers too busy to participate in union activities. In 1988 and 89 Mexico City's teachers finally entered the democratic movement, helping to bring down Carlos Jonguitud Barrios, head of Revolutionary Vanguard, the clique that controlled the union. But Carlos Salinas de Gortari intervened and finagled to get his political protege Elba Esther Gordillo elected head of the union (el SNTE). Gordillo's regime ended the dictatorship that had controlled the union, but she also managed to keep the democratic movement from getting out of control. She retired a couple of years ago, to be followed by Humberto Davila. Some of the Mexico City teachers, such as those in SNTE Local 9, play an important role in the union and social movements, but other Mexico City teachers find it difficult to overcome the daily grind and the bureaucracy. Some Mexico City teachers will join the La CNTE protests, and perhaps the strike. * * * * * * * LA CNTE DEMANDS *Defense of free public education. *Students to be given free text books. *Scholarships and school breakfasts for students. *Increases in the education budget. *A 100 percent wage increase. *A Christmas bonus (aguinaldo) of 90 days wages in one payment. *Recalculation of wages for areas with higher cost-of-living. *Decentralization of union dues. *Temporary teachers to be put on permanent staff. *No reform of the public employees Social Security system (ISSSTE). *Freedom for teachers held as political prisoners (accused of ties to guerrillas). *Release, alive, the teacher Gregorio Alfonso Alvarado Lopez. *An end to the repression of the dissident teachers movement. *Troops to be returned to their barracks. *Fulfillment of the peace accord in Chiapas. * * * * * * * Information on the Mexican Teachers Union Those interested in learning more about the teachers union should read the following pamphlet and book. *** David Monroy, Mexican Teachers and the Struggle for Democracy (San Francisco: Global Exchange, 1997). This pamphlet is available from Global Exchange, 2017 Mission Street, Suite 303; San Francisco, California 94110, telephone, (415) 255-7296. The e-mail address is: gx-info@globalexchange.org. The pamphlet can be found on Global Exchange's Web site, www.globalexchange.org, in the "campaigns" section as well. *** Maria Lorena Cook. Organizing Dissent: Unions, the State, and the Democratic Teachers' Movement in Mexico. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996. This book can be found or ordered at your local book store. ### CLINTON'S VISIT TO MEXICO BRINGS REPRESSION TO UNIONS AND OTHER PROTESTORS Thousands of Mexicans--union members, indebted farmers, community activists, and others--intended to engage in marches and demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy to protest U.S. President Bill Clinton's visit to Mexico during the first week of May. But they never got the chance. Four thousand police, including hundreds of riot police carrying shields and clubs, blocked Mexico City's Reforma Boulevard and other major arteries, bottling up demonstrators, and keeping them away from the embassy. Hundreds of teachers union members were prevented from marching while police took away their placards and leaflets. El Barzon, a debtors' organization, also attempted to organize a demonstration, but was prevented from doing so. Police also arrested scores of opposition leaders and activists, and carried them to police stations on the periphery of the city. Among those arrested were: Gerardo Fernandez Norona, president of the Citizens Assembly of Bank Debtors (ACDB); Teodoro Palomino, former leader of the National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union (la CNTE) and presently a leader of Socialist Alternative (AS); several leaders of the University Student Council (CEU); several members of the Assembly of Neighborhoods (Asamblea de Barrios); as well as many individual high school and university students, workers and professionals. Enrique Bennets, a worker at the Fine Arts Palace who is responsible for lights and chairs of the National Orchestra, was arrested after he talked on the phone with a friend about possibly joining a protest with members of the National Teachers Union (el SNTE) Local 9. Clinton was to appear at the theater. Police apparently listened in on Bennets's call, arrested him, and took him away for over 24 hours. Human rights organizations filed formal protests with the Federal District's Human Rights Commission, a government agency. Mariclaire Acosta, leader of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH), a non- governmental organization, and Malvina Flores of the Roman Catholic human rights group, the Fray Francisco de Vittoria Center, both condemned the government's repression of the protests. Flores said that repression against social activists was not merely confined to the demonstrations against Clinton, but had gone on constantly since General Salgado Cordero was appointed to head the Federal District Public Security forces. ### CUAUHTEMOC CARDENAS OF PRD LEADS IN POLLS FOR MEXICO CITY MAYORAL ELECTION Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), currently leads in the polls in the race for the July 6 election for the mayor of Mexico City. A mid- May poll by the newspaper REFORMA shows Cardenas of the PRD with 39 percent of the vote; Carlos Castillo of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) with 21 percent of the vote; and Alfredo del Mazo of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with only 17 percent of the vote. In the July 6 voting nearly 50 million Mexicans will elect 1,100 governors, senators, congress persons, and other officials, but attention has focussed on Mexico City's first mayor's race (until now the mayor has been a presidential appointee). Mexico City with about 14 million inhabitants and around 18 million in the Metropolitan Area, is the nation's and perhaps the world's largest city. About one fifth of all 91.5 million Mexicans live in the Mexico City Metropolitan area. Mexico is a highly centralized country, and the political control of Mexico City is therefore particularly important. Cardenas, son of president Lazaro Cardenas {1934-1940) has been one of the principal leaders of the opposition to the PRI. Many believe that Cardenas actually won the 1988 presidential elections, but was denied the presidency by president de la Madrid of the PRI. Cardenas also ran for president in 1994, but came in third behind the PRI and PAN candidates. Cardenas's Program and Labor While the PRI and the PAN have favored NAFTA and the neo- liberal program of privatization, deregulation, and free trade, Cardenas and the Party of the Democratic Revolution have generally been more nationalist, favoring more government regulation and planning. The PRD has, for example, supported the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Cardenas's constituency, the debtors' movement El Barzon, the reformists in the state-controlled unions, the left-of-center professionals and the peasants tend to want more state control of the economy. But when Cardenas visited New York on May 6 and met with industrialists and financiers, he told that the PRD would promote foreign investment, and told that he and his party believed in free trade. "We are not trying to control the markets nor do we believe that the government should intervene in economic activity," said Cardenas to the bankers. At that same meeting Cardenas also emphasized the need to create jobs and raise salaries of Mexican workers. Back in Mexico, Cardenas told members of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME), "The PRD has come out against corporativism [state control of unions] and consequently in the next democratic government of the City there will be a commitment to the complete autonomy of the unions." The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has for decades controlled the Congress of Labor (CT) and the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), and though that control seems to be weakening, the "official" unions still support the PRI. Formed in 1989, the PRD has been a coalition of former PRI leaders, such as Cardenas, and former Communists and other leftists. While it recently affiliated with the Socialist International, a federation of the world's labor and socialist parties, the PRD has virtually no labor union leaders among its party leaders, elected officials or candidates. The only candidate on the PRD list in this election is Bertha Lujan of the Authetic Labor Front, a small independent union federation. The PRD at its Base--a Radical Plebeian Party The PRD today governs 235 municipalities with a total population of about 10 million people, that is a little more than a tenth of the Mexican population. The PRD's most stable base is to be found in the poorer central and southern states: Tabasco, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas, the State of Mexico, Morelos, Campeche, Veracruz, Michoacan and in the Federal District which contains Mexico City. The party's greatest following tends to be in poor, rural agricultural areas and among the urban poor and professionals. The PRD has not generally been successful in reaching unionized workers, with the exception of school teachers. In many states the PRD leaders and activists are also the leaders of social movements who find themselves in conflict with the PRI, landlords and employers. The PRD's peasant base is particularly militant, engaging in the seizure of land, the taking of town halls when they have been cheated out of elections, and in frequent confrontations with authorities. Since the party was formed it has faced terrible repression, including the assassination of more than 500 of its activists, often by PRI officials, the police, or local gangsters. In the state of Guerrero alone, the PRD has had 171 of its members murdered since 1989. ### CANADIAN, MEXICAN AND U.S. GROUPS DEMAND RENEGOTIATION OF NAFTA Canadian, Mexican and U.S. organizations say that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has failed to provide economic growth and jobs that it promised, and should be renegotiated. At a press conference held on May 6, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC), the Development Group for Alternative Policies from the United States, and the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice of Canada called for "real development for the peoples of the continent which attempt to reduces imbalances while they permit and encourage the integration of our economies." Bertha Lujan, a leader of the Authentic Labor Front, as well as the chairperson of RMALC, argued that despite the signing of NAFTA, the United States continued to use protectionist policies. ### MEXICAN ACTION NETWORK ON FREE TRADE CRITICIZES CLINTON FOR ATTACKS ON IMMIGRANTS The Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC) criticized U.S. President Bill Clinton at a press conference on May 7 for talking about human rights while his government attacked Mexican immigrants in the United States. RMALC also criticized the Zedillo government for its repression of protestors during Clinton's visit. "This is degrading and it show the subordination of Ernesto Zedillo who wanted to look good in the eyes of the U.S. president," said Andres Penaloza of RMALC. ### Health and Safety EXPLOSION IN PEMEX PLANT KILLS TWO WORKERS An explosion in a Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) plant in the Mexico City area on May 1 killed two workers and injured three others. Two workers, Eleuterio Suarez and Javier Lopez, employed by REMSA, a private company, were engaged in rehabilitating a drainage system, when an explosion occurred burying them alive and suffocating them. Three other workers, Juan Carlos Castro Hernandez and Paulino Victoria of REMSA and Miguel Cruz Olivares of PEMEX, were also injured. Residents of the Colonia Granjas Mexico in Delegacion Iztacalco of Mexico City organized demonstrations to demand the removal of the PEMEX facilities over the next two weeks. Also on May 1 in the town of Cuautlalpan, near Texcoco, Mexico, a fire in a cardboard box factory left three injured, one with third degree burns over his body. While PEMEX is the biggest culprit, explosions and fires continue to take too many Mexican workers lives, largely because of the government's unwillingness and inability to make workers' health and safety an issue. ### ROCHE-SYNTEX: WHAT GLOBALIZATION MEANS FOR UNIONS AND WORKERS The globalization of the economy, we are told almost every day by the news media, means more competition, therefore higher quality products, and a better world for all of us consumers. But globalization has another meaning for workers. In 1995 the Swiss firm Roche acquired the Syntex Laboratories, famous for its contraceptive pill, creating the new multinational Roche-Syntex. Syntex had a plant in the Mexico City area for fifty years, organized by the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). For a CTM union, the Syntex union was rather independent. Though the CTM had never struck Syntex, because of the company profitability and the high productivity of the Mexico plant, workers had enjoyed better wages and benefits than most other workers in the petro-chemical industry. In August of 1996 Roche-Syntex took over the contract, making some few changes, such as sub-contracting the dining room and cleaning services. AS usual, sub-contracting meant hiring non-union workers at lower wages and with fewer benefits. At the same time the company declared that the security services were "confidential" employees, that is they could not be unionized. The CTM union accepted these losses, believing or hoping that would be the end of the matter. But the management decided that it would also sub-contract the packing and shipping workers. The union balked, and on March 10, management fired 19 workers, including the entire union executive committee. Ghost Union and Protection Contract Management then decided that it would bring in what in Mexico is often called a "ghost unions," so-called because they are unknown to the workers, which would offer a "protection contract," a contract to protect the employer. Corrupt attorneys provide the service of managing such "ghost unions," some attorneys have many such unions covering scores of workplaces and thousands of workers. Roche-Syntex arranged to get the services of the "Justo Sierra" Progressive Union of Service Workers of the Mexican Republic. (Sindicato Progresista Justo Sierra de Trabajadores de Servicios de la Republica Mexicana). On May 8, the Roche-Syntex manager of labor relations told the workers they would have to leave the CTM union and join the new company union, and so within a week. So, if management succeeds in forcing the workers to join the new union, that union will then negotiate a new "protection contract." Such contracts usually offer little more than the legally required minimums, and sometimes less. Help from UE The executive board of the Roche-Syntex union has taken its case to the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration, has been in contact with the Roche-Syntex offices in Basil, Switzerland. The CTM union's executive board also contacted the United Electrical workers (UE), requesting solidarity and the filing of a complaint before the National Administrative Office which hears cases of violations of labor law under the labor side agreement (NAALC) of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The UE immediately sent letters of protest and put the CTM Roche-Syntex union in touch with the Teamsters and Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) which represents sister locals in the U.S. So, next time you hear the rap about how wonderful globalization is for everybody, remember the workers at Roche- Syntex. Form them globalization means the destruction of their union, the lowering of their wages and benefits, and in some cases the loss of their jobs. ### SECOND TAXI UNION LEADER MURDERED Armando Lopez Navarrete, a leader of the Union of Democratic Taxi Cab Drivers (Union de Transportistas Democraticos-UTD) was stabbed to death in the town of Iyotla part of the municipality of Leonardo Bravo (Chichihualco) on May 2. Because of his wounds, he is presumed to have been tortured before being murdered. Lopez Navarrete was the second UTD leader to be murdered this year. On March 29 Santana Alonso Arellano, another UTD leader, was shot in the head and killed in Tierra Caliente. Alonso Arellano had also been tortured. The UTD is affiliated with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and it is presumed that politics was the motivation for both murders. PRD officials in Guerrero say that member of the taxi cab union controlled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had threatened to murder Alonso Arellano. Lopez Navarrete, say the PRD leaders, had also been harassed. After the first murder, five hundred member of the UTD marched in Chilpancingo on April 3, 1997 to demand that the assassination of their leader and other PRD members be investigated and the killers brought to justice. ### CONGRESS OF LABOR AND CTM BLAME CROC FOR MAY DAY FIASCO The Congress of Labor (CT) and the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) blamed Alberto Juarez Blancas, head of the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), also part of the CT, for the May Day fiasco. On May 1, Mexico's traditional labor day, leaders of the CT met with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo in the National Auditorium in Mexico City with several thousand supposedly loyal workers in attendance. The workers, however, instead of playing their part as cheerleaders for the state-union alliance, booed their union leaders and ridiculed the president. Leonardo Rodriguez Alcaine, second in command in the CTM, contends that Juarez Blancas pulled the stunt in an attempt to humiliate the CTM and the CT. The CT and CTM may prefer this explanation to the notion that the workers simply find their union and political leaders ridiculous and disgusting. Fidel Returns to Lead PRI Campaign Meanwhile, Fidel Velazquez--who does appear to be immortal-- returned from the hospital to the CTM offices in order to lead the labor movement in its campaign of support for the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Now 97 years old, Velazquez told reporters the CTM would take its campaign for the Intitutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to its 32 state organizations, to its industrial unions, to local unions and to the rank and file. The PRI's "sector obrero," or labor sector, made up of labor union officials, has 32 candidates in this election. In recent elections when the PRI has done poorly, the "sector obrero" candidates have done even worse. The "sector obrero" representatives give the official unions some influence within the PRI, as well as providing political patronage and graft to union leaders. On May 12 Velazquez announced that if either the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) or the National Action Party (PAN) won the elections of July 6 that the CTM would break its pact with the government and the employers. Many observers found ironic, since the opposition has been demanding for years, nay for decades, that the CTM break its deal with bosses and the state. ### FORO GROUPS DEBATES ISSUE OF NATIONAL WORKERS ASSEMBLY The Foro group of unions, made up of "official" Congress of +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Anarchism and Irish Politics http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2419

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