Cablegate: Visas Donkey: Request for Corruption 212(F) Visa


DE RUEHMU #0394/01 0951618
O 041618Z APR 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000394




E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/03/2018

B. 07 MANAGUA 2562
C. 07 MANAGUA 2001
D. 06 MANAGUA 36
E. 05 MANAGUA 2774
F. 05 MANAGUA 2740
G. 05 MANAGUA 2662
H. 05 MANAGUA 2625
I. 05 MANAGUA 2597
J. 05 MANAGUA 2443
K. 05 MANAGUA 223
L. 05 MANAGUA 1760
M. 04 STATE 45499
N. 04 MANAGUA 1349

Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli for reasons 1.4 b & d.

1. (C) SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST: Embassy is seeking a
security advisory opinion under section 212 (f) of the
Immigration and Nationality Act, proclamation 7750,
suspending the entry into the United States and revoking the
visa presently held by Jose Manuel Martinez Sevilla, born in
Nicaragua on 19 November 1941. Martinez is currently the
chief justice of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court (CSJ).
National Assembly deputies loyal to FSLN leader Daniel Ortega
and corrupt ex-President Arnoldo Aleman facilitated
Martinez's election to a five-year term on the Supreme Court
in 2003 as part of the "pact" between the two party bosses
intended to undermine the Nicaraguan Constitution and ensure
that all power in Nicaragua remains in their hands. Martinez
has been a close associate of Arnoldo Aleman for decades and
was elected the Supreme Court because of his loyalty to the
ex-president. In 2005, as part of the Aleman-Ortega pact,
which stipulates that the presidency of the CSJ rotate
between PLC and FSLN magistrates on a yearly basis, Martinez
became the court's chief justice. Even though his year
expired in early 2006, he remains chief justice because of
disputes between Aleman and Ortega on who should succeed him.

2. (C) Both as a CSJ magistrate since 2003 and as chief
justice since 2005, Martinez has used his CSJ posts to serve
as Aleman's proxy on the court and to enrich himself and the
PLC by participating in the entrenched system of judicial
corruption established by the Sandinistas (FSLN). Since his
appointment to the CSJ, Martinez has loyally executed
Aleman's orders on all important cases that have come before
him, including siding with Ortega and Aleman on every single
decision in the long-running political and institutional
battle between the two party bosses and the previous Bolanos
Administration. More recently between 2005 and 2006,
Martinez was one of the two key CSJ actors in a complicated
scam in which Martinez took bribes and manipulated the court
system at multiple levels in an attempt to free a pair of
Colombian drug traffickers, one of whom has a previous
conviction for narcotics trafficking, and make illicit funds
seized from them "disappear." These efforts led to the loss
of the seized funds, freed one of the two Colombian
traffickers, and led to a very light two-year sentence for
the other one.

3. (C) Although the previous Attorney General's office
(Procuraduria) called for a full investigation of this case
involving the liberation of drug traffickers and their money
and for an investigation of the part Martinez played in the
plot, no substantive investigation has ever taken place.
This is due to the fact that Martinez enjoys legal immunity
from prosecution, as well as the protection of Arnoldo
Aleman, corrupt National Prosecutor Julio Centeno Gomez, and
of the PLC caucus in the National Assembly, which have
blocked all efforts to launch an investigation of the CSJ

magistrate. The ongoing political and financial corruption
of which Martinez is an integral part has caused enormous
damage to U.S. national interests including the stability of
democratic institutions in Nicaragua, U.S. foreign assistance
and development goals, as well as the activities of U.S.
businesses here.

4. (C) Martinez remains a chief proxy for Arnoldo Aleman and
his cronies, and one of Aleman's primary means both to secure
illegal financing for the PLC and to undermine Nicaragua's
Constitution and efforts of democratic forces to improve
governance. He continues to damage all of these national
interests, and to sustain the Aleman- Ortega stranglehold on
the judiciary and the country as a whole. Moreover,
Martinez's specific involvement in the Colombian case has
played out publicly making obvious the fact that justice can
be bought and sold in Nicaragua, and that those involved are
untouchable so long as they enjoy political protection.
Unfortunately, numerous judges at all levels are emulating
Martinez's example, severely undermining the entire system of
justice and impeding U.S. and Nicaraguan efforts to
successfully prosecute international drug, arms and human
trafficking. For all of these reasons, post recommends that
the Department make a 212(f) finding against Jose Manuel
Martinez Sevilla. The following provides information
requested in reftel M, paragraph 16. END SUMMARY AND ACTION

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- -

5. (U) As the Department's recent annual Human Rights
Reports on Nicaragua have noted, almost all judges appointed
to the country's Supreme Court owe their loyalty to either
Aleman or Ortega, and their decisions on all sensitive cases
are blatantly partisan and political. Each time openings are
available on the Court, Aleman and Ortega negotiate package
deals whereby they divide the judicial appointments evenly,
always ignoring experienced and politically neutral
candidates. Manuel Martinez was appointed to the CSJ in 2003
as part of such an Aleman-Ortega deal. Subsequently, he has
performed a role for Aleman similar to that played by his
FSLN counterpart, magistrate Rafael Solis, for Daniel Ortega
Just as Solis does for Ortega, so Martinez votes as Aleman's
proxy on politically sensitive issues. NOTE: The Department
revoked Solis's visa under INA 212(f) in 2004 (reftel N). END
NOTE. Martinez also uses his office to sow corruption
throughout the judiciary via appointments of lower court
judges and, in return for "fixing" judicial decisions,
accepts bribes for his personal benefit and to fill
Aleman-controlled party coffers.

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6. (C) In August and September 2005, Manuel Martinez
participated in a complicated scheme (first reported in
reftel G and described in greater detail in reftel D) to free
two convicted Colombian drug traffickers and make their
laundered money "disappear" in return for bribes for himself
and other magistrates involved, as well as for the PLC and
the FSLN. According to confidential embassy sources involved
in the plot from beginning to end, the entire scheme was
orchestrated by Lenin Cerna, the former director of state
security during the 1980s Sandinista regime and current
General Secretary of the FSLN. Cerna remains a shadowy
figure in Nicaragua, involved in all manner of illicit FSLN
activities. According to credible sources, Cerna

orchestrated the plan to free the Colombians and their money
in return for large payoffs to the FSLN, the PLC and the
individual judges and lawyers involved in the scheme.
Cerna's plan was implemented with the personal approval of
FSLN leader Daniel Ortega, who reportedly negotiated
agreements with international drug traffickers whereby
traffickers would be allowed to operate unimpeded on the
country's Atlantic coast if Ortega were elected president in
2006. Although the FSLN dominates the Nicaraguan judiciary
and is the key player in such organized judicial corruption
schemes, Aleman and his loyalists in the PLC, including
Martinez, also actively participate in the corruption, taking
their cut of the proceeds.

7. (C) This case began with the April 2004 arrest of
Colombian citizens Jorge Eliecer Gonzales Hernandez (AKA Luis
Angel Gonzalez Largo) and Leyla Bucardo Chavez in a Managua
hotel with close to USD 800,000 cash in their possession.
Since Nicaragua lacks a law governing the maintenance of
seized assets, the seized money was deposited in a bank
account belonging to the CSJ and directly controlled by
Martinez and Solis. Hernandez and Bucardo were subsequently
convicted of money laundering and other charges and sentenced
to ten years imprisonment. There is no doubt that CSJ PLC
magistrate Manuel Martinez and CSJ FSLN magistrate Roger
Camilo Arguello (whose 212(f) case will be forthcoming),
worked at the behest of Arnoldo Aleman, Bayardo Arce and
Lenin Cerna, to personally orchestrate a scheme to erase the
Colombians' convictions and liberate them and their illicit
funds in return for bribes for themselves, the PLC, and the

8. (C) This plot to free the Colombians and steal their
money began in August 2005, when defense lawyers presented a
spurious allegation that the trial was illegal because it had
taken place in a jurisdiction different from the one in which
the Colombians had been arrested. The appeal made the false
claim that the duo had actually been arrested in the town of
San Marcos, not Managua. This false allegation was supported
by additional fabricated testimony from a police officer who
had never testified and had no involvement in the case.
Despite the fact that this technicality had never been raised
during the original trial, it served as the legal pretext for
the scheme that followed. Once the defense lawyers lodged
their appeal, FSLN magistrate Roger Camilo Arguello began to
manipulate the judicial system to ensure that the appeal was
approved. First, Arguello used his position on the Supreme
Court's constitutional chamber to appoint substitute Judge
Julio Morales Aragon to rule on the spurious claim. Once
Morales took up the appeal and "investigated" the case, he
approved the appeal in record time (one day), overturned the
convictions of Hernandez and Bucardo, and ordered that they
and their money be released immediately. However, word of
the developing scheme leaked to the media, and, before
Hernandez or the money could be released, FSLN appeals court
judge Enrique Chavarria overturned Morales' ruling,
apparently to quiet the media outcry over what was happening.
Subsequently CSJ Chief Justice Manuel Martinez publicly
promised a full investigation. However, no such
investigation took place, and Martinez and Arguello continued
to proceed quietly with their efforts to free the Colombians,
including a meeting to discuss how laundered drug money would
be divided among the CSJ magistrates.

9. (C) With their first scheme to free the Colombians and
their money having failed, Martinez and Arguello switched
tactics. The Colombian's defense team appealed to the CSJ to
have Chavarria's ruling overturned. Arguello drafted a
sentence that would overturn Chavarria's decision and free
the Colombians and their money. To obtain the signatures of
the other constitutional chamber judges, Arguello and

Martinez allegedly misled them as to the purpose of the draft
sentence, while Arguello forged the signatures of others. At
the same time as he was securing the CSJ verdict in favor of
the Colombians, Arguello also engineered the extension of
Judge Morales' temporary mandate as presiding judge over the

10. (C) Once Martinez and Arguello had the requisite
signatures (both the authentic ones and the allegedly forged
ones) on the ruling overturning the conviction of the two
Colombians and releasing them and their money, Arguello took
the document, which had not been properly authenticated
according to established CSJ procedures, and made a
photocopy, which he gave to one of the lawyers for the
Colombians. The next day, the lawyers delivered the
photocopy to Judge Morales, who immediately ordered the
release of the Colombians and their money. Bucardo was
released, but Hernandez remained incarcerated on other
charges. At the same time, in his capacity as CSJ chief
justice, Manuel Martinez signed a check from the CSJ account
he controlled in the amount of USD 609,000, made out to the
Colombians' lawyers, and ordered that the money be released
from the CSJ account in the Nicaraguan Treasury. In August
2007, Supreme Court Vice President Rafael Solis confirmed to
the Embassy that he and Martinez were the only two officials
with access to this CSJ account.

11. (C) Henry Areas, the then-Treasury Director, was
reluctant to release the funds, so Arguello and Martinez
intervened again, ordering Areas to facilitate the release of
the check to the Colombians' lawyers as quickly as possible.
Areas complied, and the lawyers, using power-of-attorney
documents, received the treasury check on September 26 and,
based on instructions from Martinez, converted the funds to
six separate cashiers' checks at a commercial bank that were
redeemed the next day. At the bidding of Arguello and
Martinez, Judge Morales personally went to the bank with the
defense lawyers. Bank security cameras filmed Morales in the
company of the lawyers when they took possession of the
money. A confidential Embassy source subsequently reported
(reftel D) that once the money was withdrawn from the bank, a
large portion (USD 306,000) of it went to the FSLN via
then-National Assembly deputy Bayardo Arce, while smaller
amounts went to the various judges involved in the scheme,
including CSJ magistrates Martinez, Arguello, Yadira Centeno,
Rafael Solis, and Edgard Navas Navas. The source stated that
Martinez and Centeno received the largest amounts of money
given to individual magistrates (USD 100,000 each).

12. (C) Accounts of this case leaked to the media, including
the central roles of Martinez and Arguello in liberating
Bucardo and the disappearance of the money. To quiet the
ensuing public and media uproar, Arguello left Nicaragua for
nearly a month, while Martinez again promised a "full
investigation" of the case. This investigation targeted
several low-level judges and lawyers involved in the scheme,
but eschewed any examination of the roles played by Martinez
and Arguello. On December 13, 2005, Martinez announced a
variety of administrative sanctions for several of the lesser
actors involved in the disappearance of the money, but took
no action against the two key actors in the entire affair:
himself and his fellow CSJ magistrate Arguello.

13. (C) In October 2005, the Office of the Attorney General
(Procuraduria) charged Martinez and Arguello with
embezzlement of government funds and judicial corruption;
however, the two enjoyed immunity from prosecution that could
only be lifted by the National Assembly, which was controlled
by PLC and FSLN deputies loyal to the Aleman-Ortega pact.
National Prosecutor Julio Centeno also leapt to Martinez's
defense, declaring that his office (the Fiscalia), not the

Procuraduria, held primary jurisdiction over any criminal
investigation. The subsequent investigation by the Fiscalia,
widely viewed as bogus, again focused on the "small fish"
protecting Martinez and Arguello. In February 2006, the
Fiscalia "archived" its investigation, declaring it had found
no grounds to charge anyone in the liberation of drug
trafficker Bucardo and in the "disappearance" of the USD
609,000 of drug money. Thus by virtue of protection under
the Aleman -Ortega pact, both Martinez and Arguello have
continued their CSJ "duties" unimpeded. Martinez has since
publicly gloated about the immunity (and impunity) he enjoys,
declaring to the media on November 22, 2005 that, "There is
no procedure by which we (the magistrates of the CSJ) can be
judged. People can say whatever they want, but no one can
judge us. Not even the National Assembly has the power to
judge us."

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14. (C) Martinez and his fellow PLC magistrates on the CSJ
helped former president and convicted felon, Arnoldo Aleman,
escape justice, obstructing efforts by the Government of
Panama to investigate Aleman's money laundering activities in
that country and violating Nicaraguan law and international
treaty obligations in the process. In January 2005, the
office of the Panamanian Anti-Corruption Prosecutor announced
that its intention to press charges against Aleman and other
conspirators for money laundering in that country.
Panamanian law requires that suspects be formally notified at
each stage of such cases, so Panamanian authorities asked
Nicaragua's then-Attorney General, Alberto Novoa, to serve
papers notifying Aleman and the others of a preliminary
hearing against them.

15. (C) Immediately, the then-National Prosecutor (Fiscal
General) Julio Centeno Gomez alleged that Novoa's actions
were illegal and insisted that only the Fiscalia had the
legal capacity to deliver such documents, despite both the
existence of a Central American mutual assistance treaty
specifically granting this authority to the Procuraduria, and
the fact that the Procuraduria had already performed executed
some 40 other similar cases without a word of protest from
Centeno Gomez, a close friend of Aleman's whose visa was
revoked under 212f in 2005 (reftel L). When the Novoa and
the Procuraduria appealed to the courts, Martinez and his
fellow CSJ magistrates sided with the Prosecutor Centeno. As
the Panamanian investigation proceeded, Martinez and Centeno
continued to use their positions to obstruct efforts by
Panamanian authorities to carry out their legal notification
obligations and derail Panamanian prosecution of Aleman.

16. (C) Also beginning in 2005, Manuel Martinez and all but
one of the other CSJ magistrates abandoned any pretense of
judicial independence and took blatantly partisan positions
on every legal issue that surfaced in the institutional
conflict between the Bolanos administration and its FSLN and
PLC opponents in the National Assembly. (Reftel J) Between
2005 and 2006, with Martinez at the helm, the CSJ ruled month
after month in favor of the Aleman-Ortega pact-controlled
National Assembly in dozens of constitutional disputes that
arose out of Assembly "reforms" intended to strip powers (and
even Bolanos himself) from the presidency and transfer them
to itself. The Bolanos government regarded these "reforms"
as unconstitutional and refused to recognize them -- a
position bolstered by a ruling from the Central American
Court of Justice that declared the changes unconstitutional
and a violation of the separation of powers mandated by
Nicaragua's Constitution. At one point, the government

instructed the police to carry out orders that contravened
the desires of the National Assembly. In retaliation,
Martinez and other CSJ magistrates called for the creation of
a body of "judicial police" that would bypass the executive,
and report directly to the Court. Then, after international
pressure forced Aleman and Ortega into a political
"cease-fire" with Bolanos, Martinez led the CSJ in reversing
itself and suspended further legal actions against Bolanos.

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17. (C) Martinez and his fellow magistrates continue to
subvert Nicaragua's Constitution and its rule of law by using
the CSJ, and the courts more generally, as an instrument to
pressure and threaten opponents of the Aleman-Ortega pact.
In August 2007 Martinez and the CSJ refused to hear the case
of Alejandro Bolanos-Davis, a National Assembly member from
the Conservative Party, who had been stripped of his Assembly
seat on the basis of U.S.-Nicaraguan citizenship, but really
for attacking Lenin Cerna, the FSLN and judicial corruption
(reftel C). Martinez's refusal to hear a case referred to
the CSJ by the National Assembly itself was surprising given
his eagerness, only a year earlier, to hear and rule in favor
of nearly every case he received from the Assembly. This
pattern of subversion and corruption has continued. In
December 2007 and January 2008 Martinez facilitated two CSJ
decisions that emasculated the efforts of opposition National
Assembly members to require (now) President Ortega to comply
with Nicaraguan law as he sought to formally incorporate his
Citizen Power Councils (CPCs) into the Executive Branch.
(Refs B and A)

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18. (C) CSJ Chief Justice Manuel Martinez has used his
judicial position to serve the political interests of Arnoldo
Aleman and his allies to undermine the Nicaragua's
constitutional order and governance; he has helped to free
drug traffickers, and has taken bribes and used his office to
protect convicted felon Aleman and other corrupt officials.
All these corrupt acts have had serious adverse effects on
those U.S. interests specified in the Presidential
Proclamation as well as U.S. foreign policy priorities
highlighted in the Embassy's Mission Program Plan (MPP). The
Embassy has encouraged Nicaragua to prosecute officials for
corruption and has provided substantial financial and
technical support in corruption cases. The Embassy has also
provided a numerous resources and training to the Nicaraguan
police and military to increase their capabilities to
intercept and arrest international drug traffickers. This
training and support has been increasingly successful, with
Nicaraguan law enforcement capturing increasing numbers of
drug shipments, drug traffickers, and laundered drug money
each year.

19. (C) The Department's 2006 International Narcotics
Control Strategy Report (INCSR) highlighted judicial
corruption as one of the single greatest factors undermining
anti-drug trafficking efforts in the country. Unfortunately,
the corruption of Manuel Martinez, other Supreme Court
magistrates, and of lower court judges under his sway, has
not only enabled many of the drug traffickers to go free, but
also to recover the drug money and other drug properties
seized by police, undermining the hard work of the police,
military and the USG in seeking to prosecute traffickers and
carry out the rule of law. Although Manuel Martinez is just
one part of the CSJ's corruption problem, his corrupt
actions, and his total impunity, both of which he has thrown
in the face of the public, have reinforced widespread popular

attitudes that justice can be bought and sold in Nicaragua.
As the CSJ's chief justice, Martinez is the most public face
of judicial corruption in Nicaragua. Lower court judges are
increasingly emulating Martinez and his CSJ counterparts and
freeing drug traffickers and their money in return for bribes

20. (C) Stability of Democratic Institutions: The Embassy's
top priority is strengthening and consolidating democracy
through the development of transparent, accountable and
professional governmental institutions, including the
judiciary. Our MPP states that "... abuse of power,
corruption and politicization of many state institutions,
especially the judiciary, have impeded the consolidation of
democracy and economic growth." Martinez sits at the apex of
this criminal justice system and his corrosive corrupting
influence has undermined democracy creating serious political
instability. Martinez's participation in unrelenting
"pact"-driven attacks against the Constitution and
Nicaragua's democratic institutions have helped to put
supporters of democracy perpetually on the defensive. His
stalwart defense of convicted felon Aleman has obstructed
both Nicaraguan and Panamanian efforts to prosecute the
ex-president to the full extent of his crimes.

21. (C) Martinez's corruption, which amounts in itself to
money laundering, and his trafficking of influence have been
particularly devastating to the credibility of Nicaragua's
institutions, as overwhelming evidence of his corrupt acts
has been front page news for months at a time -- without
Martinez having suffered any legal consequence whatsoever.
His case has demonstrated to the entire country that corrupt
officials can commit any act, and be caught at it, without
suffering any legal consequences as long as they enjoy the
support of Ortega or Aleman. The result is total impunity
for corrupt individuals and bolsters the widespread attitude
that even a democratically-elected government is incapable of
providing for the public good. The resulting cynicism has
undermined confidence in democracy, government institutions
and the administration of justice.

22. (C) Foreign Assistance Goals: One of the top three USG
foreign assistance goals in Nicaragua is strengthening
democracy. The chief goals of USAID assistance in this area
are battling corruption and effecting judicial reform.
Aleman and Martinez's actions have directly damaged progress
in both of these areas. In December 2003, post froze our
judicial assistance program in response to endemic judicial
corruption, highlighted by what appeared to be an imminent
fraudulent "not guilty" verdict for Arnoldo Aleman, due to
backroom dealing between Ortega and the corrupt ex-president.
Thanks to corrupt officials such as Martinez, Aleman
possesses the means to protect allies from the consequences
of their corrupt acts and the power to sanction and silence
opponents. This power has enabled him to retain total
control of the PLC caucus in the National Assembly, and he
uses this power to negotiate the very future of the country
with Ortega.

23. (C) Due to their control of Nicaragua's entire court
system from CSJ magistrates like Martinez on down, Aleman and
Ortega have the ability to use nominally legal means to
harass, intimidate and arrest opponents. In a vicious circle
that guarantees their political power, Ortega and Aleman use
co-dependent cronies such as Martinez on the Supreme Court
and other state institutions to ensure their control of the
National Assembly, which, in turn, ensures their control of
all the other institutions of the state that are under the
Assembly's supervision, including the judiciary, the
Comptroller General's Office (Contraloria), and the Supreme
Electoral Council (CSE), among others. For as long as
Martinez and people like him remain on the Supreme Court, it

will be an integral part of Nicaragua's corruption problem,
rather than what it should be, a key institution aiding the
government in its anti-corruption fight.

24. (C) International Activity of U.S. Businesses: Corrupt
Nicaraguan institutions hamper U.S. investment in Nicaragua
and discourage U.S. exporters from establishing
agent/distributor relationships. U.S. investors and
business-people are reluctant to risk their resources in
Nicaragua, knowing they could easily be subjected to the
vagaries of a corrupt judiciary or the whims of politicians
should they become involved in any commercial dispute, real
or trumped up. By shamelessly serving only the interests of
Arnoldo Aleman and the PLC, sowing corruption throughout the
judiciary, by taking bribes to enable drug traffickers to
escape with their proceeds, Martinez has undermined
Nicaragua's constitution, facilitated perpetual political
instability and ensured that U.S. and international
businesses continue to regard Nicaragua as a risky investment

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25. (C) On February 13, Martinez met with the CG to discuss
his immigration status. He said he requested the meeting
because, in 2005, he had experienced problems at U.S. ports
of entry on various occasions. During his last transit
through the U.S. on November 5, 2005, the DHS officer asked
Martinez to waive his diplomatic immunities before allowing
him to clear immigration. While DHS officers did not explain
why he was consistently sent into secondary, he concluded
that he had been included on the list of "desvisados" (those
whose visas had been revoked by the Embassy). Martinez said
he had seen his name on this list, as well as all the other
members of the Supreme Court, at one point in the local
newspapers. He noted that other magistrates of the Supreme
Court had experienced similar problems at ports of entry and
that they had come to the Embassy to clarify their
immigration status. He was aware of which magistrates had
subsequently had their visas restored and which had their
revocations confirmed.

26. (C) CG inquired about Martinez's residency status. He
stated that he had lived in the U.S. from 1979 until 1994 and
was grateful for the political asylum that he had been
granted. He said that his sister, his seven children, eight
grandchildren and ex-wife were all American citizens, but
that he had not pursued U.S. citizenship because he did not
want to jeopardize his political fortunes in Nicaragua.
Nonetheless, he professed great admiration for the U.S. and
said that he wished to continue visiting his Amcit relatives

27. (C) CG explained U.S. immigration law and noted that
when Martinez returned permanently to

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