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Sun Dec 7, 2014, 02:42 PM

Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables

By RICHARD MAROSI
Photography & Video by DON BARTLETTI
DEC. 7, 2014

A Times reporter and photographer find that thousands of laborers at Mexico's mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers.

Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply. Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods. Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It's common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest. Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.

The farm laborers are mostly indigenous people from Mexico's poorest regions. Bused hundreds of miles to vast agricultural complexes, they work six days a week for the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day. The squalid camps where they live, sometimes sleeping on scraps of cardboard on concrete floors, are operated by the same agribusinesses that employ advanced growing techniques and sanitary measures in their fields and greenhouses.


Read more: http://graphics.latimes.com/product-of-mexico-camps/

This thread is being reposted from Latest Breaking News, where it was locked as off-topic.


The story also shows the chain of distribution of the produce to WalMart, Olive Garden, Subway, Safeway, etc. (In response to one post in LBN let me just say that this list of stores and restaurants is only meant to be representative, not exhaustive.)

44 replies, 3386 views

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Reply Hardship on Mexico's farms, a bounty for U.S. tables (Original post)
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2014 OP
cbayer Dec 2014 #1
B2G Dec 2014 #4
cbayer Dec 2014 #5
B2G Dec 2014 #7
cbayer Dec 2014 #8
B2G Dec 2014 #9
cbayer Dec 2014 #10
B2G Dec 2014 #11
cbayer Dec 2014 #12
B2G Dec 2014 #13
cbayer Dec 2014 #15
B2G Dec 2014 #16
AngryAmish Dec 2014 #26
cbayer Dec 2014 #28
AngryAmish Dec 2014 #31
cbayer Dec 2014 #32
GummyBearz Dec 2014 #39
cbayer Dec 2014 #40
GummyBearz Dec 2014 #41
cbayer Dec 2014 #42
Major Nikon Dec 2014 #36
cbayer Dec 2014 #37
Major Nikon Dec 2014 #44
Liberal_in_LA Dec 2014 #21
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2014 #33
jwirr Dec 2014 #2
etherealtruth Dec 2014 #3
MerryBlooms Dec 2014 #6
Name removed Dec 2014 #14
Le Taz Hot Dec 2014 #17
Mosby Dec 2014 #20
Le Taz Hot Dec 2014 #22
Mosby Dec 2014 #25
Le Taz Hot Dec 2014 #27
Mosby Dec 2014 #34
CaliforniaPeggy Dec 2014 #18
albino65 Dec 2014 #19
Rhiannon12866 Dec 2014 #23
Mosby Dec 2014 #24
Judi Lynn Dec 2014 #29
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2014 #35
Post removed Dec 2014 #30
alarimer Dec 2014 #38
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2014 #43

Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 02:51 PM

1. Really important story and the images alone are worth the click.

This is the first of four installments and I look forward to more from this team.

US arrogance when it comes to Mexico is staggering.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 02:55 PM

4. So do we stop buying their produce?

 

What?

And how is this American arrogance? I don't quite get that.

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Response to B2G (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:02 PM

5. Yes, we support fair trade and decent work conditions for

countries who are importing their goods to us.

It is arrogant to fill your belly with food that has been reaped on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people. And these people live next door to us.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #5)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:09 PM

7. But if we boycott Mexico's products

 

What will happen to those people?

I only ask because given Mexico's track record, I seriously doubt it would force them to change. And why haven't we already done this? Maybe if they made things better for their people, so many of them wouldn't feel the need to rip themselves from their families and homes in search of a better life.

I have never understood our government's reluctance to apply pressure on the Mexican government in this regard.

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Response to B2G (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:17 PM

8. I don't think we boycott Mexico's products, I think we use some

discretion in what we buy.

This article is focused on companies owned by gringos. They put the smaller, mexican companies out of business.

If you saw these images and they were labor camps in the US, what would you think?

How can we justify allowing this to happen just because these are brown people?

What is Mexico's track record? A better question is, what is the US's track record?

The US is grossly complicit in the problems in Mexico.

It's easy to just say that the Mexican government should fix their problems. It's harder to see how the US feeds those problems and then take some responsibility for our brothers and sisters to the south.

The US government's reluctance is the same as the US consumer's reluctance. We like things cheap and we don't much care how that happens.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:35 PM

9. I see nothing in your post about Mexico's culpability

 

Only ours. You are missing a huge part of the equation.

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Response to B2G (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:51 PM

10. No, there is nothing there, but that doesn't mean that I don't see

Mexico's culpability.

However, since the overwhelming number of people who post here live in the US, I am focusing my remarks on the US.

In your post, I see nothing about US culpability, only Mexico's/

Perhaps it is you that is missing a huge part of the equation. That would be the part that you might actually participate in.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:57 PM

11. I already stated that I don't understand

 

why the US doesn't hold Mexico accountable for the living conditions of their citizens. That is on us. It directly contributes to the illegal immigration problem that is enormously costly to the US. It has a very negative impact on the immigrants themselves. Maybe you missed that part.

But from reading the article, there are laws on the books that in Mexico that these large agri-companies are directly violating. We can't enforce those, the Mexican government has to.

For some reason they aren't, and I have the feeling it's because they get a large amount of money in their coffers from refusing to do so.

This will never be solved at the US consumer level. It would take action by the US government, but they don't/won't. And even then, things might not change. I'm sure China would love all of that produce we wouldn't buy.

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Response to B2G (Reply #11)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:05 PM

12. Here are a couple of good articles, if you are interested.

We don't hold them accountable and our policies encourage and feed current problems.

The administrations silence on the recent events in Mexico speaks volumes about our complicity.

It's like asking your younger brother who only has one leg already and that you just ran over with your truck why the hell he doesn't get up and start walking.

It's so, so easy to just say Mexico should fix this. Apologies if you are offended, but your attitude is typical of the rich US in regards to it's poor brother to the south.

Perhaps it won't be solved at the US consumer level, but the attitude that "it's not our problem" just feeds this.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/27726-with-40-presumed-killed-us-secret-manpower-in-mexico-s-drug-war-exposed

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/26/why_america_is_to_blame_for_mexico_carnage_and_corruption_pena_nieto_obama_ayotzinapa_disappeared

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/11/mexico-protests-usculpability.html

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-martinez-mexico-students-massacre-20141116-story.html

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Response to cbayer (Reply #12)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:08 PM

13. Fixing this would benefit both countries greatly

 

At least for the people. The governments? Probably not so much.

Which is exactly why nothing is done.

Thanks for the links...will take a look.

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Response to B2G (Reply #13)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:16 PM

15. Thank for the conversation, B2G.

I am living in Mexico so my passion about this issue is high.

For a delightful piece on this wonderful country, check this out.

http://anthonybourdain.tumblr.com/post/84641290831/under-the-volcano

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Response to cbayer (Reply #15)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:20 PM

16. Thanks to you too

 

For the great information and conversation.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #12)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:55 PM

26. jeez, Mexico is not poor.

 

It just is the us is rich.

Mexico is not without problems. But by most measures Mexico is a nice place to live.

Mexico is the fattest nation on earth. You are not in a twrrible place if the number one health concern is obesity, not starvation.

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Response to AngryAmish (Reply #26)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 06:09 PM

28. I really hope you are kidding.

You do know that obesity is not correlated with wealth, don't you? Do you understand the connection between obesity and malnutrition?

And you are wrong. Mexico is not the most obese country in the world. It's 8th behind other "rich" countries like China, India and Russia.

But most of all, have you ever been to any area of Mexico that wasn't an american tourist destination?

It would be a very nice place for you to live, I suspect. Not so nice if you are a regular mexican.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #28)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 07:00 PM

31. You are mistaking obesity rate and gross numbers of the obese.

 

Your google search notwithstanding, what you saw was the gross number of obese persons v the rate. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mexico-takes-title-of-most-obese-from-america/

This is a better primer. And take a stats class, jeez. There are free ones on the net.

Also, your insults notwithstanding I have been to many places in mexico away from the tourist areas. In all of them I have seen a whole lot of fat people. Granted, I have not been to chiapas but everywhere else is kinda of the same loaf.

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Response to AngryAmish (Reply #31)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 07:07 PM

32. Did you read the article?

Do you really think that the people being profiled here are living good lives.

I'm sorry, but this is the epitome of US arrogance.

Take a humanity course, jeez. There are opportunities all around you.

Sorry, I'm not buying your extensive Mexican experience, mr. gringo. Not buying it for a minute.

Now, go enjoy some of that really inexpensive mexican produce and head on over to the gym. The people in this article will really appreciate it as they just get fatter and fatter.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #10)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 01:19 PM

39. Mexican problem.

 

As soon as the US can start passing and enforcing labor laws in mexico, we can be held accountable for mexican labor conditions. Until then its a mexican problem.

Go on all you want about living off the back of these poor workers, but a poor single mom living in the US that wants to feed her child is going to buy the cheapest produce on the shelf at walmart in order to do so.

We are currently trying to improve this situation in the US by raising minimum wages to support a better quality of life. That fight by itself is a hard one, we cant fight mexico's fight at the same time, nor does the US have the legal authority to tell mexico what to do inside of mexican territory.

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Response to GummyBearz (Reply #39)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 01:26 PM

40. It's not the poor single mom in the us I am talking about.

I'm talking about all the people that could make a choice and have an impact that say, "It's a Mexican Problem".

The US is so arrogant and so insular. We honestly don't care what is happening to other people unless it hits our pocketbook.

I'm all for raising the minimum wage in the US, but I don't think people in the US can really wrap their head around $10/day.

If the us wants to be isolationist, then it should provide for itself.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #40)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 01:36 PM

41. For what its worth

 

I am lucky enough that I can make a choice, and I do buy local produce/meats from farmers markets and butcher shops. I do care about other people, but I'm not about to go run for office in mexico and try to pass laws there. Nor can I vote in mexican elections. Nor can I repeal NAFTA.

The US could provide for itself agriculturally... "U.S. agricultural exports have been larger than U.S. agricultural imports since 1960"

http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/international-markets-trade/us-agricultural-trade.aspx

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Response to GummyBearz (Reply #41)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 01:42 PM

42. I am glad that you do your part.

I am not advocating for american intervention, just for the US to pay attention to what is going on here.

I am currently establishing my residency in Mexico. I love this country and I want to be a part of it. I am going to have more sway than you could, but I still think people in the US could do something. And it's not just about food. It's about drugs and weapons and US policy as well.

Appreciate the link. What we primarily export is grains and feed, not produce. We do not feed ourselves when it comes to the things that people in the US really want to eat, and they want it all year round.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #8)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 03:55 AM

36. The problem is it's hard to use discretion when you don't know where the products come from

For some products, like coffee, this is not the case as fair trade type organizations exist, but even that only goes so far because US consumers are mostly apathetic to problems that exist even in their own communities, let alone thousands of miles away. US consumers don't even care that much about quality in terms of food products. Price is the only real motivating force.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #36)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 10:15 AM

37. You are right, but it is pieces like this that can get the ball rolling.

if people begin to make even a small effort to inquire, perhaps things could change.

But, as you correctly point out, price is the only motivator for many in the us, and they really don't give a damn. they likely wouldn't even care if this were happening in the us, which it probably is.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #37)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 02:27 PM

44. It is and has been for a long time

The very same people who are taken advantage of in Mexico and South America come here where they are again exploited, albeit to a lesser extent.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:25 PM

21. Plus 1

 

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Response to cbayer (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 09:10 PM

33. I also look forward to more from this team.

This is muckraking in the time honored tradition, which newspapers do best.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 02:51 PM

2. That is what has always been true regardless of the border. Bananas are a good example. They used

to be $.08 a pound. If the store was selling them for that - what was the farmer getting? Any small farm regardless of where it is located is not going to make much if the food is cheap at the store.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 02:52 PM

3. K and R, well worth reading

Thank you!

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 03:07 PM

6. rec & kick

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:22 PM

17. I NEVER buy produce from Mexico,

or anywhere else for that matter. I ONLY buy organic California produce. But then again, I'm in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley so it's all around me. The farther away from your home it was grown, the less you know about it and the earlier it had to be picked. It was also probably bred to "ripen" faster which means absolutely NO taste. Anyone who has ever tasted a tomato fresh off the vine vs. a tomato that was grown in Mexico and picked green two weeks ago knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about. One tastes like a tomato the other tastes like cardboard.

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Response to Le Taz Hot (Reply #17)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:19 PM

20. california farmers use more water than anywhere else in the world

Most of it comes from the colorado river.

70 percent of the colorado river water is being used for farming and it's not sustainable.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-61427169

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Response to Mosby (Reply #20)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:34 PM

22. We also feed the world

so there's that . . .

The Central San Joaquin Valley uses run-off from the Sierra. Colorado River water is used by Southern California. Take it up with them. Besides, if you're so concerned you can always limit your diet to food not requiring water as a personal protest, you know, LIVE your convictions.

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Response to Le Taz Hot (Reply #22)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:50 PM

25. califoriania is three years into the worst drought in history

But hey, let's let the farmers use the water so we can keep the price of produce down.

Despite your attempts to make this personal, I'm not the fucking problem, the farmers are. Produce should be grown in areas where there is rain. Really pretty simple.

Eta and no you don't feed the world that's just typical cali self centered bull shit.

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Response to Mosby (Reply #25)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 06:01 PM

27. Boy, when you're wrong, you're REALLY wrong.

Actually, California has been known to go through hundred-year droughts so this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "the worst drought in history."

Second, your own article recognizes climate change as a huge factor in losing Colorado River water but I notice you didn't mention that.

Third, if you have a problem with the farmers, don't eat their produce. See? Problem solved,

Lastly, well, yes, we actually do feed the world in that our produce is shipped around the world. Here's some stats for ya:

Food Facts

California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years.

More than half the nation's fruit, nuts, and vegetables come from here.

California is the nation's number one dairy state.

California's leading commodity is milk and cream. Grapes are second.

California's leading export crop is almonds.

Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.

From 70 to 80% of all ripe olives are grown in California.

California is the nation's leading producer of strawberries, averaging 1.4 billion pounds of strawberries or 83% of the country's total fresh and frozen strawberry production. Approximately 12% of the crop is exported to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan primarily. The value of the California strawberry crop is approximately $700 million with related employment of more than 48,000 people.

California produces 25% of the nation's onions and 43% of the nation's green onions.

Gilroy, California, "Garlic Capitol of the World," has hosted 2 million at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

http://www.beachcalifornia.com/california-food-facts.html

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Response to Le Taz Hot (Reply #27)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 09:36 PM

34. your claim is that california "feeds the world"

It's simply not true, the biggest food exports from the US is soybean, corn and wheat, California produces very little of those crops.

I didn't say anything about climate change, but the drought problems in CA are clearly related and will only get worse. At some point the overuse of river water will have to be addressed.

CAs leading crop is almonds and the producers get together a couple times a year to collude and fix prices.

Ps- CAs leading crop by dollars is probably weed.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:45 PM

18. A big, fat K&R!

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:58 PM

19. Thanks for posting this

 

I read the article and look forward to reading further installments. My takeaway from the article is that anytime anyone was confronted with the information, the reaction is "not my fault." I did not see any reference to organic produce producers from Mexico. Is the same issue prevalent in South American produce? We often buy organic produce from there during the winter months when it is not available here.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:37 PM

23. K&R! Thank you for posting this!

Hoping that this is a wake up call for those who were previously unaware of these terrible conditions.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 05:40 PM

24. if you do buy mexican produce

Make sure you wash it well, they use raw sewage for fertilizer in some cases.

Most of the recent e-coli outbreaks in the US were caused by this problem with Mexican produce. Taco bell stopped using green onions altogether because they couldn't trust the supply.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 06:17 PM

29. Obviously the companies won't move to change things. They are getting what they want now.

Any change would eat into their excessive profits.

They will be happy to keep using up these people's precious lives and peace of mind until something more powerful can make them stop it.

Somehow many, many people of conscience must step forward.

Thank you, Lionel Mandrake.


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Response to Judi Lynn (Reply #29)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 12:26 AM

35. You're welcome, but all I did was cut and paste.

I saw the article in the paper Sunday morning and thought other DUers would be interested.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)


Response to Lionel Mandrake (Original post)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 10:21 AM

38. Thank NAFTA for this.

Bill Clinton has a lot to answer for.

Sounds like conditions on Mexican industrial farms are only slight worse than migrant farm workers contend with in the US.

We are all complicit in this. By wanting cheap produce, none of these people have a living wage.

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Response to alarimer (Reply #38)

Mon Dec 8, 2014, 01:43 PM

43. Bill Clinton shares blame with Poppy for NAFTA.

George H. W. "Poppy" Bush signed the treaty, and Bill Clinton signed the legislation. This was early in Clinton's administration, and IMO was a bad mistake. But NAFTA was more a Republican than Democratic priority.

Clinton tried to soften the blow by adding two side agreements: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). The latter agreement was pro-labor, but too weak to do much good.

Read more: http://www.naalc.org/index.cfm?page=147

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