The wrath of Ibsen

Ibsen, con los pelos de punta

Ibsen Martínez is livid. A-rrecho, with capital A. And when Ibsen is mad at someone, you better pull out a dictionary.

His latest is a scorching take-down of Carlos Ocariz and Juan Carlos Caldera. (Side note: Yes, Ibsen, it’s Juan Carlos, not Juan José; Google is your friend, fact-checking is your ally.)

In a lengthy article, he rips into the mayor and the congressman for being “intransigent,” “harvardian,” “Ralph Lauren” tools.

His complaints of elitism are precious coming from a guy named Ibsen.

What have Ocariz and Caldera done to earn this scorn?

Well, they held a press conference in which they vented their frustrations at the MUD’s decision to hold primaries for Governor the same day as the primaries for President.

You see, both Henrique Capriles and Pablo Pérez are running for President. They are also Governors, up for re-election next year.

The MUD had apparently come to a tacit agreement that primaries for Governor would be held at a later date, so that the losing candidate(s) could run to retain his(their) job and not be in the awkward position of running for President and Governor at the same time.

The MUD decided otherwise, so Capriles and Pérez have to gamble their governorships for a chance at the Presidential Primary – one or the other, or both, will end up without the goat and without the rope.

(Not, of course, that Capriles’s and Pérez’s parties will run the parallel risk: UNT somehow reached “consensus” on the Maracaibo mayor to get the gubernatorial nomination in Zulia, whereas PJ will have to fight a primary to retain its fiefdom in Los Teques – but that will be the subject of a whole other rant.)

Ocariz and Caldera did not like this, so they lashed out at the MUD. They suggested there is a cabal inside the umbrella group determined to prevent Capriles, the front runner by a mile, from winning. They, however, made clear they would abide by the rule.

The press conference was probably a mistake. Capriles has been to quick to repair the damage and get back on message. The whole ruckus seems inconsequential to me, one of the few stumbles from the Capriles camp. People are human, and anger at the shenanigans inside the MUD’s smoke-filled quarters can’t always be contained.

But to Martínez, this meant war. He immediately called on Capriles to denounce and publicly scold Ocariz and Caldera.

Not that this would help Capriles in getting Ibsen’s vote. In the same article, Martínez endorses Pablo Pérez for some as yet unspecified reason – apparently, because his mouthpieces don’t hold cantankerous press conferences.

Perhaps Ibsen’s loyalties are driving his endorsement. Martínez and Henry Ramos played on the same team in the early 90s, both playing significant roles in bringing down Carlos Andrés Pérez. Mirtha Rivero’s book, La rebelión de los Náufragos, chronicles each man’s role pretty thoroughly.

Maybe this team still has some life in it. Or maybe Teodoro’s baffling sotto voce PP-mancrush is what’s prompting Martínez to follow suit.

Regardless, his take-down of Ocariz and Caldera as Harvardian and Ralph-Lauren candidates (yeah, he recycled those epithets twice in the same article, so I will too) shows just how far the Unity Fetish has gone in stifling all public discussion about MUD.

At this point, “Unity” has morphed into a self-imposed gag, a ban on calling bull that’s enforced not just by the usual party hacks, but even by supposedly uncontrollable public intellectuals who answer to nobody.

Ocariz and Caldera have been working the hills of Petare for years now. Calling them uppity and delicate is like taking a swipe at Ibsen for being scared to use obscure words.

Nonetheless, his screed proves the point I was trying to make the other day.

Unless we see the candidates engage in some spirited debate on some serious issues, and draw some sharp contrasts between themselves in the process, we’re going to have a beauty pageant, not an election. All for the sake of unity, you see.

By any reasonable calculation, we have to expect that there will be negative campaigning. Barbs and insults will be traded. But if we keep doing it like this – mouthpieces attacking other mouthpieces in little-read outlets – Capriles is just going to coast.

58 thoughts on “The wrath of Ibsen

  1. Well, I am sorry if I am insulting a sacred cow or something, but his writing is fucking terrible, but very pretentious. I might not be a great writer, but at least I can keep track of the tenses I am using in the same sentence, something this guy cannot, it seems. Maybe I am expecting clarity and don Ibsen just want to muddle things.

    Seriously, that article is a fucking train wreck. If that’s the local intelligentsia we are beyond screwed.


      • Hee hee. Well, we agree that Ibsen did not exactly cover himself in stylistic glory in that post, but overall I love his writing. It’s totally over-the-top pretentious, but somehow he’s past some event-horizon of not-giving-a-toss how many people catch his references that speaks to me!


          • Great author? Yeah, he’s a great telenovela writer, a passable chronicler (when he’s not self-plagiarizing), a mediocre playwright, and an absolutely awful novelist.


            • Did you read “El señor Marx no está en casa”?
              It’s a fantastic novel, by any standard.
              I’ll give you that “El mono aullador de los manglares” was pretty bad, albeit the fact that he ripped the whole idea off Ignacio Cabrujas (who was long dead by then and couldn’t file for plagiarism).
              But again, you say “El señor Marx no está en casa” is crap, compared to what? Other Venezuelan novelists? That seems delusional. The “novel” as a literary genre, is pretty much dead in Venezuela, everyone contenting themselves with writing short stories. Apart from Federico Vegas and Israel Centeno, I pretty much don’t see anyone capable of holding a candle to Ibsen’s last effort.
              So please specify why you think he’s an “awful” novelist.


  2. Isn’t it a little below the belt to associate Ibsen with Ramos Allup? After all, Ibsen is the only one in the whole CAP mess that has made a mea culpa (unlike Ramos Allup and AD as a whole)


      • Ibsen Martinez, Henry Ramos Allup, Teodoro Petkoff and Omar Barboza are all aligned behind the same guy…I hear the ice fishing is getting mighty good down in hell this winter…


      • “Perhaps Ibsen’s loyalties are driving his endorsement. Martínez and Henry Ramos played on the same team in the early 90s,”

        The way I read this is that Ibsen and Ramos are in cahoots to support Pablo Perez and diss Henrique. But to me it is overboard to link them in this way, like Ibsen thought “well, Henry is behind this guy, and we both worked together in kicking down CAP, so why not? Let’s support Pablo and kick HCR!” Correlation is not causation.

        But I think you’re right on something: Pablo Perez has this knack of bringing old dinosaurs together, like flies to honey.


  3. Sorry to remind y’all one more time, but if you talk about style: “Ocariz” no lleva acento (ponérselo es redundante)…


  4. I actually see this as an attack on the front runner for Miranda (Ocariz) and Alcaldía de Sucre (Caldera, although I must state that I really dislike the guy and would NEVER vote for him)…

    So the question is, who is Ibsen supporting for Sucre and Miranda?


  5. We have to keep in mind that the MUD is not a political party but a coalition of all those who are against the Chavez dictatorship including the parties on both the left and the right.To expect the same kind of debate as you would have in the primary of an established party, where things can get very confrontational and then seamlessly come together to support the winning candidate- is unreasonable.

    When you have a political coalition,some moderation is called for which does not mean you cannot have a mature debate based on the issues.However,if we indulge in taking out knives and going all out, the coalition will fall apart to the benefit of Chavismo.


  6. The CC writers complaining about another writer’s pretentiousness? The masters of the run-on adjective, of “when all you’ve got’s an adverb, everything looks like a verb”, of traidos-por-los-pelos puns that make no sense in either language? Seriously?


    • By the way, yours is a mighty pretentious comment as well. Me like-y! “Traidos-por-los-pelos puns that make no sense in either language” … I’m gonna use that some day.


  7. Sorry to reply here to Vinz in the thread started by Guido, but it seems it reached the replies limit (not a bad idea to limit replies, though). Vinz, I respect your opinion on “El señor Marx…”. It’s normal to have different criteria, and I don’t think it would be useful to start a literary discussion here. By the way, critics are divided on this book, so it’s normal to differ. But what I find curious is your question “compared to what?” and your argument that the novel as a genre has practically disappeared in Venezuela. So if a piece of crap stands by itself, does this make it less crappy? I think books (and everything else) should be judged on their own merits (or demerits).


    • Hi Cal:
      I agree, let’s not have a literary discussion here. I haven’t read the critics, I read the book (and the 2 or 3 reviews I read where pretty laudatory); but I agree with you: a book should stand by itself and by its merits. That’s why I think you were a tad too harsh: “awful novelist” doesn’t seem fair.
      Judging just by, (1) theme and style (relevance of the theme chosen), (2) historical research (it is a historical novel), (3) rythm and structure (both very well handled); “El señor Marx no está en casa” shouldn’t be brushed away so lightly.
      Not to judge, here, but I think many of us are led by stereotypes that don’t correspond to reality. I had a brief “meséntente cordiale” with JC over in the Spanish section over the same, just that in cinema, since many people were given to lambasting Venezuelan movies after admiting they didn’t even watch said movies. I’m under the impression the same is at work here, we just spew the recieved discourse that Venezuelan litterature is “terrible” without any effort of actually looking for who or what’s out there.
      I’m not saying we should kiss ass or be condescending. I strongly believe in rational critique as a form of making things better (hence my alliance with the PanfletoNegro guys). But we need to be honest, and being all enfant terrible, Cinema in Venezuela sucks, writers in Venezuela suck, all people listen to is reaguettón, doesn’t seem fair in my book and doesn’t correspond at all with reality, specially when talking about Ibsen’s “El señor Marx no está en casa”.


      • I’m glad we’re having this civilized discussion, but you may be barking at the wrong tree. It is you, not me, who disparaged the present state of the venezuelan novel, conceding maybe two exceptions. I never generalized about venezuelan writers. On the contrary, I’m much less pessimistic on that subject, thinking of some young writers (but I’ll restrain myself to avoid starting the literary discussion we agreed not to start). For the same reason I won’t start to argue why I think “El señor…” is awful; I’m no literary critic, just a plain reader, and I don’t pretend to impose my judgment on anyone; but I still think it’s awful. Let the readers judge. In any case, I’m also glad we agree on “El mono…”. And who knows, Ibsen is only 60, so he could conceivably become a better novelist.


  8. Herr Nagel,
    Perhaps it is because my family are all adecos uña-en-el-rabo. Perhaps it is that I dislike PJ so much. Perhaps it is just that I come from that not-so well-off middle class, but… I agree with most of the things that Ibsen Martinez says.
    First, the guy is right: the whole Ocariz/Caldera thing was pathetic. Even HRC was smart enough to realize that and dismiss the dispute about the primary election in Miranda.
    Second, it’s not somebody else’s fault if PJ didn’t read the small letter when they signed the MUD agreement. And it is not like PJs are that innocent when it comes down to backroom dealing. Just like IM mentioned, remember the mess in Bolivar circa 2008?
    Third, the conspiracy suggested by IM (PJ diverting attention from LL’s press conference) is more believable than the Ibsen-Ramos Allup non-sense.
    Finally for any Venezuelan coming from the low-middle class (El Cementerio in IM’s case, I believe) and especially for a guy with some socialist background like IM, a guy like Ocariz – and most of the head honchos in PJ for that matter – are patiquines. You may argue that Ocariz and Caldera have worked hard in Petare, but that doesn’t change the fact that the guys come from well-off families. Even if Ocariz decided to live in La Bombilla de Petare, people like IM would say is “this guy is insane”. It all fits perfectly with the whole “ilusión de armonía” that M. Naím once used to describe our country.

    From my personal experience, it’s very normal that guys with a low-middle-class background distrust guys that were born with a silver spoon, just like well-off guys will tend to get alone better with other wealthy fellows. That’s probably why you find PJ so compelling, and IM doesn’t. I don’t dislike HRC strongly, but I can get over the fact that Borges is just right behind him… UGH!


    • And that is why Venezuelan is in the shitter…

      I´m tired of seeing rich people ignore the poor and poor people dismiss the rich…

      I´m hate this clasismo shit, and I mean it both ways; in great part that is why Venezuela is, and will always be screwed.


    • Only point I’d like to make, Barreda, is that I know Mr. Ocariz’ father and have known him for years.
      They are as Middle class as you and me, no “well off” La Lagunita style stuff.


  9. I see. So when the most prominent young mayor for PJ, representing his party, takes a shot at the MUD in front of the press (insinuating the non pj members play dirty and are the same old same old) and attempts to steal the spotlight from two other candidates, it’s “probably a mistake” but “inconsequential”. But if Ibsen makes fun of them for looking preppy and throwing a tantrum in public, it’s because he’s a Ramos Allup henchman. Pupu de perro, basically.

    I think this is way outside the perol.


  10. Here is an interesting factoid to ponder Ocaríz’s theory about the MUD and Capriles: of all the opposition governorships, including Lara and Amazonas, and including the Alcaldía Mayor, the only one that is going to have a primary … is Miranda.

    Bring it on, boys, but let’s not kid ourselves about what’s really going on here.


    • Juan, let´s be realistic, PJ had it coming, they shunned the MUD pretty much everywhere; and some of their past and recent shenanigans have not helped at all.

      On the upside, they´ll win both MIranda and Sucre and hopefully Ramon will take Chacao from Grateron (seriously, who likes that douche!?) and maybe even Baruta (doubt it though).


    • You cannot compare Miranda and Zulia with Lara, Amazonas, Alcaldia Mayor and the other states, because Falcon, Guarulla and Ledezma are not running for President. No mezcles peras con manzanas.
      However, you can compare Miranda and Zulia. Yes, in Zulia UNT is handpicking Trejo de Rosales as candidate, which I don’t like very much. But it is obvious for anyone that zulianos would vote for any person – even for a monigote -as long as it is supported by UNT. That’s hardly the case in Miranda, where Capriles was the obvious candidate only after Enrique Mendoza was illegally banned in 2008.
      And I don’t see why you are complaining so much. As you pointed out in your previous post, it is very likely that HRC will win the primary for president, making all this debate futile.
      And given that we don’t know the details about what happened beind closed doors in 2008 (Mendoza’s support of HRC) or now (who’s backstabbing who) – it’s probably for the best to put all this sore loser drama to sleep.


      • Mr. Nagel: The actual rules were approved by all parties (and the percentage points set so that no ruling party could run over the rest without negotiation with others). You are implying some sort of tacit agreement based on the PJ rueda de prensa; but you dismiss the rules and selectively ignore the facts of the matter.

        PJ angered most other parties, did not care to build alliances for the undergoing process, did not pay attention to the calendar and now fears a candidate which is seemingly 20 points behind its abanderado. And yet, the primaries which could benefit PJ’s national standing (Maracaibo, Lecherías, most of Caracas mayorships) might or will happen.

        So, is PJ full of innocent lambs? No. Neither Caldera nor Ocariz have low stakes on the issue: the former wants to be Governor of Miranda (but his party does not have the votes nor the negotiating will to make him a consensual candidate, and possibly forcing him to lose both the chivo and the mecate) and latter does not have the gravitas or the autorictas of the former in Petare (having being elected with the help of his friend…). After this week’s show, do you really think he could win in Petare as a mayor outright? Caldera has not showed any gumption, any political virtue. Is this their legitimate aspiration? Sure, but so it is for the rest of the parties to maximise their standing.

        Anyway, I couldn’t care less for PP now. If I were LL or MCM, I’d be furious at PJ right now: you ruined their only chance in weeks to be the headliners in the contest. And for the Unidad: our candidate should have been the headlines, not the petty fears of some “comineros” and the reaction of the chavista press (which egged on the matter for the PJ people, who gleefully followed the smear campaing set by AvilaTV and La Hojilla and PP over the weekend; next time, we will have some dupes retransmiting some insult hurled at HCRs way).

        Do not let your Petkoff-esque man-love for HCR blind you on this issue, even if you think that unity is a fetish or some sort of inconsequential posture. If there’s no Unity, there would not be any primaries and there would not be a sole opposition candidate (a luxury we could afford in 2006, when everything was set well before December, but not this year).


        • I’m Roberto Cox. That was a botched attempt to a previous Gravatar account that remained in Google’s auto-fill on this computer.

          And yes, I was a bit angry and disappointed when I thought of the matter regarding this post.


          • GT,
            You’re entitled to get all Luisa Estella and throw the rule book at me, but I don’t think the rules were set about when the primaries for Governor had to take place.

            Furthermore, criticizing me for being excessively apologetic regarding HCR is a bit much coming from you. One can’t say “A” about the MUD here without you going for the jugular. I understand the obvious reason why you do this, and I don’t mind it, so why do you?

            Regardless, I think the press conference was a minor mistake. I also think Ibsen went way overboard with his article.


            • Agreed. The press conference was a dumb mistake, but Ibsen’s article was hugely disproportionate.

              For the record, I’m not a member of any political party.


            • JC: The rules were set; at leat they gave the MUD the power to solve the matter as it did. PJ is part of MUD, and this is not a matter of comity or leguleyerismo: without rules, without the MUD as an institution, where would we be? Should they have used Article 44 in a more ample manner? Probably, but I still PJ got everything wrong tactically.

              Of course I have a high opinion of the unity mechanisms, and of those who work for them: to say there is some sort of cabal is uncanny, and it ingore the dynamics of political negotiations. Do I have a vested interest in the matter? Sure: I want this government to end, and this is the most organised and peaceful way to go at it. And it has been a difficult journey, torpedoed every bit of the way (by the Media, who still want to wrest away control of the political process form the parties, by outside “leaders” and machinators -the Miquilenas and Rangels of this World-, and by some myopic behaviour by some politicians). And what interest does the MUD’s Secretariat have in promoting this or any other candidate in particular? None.

              As for your support for HCR, legitimate as it is, how is it different from Petkoff’s “man-love”? He has a much a right for that as yours. My dissapointment lied not in your anger at IM’s article -even though I found it a wee bit funny- but in Messrs. Ocariz and Caldera’s comments, because they lent credence to the chavista and anti-MUD take on the matter for their own interests (which they could have represented with less pathos).

              If you must know, I’m still undecided regarding the primaries. I had a candidate, but he dropped out. And no, it’s not a candidate “close-to-home”. I just hate a cayapa (and the fact that some in the media dismissed the huge matter of LL’s and MCM’s entry to promote PJ’s complaints). I have no qualms about voting for HCR, and I would vote for Ocariz given the chance (I’m still voting at Libertador, though, as I’ve felt my vote would be needed more over there).


            • A minor mistake? Sorry, but I beg to differ. This “minor mistake” was a poor attempt at manipulating the voters, making appear HRC as a victim of the old cogollos. No, it was not a mistake. It was a calculated move.
              Regarding the IM critic, you need to remind that he’s not a kingmaker or a puppetmaster. He did not bring CAP down single-handedly. I seriously doubt that the guy even understood completely the impact that “Por estas calles” had at the time. And right now he is not the guy calling the shots. So, whatever he says, it is not that important. He’s just a bloke, who is entitled to his opinions, as everybody else. I think that you’re being oversensitive because of your sympathy for PJ.
              On the other hand, Ocariz and Caldera are supposed to be the guys that will do things differently, but it looks like they are more of the same: me first and f**k the rest. Haven’t they learnt anything from Bolivar 2008?


  11. Copeyano es copeyano asi se llame PJ… and that you can smell from this blogger. And you know what copeyano means; ” Siempre tengo razon y soy el que mas sabe”


  12. Hi, my name is carlos and i’m 31 years old… i was 18 when chavez won the presidency for the first time and i voted against him… now i’m a militant of UNT, zuliano, and i guess that makes me (according to you) part of the 4th republic… for more than 10 years i had to stand ismael garcia, henry falcon and the likes, insult me for opposing chavez… now the same guys are insulting me for supporting PP and not their candidates… i see them: as i did yesterday… together with the new-born souls of PJ insulting me for being a militant of UNT and they call me 4th republic trash, the old venezuela that needs to be change, un cogollo, and a huge etc of insults adapted to every layer of society of that new divine self-awareness called being a supporter of the reincarnated capriles radonski… i guess i had to be the same thing as an adeco… even tho the only thing that can relate me to that is the insult of my father for anything coming from that party since i was little…
    but assuming im one of those things you hate im here to remind you… DONT COUNT WITH MY VOTE… if you win the primary… i wont vote on oct 7th… id rather move to karachi.

    And good lock winning in october 7th without the votes of AD-COPEI-UNT (one thing is what the idiots preciding the party says… another thing is what we, the base, think)… i hope those precious things called nini really come thru to you… because baby… you are really going to need them.


    • Hello Carlosssssss (sorry if I missed and “s” or two):

      As we say: “tienes razon, pero vas preso”

      Yo are right to feel mad about someone questioning your political feeling and your loyalty to UNT.

      You are right to question the Ismael Garcia’s and Henri Falcon’s of this world for criticizing your opposition to Chavez, then your opposition to their project.

      Where you “go to jail” is not voting on October 7th. Unless you really like what we have now, I suggest you swallow your pride and vote for the Unity candidate, whoever she or he might be.

      No seas pendejo, mano. No seas Ni-Ni. Vota el 7 en contra del payaso que tenemos en Miraflores, luego vemos como arreglamos lo que viene.


    • “y Ustedes criticaron las gaitas zulianas, racistas, no voy a votar ahora ni a comer la ensalada!”

      You really sounded like that.
      This shows how backwards Venezuela is.
      Man, grow up: in a real democracy, not in the feudal construct Venezuela is, people are able to talk critically about all this and there is an open debate. That is the norm in Germany, that is the norm in Britain, that is the norm even in Third World countries like Colombia and Chile.
      And your reaction proves the point: you are not able to receive criticism.
      By the way: if you read historical stuff from the Seventies in Venezuela you will see adecos were all the time talking about UN NUEVO TIEMPO…muy originales, los chicos de UNT (r)

      Try this: Salcedo-Bastardo : Historia Fundamental de Venezuela. Ediciones de la Biblioteca. Caracas.


      • Let’s not be comineros here, Carlos. Let’s move on for the sake of the larger goal.

        (In any case, Kepler, is not like Socialdemocracy lost any relevance. At least UNT has tried to foster some ideological platform within its party…).


        • Aveledo,
          It hasn’t lost any relevance, but that doesn’t mean we have to show reverence for it.
          It should be possible to discuss, even harshly, about what they or Nuevo Copei or any other party really stand for without having a new Guerra a Muerte.
          We should show people the difference between open debate and internal quarrels in public. And for goodness sake: this is a blog, nothing formal, and it was not like Ocariz was name-calling.


          • I’m not a socialdemocrat, but I cannot disregard it as a mere “populismo.rebranded”. There are, of course, populist instincts in UNT, but they seem to have at least some concern about its ideology. I also do not think that PJ is a “new Copei” (the historical concerns of Venezuelan conservatism are not to be found on them, and that’s no sin either…).

            Of course, such ideological purity can be a bit too much: just the other night I saw a televised class on AvilaTV about the relevanse of Rosa Luxemburgo and Vladimir Lenin in the analysis of the current global predicaments.


            • ” just the other night I saw a televised class on AvilaTV about the relevanse of Rosa Luxemburgo and Vladimir Lenin in the analysis of the current global predicaments.”
              Do you also suffer from insomnia?

              Seriously: I wish some politicians or “intellectual” who is NOT from the extreme left, preferably people who are from centre and right (as well as social democrats) would be able to talk about Rosa and Vladimir on TV

              The only way to counter the massive brain washing people are getting from Chavismo is to get to learn them from within. It seems in Venezuela that these ones read from a list of 10 books on their credo and the others 10 books or reviews on theirs.


            • (The show wasn’t late: it must have been around 9 PM)…

              Polarisation makes it hard to fight the preconceived notions about politics and ideology in Venezuela. That’s my main intellectual pursuit: teaching and researching on Venezuelan political thought, which is varied and full of idiosyncratic tropes (like “Bolivar said it…”). And yet, when I teach Marxism or Liberalism to my students, they recur to caricaturised versions of such ideologies and their debates. I have students from the PSUV who think that anything that is nor the Marxist left (and not even all of it) is a buch of fascist-running-dog hysteria. And I have liberal students (some Hayekians, some Friedmanites, some Sombartians) who feel anyone else is “socialist”. They get a reprimand and not too good marks, but what else could I do? Assault AvilaTV?


  13. At the beginning, I was a bit dissapointed about the heated – almost irrational – exchange between the followers of the different candidates here. But after listening to an interview with Manuel Felipe Sierra in Cesar Miguel Rondon’s show, I changed my mind.
    Choosing a candidate it’s a very emotional thing. Yes, people tend to rationalize their choice, but that’s only after they have made the decision based on emotions and feelings.
    The candidates will try to play nicely and not insult each other, but followers will not necessarily play by the rules. What Ocariz and Caldera did was not very nice, but it heated up the political debate and stirred up PP’S and HRC’s followers. Even some neutral ones reacted very emotionally to it.
    In the end, political campaign is about passion. If you are not capable of connecting emotionally/irrationally with a sizeable amount of followers, you won’t be able to win an election. Maybe these heated exchange, like MF Sierra pointed out, will help mobilize the opposition voters and, in the long term, improve our chances of defeating Chavez in 2012.


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