Tag Archives: Journalism



No Country MAGAZINE, 03/23/2021

Original Article: Karla Pérez

Karla Pérez

Karla Pérez (Cienfuegos, 1998), the young Cuban woman whom the Cuban government prohibited from returning to her country yesterday, March 18, is 22 years old. She graduated with a degree in Journalism in December 2020 from the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica.

The prohibition of her return to the country where she was born in 1998 occurs almost exactly four years after she was expelled for political reasons from the Journalism program of the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas (UCLV) on April 13, 2017.

According to a detailed report from the Observatorio de Libertad Académica in November 2020, a few months before entering UCLV, when Pérez was still only 17 years old, she joined the political movement Somos +, an organization established in 2013 with the objective of “building a modern, prosperous and free country.”

This dissident initiative has been both disqualified and persecuted by the Cuban government, which classifies it as a subversive and counterrevolutionary project financed by the United States.

According to Pérez, at that time she was attracted to Somos + because: “There were many good people there, people that I considered an example to follow. In the beginning, that movement was like a mirror of the country that I wanted.”

As a consequence of her membership in Somos + and as punishment for expressing herself openly on the group’s blog, she was accused of having violated university regulations and expelled on the morning of April 13 by a group of “decision makers” from the university, made up of four journalism professors and six members of the University administration.

More shocking is the fact that a brigade of FEU (University Student Federation) members from Pérez’s own cohort, that is, the 14 other students who were studying journalism with her, also signed onto her expulsion. All of them had already been informed that anyone who opposed her punishment would themselves be “analyzed” at a later date.

Seeing all the channels for a professional future closed to her on the Island, Pérez accepted the offer of assistance from the staff of the Costa Rican newspaper El Mundo and was able to continue and eventually finish her Journalism studies in that country between 2016 and 2020. At the same time, she actively devoted herself to the practice of independent journalism, collaborating with Diario de Cuba and Havana Times in 2017 and serving as a “community manager” and correspondent at Tremenda Nota starting in 2018. She currently works with the magazine ADN Cuba.

As part of a larger project that I am currently undertaking that traces the career paths of independent Cuban journalists, I interviewed Pérez on March 15, three days prior to the Orwellian migration ordeal she is currently experiencing. The interview tries to capture the process of “conscientization” of a young Cuban woman attracted to the profession of Journalism in a country like Cuba. Furthermore, it reveals in gripping detail the many personal, family, and political costs that one must pay when embarking on the tortuous path of free expression in Cuba.

Ted A. Henken: How and why did you decide to study Journalism in college? What attracted you to the idea of ​​being a journalist in a country like Cuba?

Ted A. Henken: How and why did you decide to study Journalism in college? What attracted you to the idea of ​​being a journalist in a country like Cuba?

Karla Pérez: It is not a very romantic response at the beginning. I had always had an affinity for language and literature since elementary school. History, Spanish, and literature all fascinated me. The “romantic” came later, in high school. I managed to have more access to an alternative civil society, to find out what was happening in Havana and the “Oriente”, and also to become irritated because I could not read about these things in the state press.

My nuclear family and I had broken with the Cuban government a long time ago and I had long since decided that I would never work in the official press. I wanted to write about what was being marginalized from the “revolutionary” discourse and I knew that I couldn’t do it in the permitted newspapers.

Could you describe your family and social origins?

I come from a nuclear family (my father, mother, and me) of professionals. My father is a civil engineer and my mother is an economist. However, shortly after graduating, they began working in the private sector due to the poor conditions provided by the state sector. For my parents, there was never a break with the Revolution, because they simply never believed in it.

My grandparents, as is quite common in the Cuban family, are people integrated into the revolutionary process, and I wouldn’t want to go much beyond that out of respect for their privacy.

In my childhood and adolescence, I focused on going to school and getting good grades. I was already beginning to develop a critical capacity of my own, but apart from a few controversies with teachers in middle and high-school, it did not go beyond that.  I was never a member of the UJC (Young Communist League) or the FEU, for example.  In college, I was also like that; I never used the university as a platform to criticize the government. I did that on the outside (through the Somos + blog and in my on-line social networks).

What was your first job as a journalist in the state sector?

I never worked in state newspapers, although I did do an internship for a month, during my first semester of college between January and February of 2017. The provincial newspaper 5 de septiembre allowed me a lot of leeway within the “professional Calvary” that working in the official media represented.  They did not impose the topics I should write about and I was able to focus on giving a voice to actors in the private sector who were then emerging in the city (business owners and bicycle taxi drivers). There was one time where I was directly censored when the then director of the newspaper, Adonis Subit Lamí, called me into his office to ask me to “correct” certain phrases of an interview.

I cannot share any articles from that time with you because they have since been deleted from the newspaper’s website. Just now, I went back to look for them and they do not appear. However, in essence I interviewed an engineer who earned his living as a rickshaw driver, because working in his profession paid little and the owners of a private cafe known as “La Buena Pipa”; among other jobs that I don’t remember very well now.

Regarding the censorship of Adonis Subit Lamí, I remember that it was in the interview with the rickshaw driver and focused on a passage that quoted him as saying: “there is lack of freedom to do things[…]”. This was related to private sector work in Cuba. The official told me that using the word “freedom” was too strong in that context and that I should change it.

Why did you decide to leave the state media and become an independent journalist?

Already ever since I was a student working toward my degree, I wanted to work in the emerging alternative, independent media sector. I had been watching the appearance of new outlets like El Estornudo and Periodismo de Barrio.

How did you discover these two independent media start-ups and how were you able to access their content during these years?

Through the internet and through friendships that I had been building through Facebook, which I have been on since 2011. Also, remember that earlier the “weekly package” used to include content from dissidents, activists, and independent journalists, especially as part of programs produced in South Florida. That’s how I discovered figures like Yoani Sánchez and Eliecer Ávila. Now, however, this kind of content is systematically eliminated from the “package” by its distributors.

For me, it was just the dream of being part of the independent media, not actually putting it into practice, that led to my definitive expulsion from the world of higher education in Cuba.

That triggered my forced exile in order to complete my university studies. At the same time, I have been separated from my family for almost four years now (2017-2021). During that time outside of Cuba, I have also done independent journalism based as I am in a solid democracy like Costa Rica and have suffered no retaliation because of it.

Why do you say “forced exile”?

Well, it seems enough to me to qualify as “forced exile”, based on my expulsion at the age of 18 from the university and the entire system of higher education in Cuba. At that age what you do is study, right? What was left for me in a country where I could not continue to achieve my academic goals?

What were the costs and benefits of your decision to practice independent journalism?

It’s bad enough that haven’t been able to see my parents, sister, and other relatives for four years. Perhaps the greatest benefit has been to have a clear conscience for having fulfilled my duty and feeling that I have served a useful purpose for Cuba, reflecting that part of reality that never appears in the official media. And that is a big part of what makes up Cuba.

What is it that fundamentally differentiates independent journalism from official journalism?

The essential difference is that independent journalism covers more of Cuban reality; it covers a much wider spectrum of how life actually goes on in Cuba. Meanwhile, the official media looks the other way when it comes to poverty, the repression of dissent, and vulnerable communities.

It is an automated operation and anyone who has tried to push the limits suffers the consequences. Plus, the salaries for official journalists are among the lowest in the state sector, pushing its practitioners into precariousness.

You are a journalist, but doing journalism outside the official media in Cuba turns you into a kind of “dissident” in the eyes of the state, even when that is not your aim. Right? For you, what is the key difference between being an independent journalist and a dissident? Is it possible to be both at the same time?

I think that in a totalitarian state like Cuba, I am both: a journalist and also a dissident; I “dissent” from the established order because it affects me directly both on a personal and professional level. So, I am not interested in distancing myself from one thing or the other. Still, of course, I have established limits in my coverage of dissidents, organizations, and movements.  I am not an active member of those groups, but I do advocate for causes that I consider just.

And even if a democracy were founded on the island tomorrow, I would always work to hold the government and its leaders to account. I would continue being a “dissident” vis-à-vis policies that seem wrong or arbitrary to me.  Injustice is not automatically eliminated with the arrival of democracy.

For a time, some blogs and then later independent media outlets emphasized the fact that they were produced “from Cuba,” in contrast to others that were produced “from abroad.” For you, does this distinction still have importance, significance, or relevance given the increasingly “transnational” reality of both journalism and the Cuban nation itself?

To advance in our common goals, the inside and outside should no longer be thought of as separate settings.

Although, of course, I consider the people who do journalism from within the island of greater value based on their resistance, and I never would, from my position of privilege, minimize them or try to tell them what to do.

In the end, I think we complement one another very well. Exiled professionals have always pushed those who fight, in this case journalists, from within totalitarian regimes.

In all parts of the world, the model of media financing is in crisis. In Cuba, there is also an official discourse that argues that the independent journalists and media are actually “subversives” or “mercenaries” because they have developed alternative financing. How do you navigate in this extremely polarized and politicized context?

The key in my work is that there is no imposition of agendas, editorial lines, or approaches that betray my values ​​and what I believe is fair. Everything can be discussed in the newsrooms. There must be openness, of course, but there are basic principles that are non-negotiable. This is a conversation that we have (and must have) within our media outlets.

The defamations and slanders that are showered down from Cuban officialdom no longer affect us. What concerns me is clarity within myself and with my nuclear family.

What are your experiences of harassment, intimidation, or detention and interrogation by state security? Has your free movement been prevented or “regulated” within or outside the country?

I was interrogated three times (between September 2016 and January 2017) when I was 18 years old when I was a Journalism student at the Universidad Central “Marta Abreu” de Las Villas (UCLV).

What were the reasons behind these interrogations?

My posts and denunciations on social networks; my collaboration on the blog of the Somos + Movement; my relationship with figures like Eliecer Ávila and Iliana Hernández; my absence from political-indoctrination events at the University, such as those that occurred with the death of Fidel Castro.  Later in April 2017, I was expelled from UCLV and permanently from the entire system of higher education in Cuba.

I have seen the document that was given to you justifying your expulsion. Are there other similar cases of students or professors who have been expelled from Cuba’s Journalism schools for ideological reasons?

I personally know of the case of a professor from my own University (UCLV), Dalila Rodríguez, a Master of Linguistic and Editorial Studies, who was expelled just weeks after I was. She did not belong to any opposition movement, but the repression occurred because she was the daughter of a religious leader, Leonardo Rodríguez, an opposition leader associated with the Instituto Patmos.

Ted A. Henken (Pensacola, 1971) is an associate professor of sociology at Baruch College, CUNY. His most recent academic works include Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy (University of Florida Press, 2021) and Cuba empresarial: emprendedores ante una cambiante política pública (Editorial Hypermedia, 2020). He is currently working on a history of independent journalism in Cuba.

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By Larry Press Professor of Information Systems at California State University

Original Article at Larry Press’ Blog

Larry Press
Larry Press

Cuba’s Digital Revolution: Citizen Innovation and State Policy (Reframing Media, Technology, and Culture in Latin/o America), June 1, 2021
by Ted A. Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria

In spite of having a slow, expensive, government-controlled Internet infrastructure, Cuba is undergoing what Ted Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria refer to as a digital revolution.

The digital revolution might be said to have begun in 2007 when Yoani Sánchez launched her blog “Generation Y.” Internet access was difficult — she would get illegal connectivity at tourist hotels, and the blog was initially hosted in Germany. Soon, the Huffington Post began publishing her posts, and she has subsequently received many international awards, including the Ortega y Gasset Award for Digital Journalism in 2008.

I recall reading of her teaching others to blog at her home, and other blogs followed, but that was just the start of the digital revolution. Today, she publishes a daily digital newspaper 14Ymedio which is available in Spanish and English, and there are many independent (non-government) media sites that cover fashion, sports, art, music, and technology as well as news, commentary, and current events.

Since Cuba had and still has very poor Internet infrastructure, one might ask how this digital content is distributed. The digital-distribution revolution began in 2008 with el Paquete Semanal, the “weekly package” of digital material distributed on hard and flash drives that became a nation-wide sneakernet. El Paquete is financed by advertising and customer fees and it has been suggested that it is the nation’s largest private employer. In 2015, the Government began opening public-access WiFi hotspots. Cubans hackers also created local community networks which did not have a connection to the global Internet. The largest, Havana’s SNET, had an estimated 100,000 users before it was taken over by the government. More recently, 3G mobile service was introduced and now 4G is beginning to roll out.

Cuba’s independent media and ad-hoc distribution channels are a product of a culture of innovation — from restoring old cars and equipping bicycles with lawn-mower engines to creating community networks like SNET, software startups, and work as independent, self-employed programmers. Necessity is the mother of invention.

I’ve been speaking of media, but Henken estimates that there is also a digitally-convened movement or protest in Cuba every two months or so. He describes several of these and their leaders in this article.

If you are interested in more on Cuba’s digital media revolution, check out Henken’s recent interview at Tulane University. (It’s over an hour-long, but he speaks clearly so you can listen at 2X speed). He talks about Cuban media and introduces a forthcoming anthology he and Santamaria edited. In his presentation, Henken discusses independent Cuban media and summarizes each chapter of the book, which will be available from the University Press of Florida on June 1.



In Medias Res: Who Will Control Cuba’s Digital Revolution?, Ted A. Henken

Part I. History, Media, and Technology

1. The Past, Present, and Future of the Cuban Internet, Larry Press

2. Historical Itineraries and Cyclic Trajectories: Alternative Media Communication Technologies, and Social Change in Cuba, Edel Lima Sarmiento

Part II. Politics

3. Information and Communication Technology, State Power, and Civil Society: Cuban Internet Development in the Context of the Normalization of Relations with the United States, Olga Khrustaleva

4. Ghost in the Machine: The Incompatibility of Cuba’s State Media Monopoly with the Existence of Independent Digital Media and the Democratization of Communication, Alexei Padilla Herrera and Eloy Viera Cañive

5. The Press Model in Cuba: Between Ideological Hegemony and the Reinvention of Civic Journalism, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Arechavaleta

6. Digital Critique in Cuba, Marie Laure Geoffray

Part III. Journalism

7. From Generación Y to 14ymedio: Beyond the Blog on Cuba’s Digital Frontier, Ted A. Henken

8. Independent Journalism in Cuba: Between Fantasy and the Ontological Rupture, Sara Garcia Santamaria

9. Perceptions of and Strategies for Autonomy among Journalists Working for Cuban State Media, Anne Natvig

10. Independent Media on the Margins: Two Cases of Journalistic Professionalization in Cuba’s Digital Media Ecosystem, Abel Somohano Fernández and Mireya Márquez-Ramírez

Part IV. Business and Economy

11. Online Marketing of Touristic Cuba: Branding a “Tech-Free” Destination, Rebecca Ogden

12. A Una Cuba Alternativa”? Digital Millennials, Social Influencing, and Cuentapropismo in Havana, Jennifer Cearns

Part V. Culture and Society

13. Without Initiation Ceremonies: Cuban Literary and Cultural E-zines, 2000 — 2010, Walfrido Dorta

14. Images of Ourselves: Cuban Mediascapes and the Post-socialist “Woman of Fashion,” Paloma Duong

Sara García Santamaría
Blanquerna – Universitat Ramon Llull (Spain)

Ted Henken

Baruch College, City University of New York.

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Karina Marrón González, julio 1, 2016

Articulo Original: PERIODISMO CUBANO

En un encuentro que hicimos en el Instituto de Periodismo con jóvenes de todas partes del país, si una cosa nos alegraba a nosotros fue identificar a otros jóvenes dentro del sector de la prensa que también tenían la intención de transformar, de cambiar, que tenían las ganas de unir esfuerzos por transformar la realidad y en esa reunión se dijo que hay una intensión marcada en enemistar al Partido con la prensa y nosotros no podemos estar ajenos de ello, pero mientras el Partido y la prensa sigamos mirando para un lado y no para donde tenemos los problemas reales, sigamos viendo las cosas por separado y no como un todo, no vamos a resolver jamás los problemas que llevamos años discutiendo.

Y será Karina entonces la Rosa Miriam quizás de esa época, hablando lo mismo y habrá otras personas como Sergio, diciendo las cosas que viene diciendo Raúl Garcés durante tantos años y otros que tienen más edad que yo entonces serán los que hablarán, y seguiremos repitiendo el ciclo, si con suerte llegamos a repetir el ciclo, y lo que está pasando señores, es que no tenemos tiempo para repetir el ciclo.

Yo, sinceramente creo que nosotros lo que tenemos que ver cuando los jóvenes se nos van de los medios, es sencillamente que tenemos en los jóvenes la expresión de la sociedad que tenemos hoy, y es lo que decía Iramis; No podemos ver el asunto como un problema puramente económico, hay un problema profesional de fondo, porque esos jóvenes que eligieron la carrera de periodismo, no eligieron hacer propaganda, publicidad, no eligieron sencillamente quedarse callados y al margen porque si no hubieran escogido otra profesión. Pero también tenemos muchos jóvenes en las aulas que cuando se gradúan salen tan desencantados que llegan a los medios , no sé ni con qué intensión, porque a veces uno les da la oportunidad de hacer cosas, de transformar, de trabajar, y no les interesa, no les importa absolutamente nada. Por qué? Porque es de esa misma generación de jóvenes desconectados a los cuales sencillamente no les llegamos en otras etapas de su vida y ahora no podemos pretender que no les interese la ropa, los tacones, los zapatos, cómo acceder a internet o tener 50 o 70 CUC, no para mantener su casa como si sabemos que hay algunos en nuestros medios que colaboran con tal de poder pagar un alquiler.

Son jóvenes que lo hacen para mantener ciertos y determinados estándares de vida y que en el fondo usted puede ver que no está mal, pero ahí entra lo que decía Darío Machado, y es ese espíritu de consumo que hemos establecido en nuestra sociedad que es parte también de todas estas carencias materiales que hemos acumulado durante años.

 z Karina Marrón

Karina Marrón integrante del Comité Nacional de la Upec y subdirectora del periódico Granma.

Entonces yo lo que creo es que nosotros no podemos ver única y exclusivamente la cosa como que la Upec tiene que esforzarse porque los jóvenes se sientan atraídos por la organización, porque al final, si la Upec no tiene ningún poder de decisión, si la Upec no tiene ninguna fuerza, si se desgasta hablando los mismos problemas de congreso en congreso, entonces para qué yo quiero pertenecer a esa organización, para qué me interesa, para qué me importa, qué estoy cambiando, qué estoy transformando.Al final lo único que uno tiene en la vida es su tiempo, lo que uno está poniendo en el frente de batalla es su vida, sus años, su dedicación y su sacrificio, y eso se hace por un ideal, se hace por amor, pero hay quien sencillamente decide que no está dispuesto a hacerlo porque no confía en ese futuro, porque no ve que haya posibilidades de cambiarlo y lo triste es que en ese bando de los que hoy están colaborando fuera hay jóvenes que apuestan por eso por diferentes razones, porque creen que ahí van a tener su realización profesional y nos duele que no la vean del lado nuestro o que no intenten cambiar las cosas del lado nuestro, o lo hacen por las motivaciones económicas que ya hablamos pero no es nunca un único motivo, y eso es lo que nosotros no podemos perder de vista, e insisto, si seguimos mirando para el lado no vamos a ver nunca la pedrada que nos va a dar en el justo lugar donde nos van a matar.

Respuestas no tengo. En Granma (periódico) hay un grupo de jóvenes que estamos haciendo lo posible por seguir remando, no sabemos si vamos a llegar realmente a puerto seguro en un momento determinado, pero hay jóvenes que quieren seguir echando a navegar el yate y yo estoy convencida, porque los conozco a muchos de ellos, que hay muchos en varios lugares del país que también están haciendo lo mismo.

Entonces, yo los invito a todos es a unir fuerzas para eso, pero sobre todo a que quienes deciden no den dobles discursos , a que quienes deciden cuando se enfrenten a este escenario de gente que sabe lo que vive cada día en las redacciones, en la radio, en la televisión, en el más mínimo lugar de este país donde hay un periodista intentando defender esta sociedad que somos todos, esa gente que quizás no tiene esa cultura excelsa para entender todos los escenarios de fenómenos pero hay un periodista que sencillamente sabe que defendiendo esa institucionalidad de la que hablaba Garcés, está defendiendo esta Revolución y puede quizás transformar la mente de alguien.

Eso nosotros tenemos que cuidarlo, tenemos que defenderlo y a esa gente nosotros no podemos irrespetarla, hablándole de cosas de las que uno sabe que no ocurren de esa manera y prometiéndole cosas que después no se van a cumplir, entonces, yo creo que este es un debate que no podemos seguir teniendo entre nosotros mismos y mirándonos las caras y diciéndonos lo mismo unos a los otros y engañándonos una y otra vez porque no hay tiempo.

Se está armando una tormenta tan perfecta y lo discutíamos ayer en la redacción, este fenómeno de la reducción del combustible, de la reducción de la energía, señores este país no aguanta otro 93´, otro 94´, si no queremos ver protestas en la calle, y no hay un Fidel para salir al malecón, o por lo menos hasta ahora no ha habido una figura en este país que le dé la cara a este pueblo para explicarle las cosas como están sucediendo hoy con esta situación, y va a ser muy difícil de enfrentar y con la prensa la situación en la que tenemos hoy nos vamos a quedar dados.

Ya Ravsberg (Fernando Ravsberg, periodista uruguayo radicado en Cuba, ex corresponsal de BBC Mundo en La Habana. Administrador del blog cartasdesdecuba.com) ayer estaba hablando de estas reducciones de combustible, como nos pasa muchas veces que hay quien sencillamente hace proyectos y cosas, acepta dinero y lo hace a veces queriendo mirar para otro lado.

Yo llamo la atención sobre esto porque estamos en una circunstancia en que el 2018 está a las puertas y todo se está apostando por esa fecha, y todo se está haciendo para que esa tormenta llegue allí en las peores circunstancias para este país, entonces no es un momento para dudar, no es un momento para titubear, no es un momento para prestarles nuestras fuerzas, nuestras ideas a algo que no funciona y por eso muchas veces nuestros jóvenes se van, y por eso muchas veces nuestros jóvenes no están en las redacciones aun cuando haya gente que todavía sigue confiando y sigue tratando de hacer el periodismo de todos los días. (Aplausos)

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21 May 2015 – The Huffington Post – Yoani Sanchez

 Original article here: Risks of Journalism in Cuba

 If you had asked me a year ago what would be the three greatest challenges of the digital newspaper 14ymedio, I would have said repression, lack of connection to the Internet and media professionals being afraid to work on our team.

 I did not imagine that the another obstacle would become the principal headache of this informative little paper: The lack of transparency in Cuban institutions, which has landed us many times in front of a closed door, and no matter how hard we knocked, no one opened or provided answers.

 In a country where State institutions refuse to provide the citizen with certain information that should be public, the situation becomes much more complicated for the reporter. Dealing with the secrecy turns out to be as difficult as evading the political police, tweeting “blind,” or becoming used to the opportunism and silence of so many colleagues. Information is militarized and guarded in Cuba as if there is a war of technology, which is why those who try to find out are taken, at the very least, as spies.

 Belonging to an outlawed media outlet makes the work even more problematic, and gives a clandestine character to a job that should be a profession like any other. Now, if we look at “the glass half full,” the limitation of not being able to access official spaces has freed us, in 14ymedio, from that journalism of “statements” that produces such harmful effects. To quote an official, to collect the words of a minister, or to transcribe the official proclamation of a Party leader, has been for decades the refuge of those who do not dare to narrate the reality of this country.

 Lacking a press credential to enter an event, we have approached its participants in a less controlled setting, one where they have felt more free to speak

 Our principal limitation has become the best incentive to seek out more creative ways to inform. Government silence about so many issues has motivated us to find other voices that can relate what happened. Lacking a press credential to enter an event, we have approached its participants in a less controlled setting, one where they have felt more free to speak. From Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who answered several of our questions outside the press conference where our access was denied, to employees who alert us in whispers about an act of corruption in their companies or anonymous messages that put us on the trail of an injustice.

 It has also been hard to work out our true role as providers of information, which is different from the role of a judge, a human rights activist and a political opponent. It is our role to make facts visible, so that others can condemn or applaud them. In short, as journalists we have the responsibility to inform, but not the power to impute.

 Nor can we justify our failings because we are outlawed, persecuted, stigmatized and rejected. No reader is going to forgive us if we are not in the exact place of history’s twists and turns.

New Picture (12)

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