Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 15.2020
2020.04.06 — 2020.04.12
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
COVID-19: Russia Pledges Collaboration With Africa To Fight Coronavirus – OpEd (COVID-19: Россия обязуется сотрудничать с Африкой в борьбе с коронавирусом - OpEd) / South Africa, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, cooperation
South Africa

In separate early April discussions with South African and Ethiopian leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin pledges Russia's support in collaborating with Africa fight coronavirus that is currently spreading among the population across the continent.

With the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Kremlin press reported that "while discussing the situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus, both parties stressed the importance of invigorating efforts of the entire international community, including the IMF and the World Bank, to combat the infection. They have also considered some topical aspects of developing bilateral relations."

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken over from President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the Chair of the African Union. South Africa is a member of BRICS. Russia presides over BRICS in 2020.

"Opportunities for cooperation to counter the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences were discussed, particularly considering the results of the recent G20 digital summit," the Kremlin's official statement says. "Cyril Ramaphosa as the head of the country chairing the African Union informed (Putin) about the steps planned to be taken by this regional organization."

The G20 virtual summit held late March, Putin proposed the establishment of a special fund to help Africa and further stressed the necessity to continue regular exchange of credible information about the global pandemic and about the actions taken by various regions and individual countries. He emphasized provision of all forms of aid to affected African countries amid the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the global economy.

As a top-priority tasks in healthcare, Putin called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to channel its efforts to detecting hidden coronavirus epidemics in the countries that are not able to organize testing, also about joint research by countries that could significantly expedite the development of vaccines and medications. Russia expressed its support for the proposals for a comprehensive approach to mobilizing international support for Africa.

According to a government executive decree, Russia will contribute $1 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the coronavirus.

"Allocate budget funding of $1 million from the federal budget for one-time voluntary contribution to the World Health Organization for coronavirus infection fight measures implementation," the document reads.

The same decree earmarks about $804,795 to fund expenses of the Vector Institute and the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, "connected to production and shipment of tools for laboratory diagnosis of the novel coronavirus infection, and material and technical support to countries of Eastern Europe, Trans-Caucasus, Central and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America."

This year, South Africa is chairing the African Union. As Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Cyril Ramaphosa discussed the African response to the Covid-19 pandemic across the continent, and that included efforts to sustain the hard-won developmental and economic gains.

He gave an urgent need for medical supplies and equipment, and further called for international cooperation and support while upscaling local production on the continent.

The African Union Covid-19 Response Fund established on March 26, to which members pledged the sum of $12.5 million and an additional $4.5 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Estimates from health organizations said there were more than 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the continent. According to the latest data by the John Hopkins University and Africa Center for Disease Control on COVID-19 in Africa, offers a breakdown whole of Africa.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of the disease in the city of Wuhan in China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have spread around the world.

South Africa looks to BRICS for solidarity in Covid-19 fight (ЮАР надеется на солидарность стран БРИКС в борьбе с COVID-19) / South Africa, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, cooperation
South Africa

These are strange and desperate times. In the New World Order where top French doctors suggest using Africans as guinea pigs for Covid-19 vaccines, UK companies refuse to share their designs for ventilators with South African emergency task teams and the US steals consignments of masks destined for other countries, South Africa is reaching out to its BRICS partners for solidarity in the fight against the pandemic.

In times like these, our first port of call is to those nations with whom we have developed strong alliances over time, out of conviction that friends will remain friends even in the worst of times. Interests will, of course, always trump friendship, but there is a great deal to be gained for BRICS countries to have one another's backs.

Our BRICS partners, particularly China, India and Russia, are in a strong position to offer assistance - China and Russia in terms of personal protection equipment (PPE), Russia with ventilators and India in terms of medicine.

South Africa needs all the items and can no longer rely on developed countries to assist as they are all securing medical essentials for their own people and are not willing, or in a position to, share their stock.

South Africa imports 90% of its medical equipment and its traditional sources for procurement are saturated. Our health workers are in urgent need of protective clothing, N95 masks and gloves, and in vast quantities.

The group Business for South Africa (BSA) has warned that South Africa has only three to four weeks' supply of PPE left, according to its inventory put together by the public health working group. Stavros Nicolaou of Aspen Pharmacare, who heads BSA, has said orders have been placed for PPE with manufacturers in China.

Delivery of the essentials can't come soon enough as the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa have said nurses in clinics in rural areas have little or no protective gear. Tens of thousands of health workers say that shortages are putting them at risk.

Nehawu filed an urgent application with the Labour Court in Johannesburg against the minister of health and health MECs over PPE.

Nicolaou also sits on the BRICS Business Council, which wasted no time in contacting the other BRICS business councils to request assistance.

Busi Mabuza, the chairperson of the Industrial Development Corporation and of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council, wrote to her counterparts in India and China. The councils were very responsive and elevated the requests for assistance to their business chambers and governments.

The chairperson of the India chapter of the council communicated the request to the Indian government with regard to supplies of pharmaceutical products and discussed the matter with the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

The message came back that special arrangements could be made for the transport of such goods and that ports and cargo planes were functional.

India had put 26 compounds under export control, meaning that compounds such as paracetamol could not be exported, which was problematic for South Africa as it relies on India for secure supplies of essential drugs.

But India had expressed its willingness to assist and this week the export ban was lifted.

Minister for Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel has been praised by the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council for his intervention with his counterparts in India and China.

While the South African chapter of the council has not made requests to its counterparts in Russia for assistance, President Cyril Ramaphosa made a request to President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call last week. The Russian president is reported to have asked Ramaphosa for a list of what South Africa needs.

It is believed that the list is under consideration in Moscow.

Ramaphosa mentioned the need for technical expertise on infection control and a supply of life-saving medical equipment and equipment for mobile testing.

Russia has supported China, Italy and the US with supplies. Senior Russian officials said Russia was in a position to send ventilators to South Africa.

Russia has been effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19 through mass testing and has conducted more than a million tests.

Brazil does not appear to be in a position to provide any assistance to South Africa, given that Brazil's health ministry has said its reserves are depleted. Alexandre Telles, the president of Rio de Janeiro's doctors' union was quoted as saying: "In another week we won't have any masks."

Brazil's health ministry had placed orders for purchases of PPE from China, but the orders fell through after the US transported plane loads of such equipment from China that were supposed to be delivered to Brazil.

Brazil and France have also said the US is outbidding them in the global marketplace for critical medical supplies. In some instances, the US has offered three times the price and offered to pay upfront.

What the US has done to countries it considers its allies is unforgivable, diverting orders the countries were counting on for N95 masks and gloves and sending them to the US instead. Trump has invoked the Defence Production Act to demand US firms provide more masks, and the Minnesota manufacturer of 3M masks has been ordered to prioritise the US over foreign orders.

The Trump administration has ordered 3M to stop exporting masks to Canada and Latin America and import more from factories in China.

Last Friday, the US diverted an order of 200 000 masks en route from China to Berlin, paid for to protect the Berlin police force. Germany's interior minister, Andreas Geisel, called the diversion "(an) act of modern piracy... not how you deal with Transatlantic partners". Berlin mayor Michael Muller called it "inhumane and unacceptable".

Trump was unapologetic, boasting that the US took custody of 200 000 N95 respirators, 130 000 surgical masks and 600 000 gloves.

Arguably one of Trump's most depraved acts to date was his attempt to get German firm CureVac to move its research wing to the US to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 that would be "for the US only". The German health minister, Jens Spahn, retorted that CureVac would develop a vaccine for the whole world, not for individual countries.

This type of immorality is not confined to Trump, however. Two top French Doctors shocked the world last week when they made racist comments suggesting Africans be used as guinea pigs for the testing of potential Covid-19 vaccines.

Jean-Paul Mira, head of the ICU at the Cochin hospital in Paris said: "It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it's been done for certain Aids studies, where among prostitutes, we try things, because we know that they are highly exposed and don't protect themselves?"

Camille Locht, the research director at France's National Health Institute, Inserm, agreed: "You are right. And by the way, we are thinking in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach."

What is clear from the colonial and racist attitudes is that Africans need to rely on themselves, their private sectors, as well as reach out to their allies and progressive governments in the developing and developed world who are more likely to honour requests for assistance.

* Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media's foreign editor.

Important development: India & Russia to help each other in fighting Coronavirus (Важное событие: Индия и Россия помогают друг другу в борьбе с коронавирусом) / India, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-10, cooperation

Confirming this to Financial Express Online, sources said that "This decision was taken during a telephone call between Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov."

Today's call comes close on the heels of a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 25. (Reuters photo) India and Russia have both agreed to help each other in facilitating any requirement of medicines and medical equipment to deal with the global pandemic COVID-19.

Confirming this to Financial Express Online, sources said that "This decision was taken during a telephone call between Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov."

The two top officials during call discussed the evolving situation relating to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts undertaken by both countries to contain and combat the virus. According to reports, COVID-19 globally has claimed around 88,000 people and more than 15 lakh have been identified as infected in 190 countries across the globe. Out of this, in Russia there have been 76 deaths and over 10,000 cases of the infection and the number of deaths in India is 166 and positive cases of the virus is over 5,730.

Today's call comes close on the heels of a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 25.

Sources said that Shringla also enquired about the well being of the 15,000 India students in that country and his counterpart expressed his gratitude to the Indian government for facilitating the evacuation of Russia nationals who were stranded here due to flights being cancelled.

"Referring to the Russian chairmanship of BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Morgulov informed Shringla of various preparatory meetings which would continue to take place through video conferencing in the coming days," sources said.

The BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) represents over 3.6 billion people, or half of the world population and have a combined GDP of $16.6 trillion.

SCO is considered to be a powerful grouping which represents around 42 per cent of the world's population and 20 per cent of the global GDP.

What is not clear is if Russia is among the countries who have reached out to India for the supply of the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine.


Says Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, "India and Russia enjoy a special and privileged partnership which is diversified across the expanding spectrum of cooperation. Disaster management and mutual assistance is one among them. PM Modi and President Putin have been regularly meeting on annual bilateral summits, G20 and SCO as well as BRICS. In addition, the two leaders meet in informal summits as and when required that attests to the trust that has been established both at the personal and official level."

Adding, "Russians have a well-developed disaster management system and strategy and already they have assisted Italians, the US-China and others in combating the COVID- 19. India is also extending diverse assistance in this regard and could jointly strategize to fight the Coronavirus in our own countries and globally."

According to Prof Rajesh Rajagopalan, School of International Studies, JNU, "India does have close ties with Russia that it wants to maintain. India also wants to maintain its strategic options, though considering Russia's increasing dependence on China; India also needs to be much more cautious than it has been of Russia. For its own reason, Russia has become essentially a mouthpiece for Beijing, echoing its policies and rhetoric."

" We see this, for example, on the issue of the Indo-Pacific, which Russia has opposed. New Delhi needs to understand that while keeping its options open, Russia today has different imperatives and India needs to be careful," Rajagopalan opines.
A South American NATO? (Южноамериканское НАТО?) / Russia, April, 2020
Keywords: experrt_opinion, jair_bolsonaro
Author: Orazio Maria Gnerre

With the rise to power of President Bolsonaro in Brazil, there is often talk about the granting of military bases to the United States army on the soil of the South American country, and possible concertation between the two states in war and strategic affairs. The dream of a united Latin America, which was interpreted at the beginning of the 21st century above all on the economic level, thanks to institutions such as MERCOSUR, has however strong political implications. The rift that seems to open up in Latin America between very different integrative tendencies, such as in the function of an autonomy from North America, such as with it, is likely to redesign the political scenario for the years to come. The main carrier of a possible pan-American integration with the United States seems to be, therefore, a strategic and military one. There is no doubt, however, that whatever the future developments will be, either one way or another, they will focus on the development of a supranational dimension.

As we know, Brazil has always been one of the leading countries in the process of political integration and unification of Latin America. Its history, its extension and its economic capacity are one of the reasons why it has always been a very important element within the regional scenario. Its effect, in this sense, is also evidenced by the existence in the 19th century of the Empire of Brazil, which then also included Uruguay. The nature of Brazil, which covers a large part of the continent, is that of a large state — not by chance federal — projected like all the great contemporary states towards the future of large political and spatial aggregations. Today, states of this type are the USA, the People's Republic of China and Russia, demonstrating the importance of geographical dimensions in this particular historical context in which the globalization of goods, finance and human movements puts sovereignty of the small countries to the test.

Latin America has always had unification as its implicit goal. This was the "big dream" of Simón Bolivar, the necessary outcome of the process of liberating the continent from the European colonial presence. The myth of Bolivarianism has long fueled the political narratives of Latin American countries, and still remains unchanged today in its prominent symbolic significance. To date, it is Venezuela governed by the United Socialist Party to make it a political flag, the same Venezuela that Bolivar was able to consider "a barracks". Specifically, the phrase attributed to el libertador Bolivar was that "Ecuador is a convent, Colombia is a university and Venezuela is a barracks". This phrase, which reflected the dimension of unity that the commander of the liberation process imagined for Latin America, also stresses another fundamental point concerning the importance of mastering large geopolitical spaces. That is, the diversification of the roles attributed to the controlled regions, for the maintenance of autarky of a super-State.

Of course, in order to guarantee a vast territorial unity, if this has not been conquered with iron and fire, at least a certain cohesion of intent is required given by ideological proximity. This ideological proximity was given, for a certain period of time, by a major political project, launched in 2004, which represented a very important guideline for South American concerted political planning. Here, we are talking about UNASUR, the intergovernmental organization born of twelve South American nations, which joined the already existing MERCOSUR, the common market of Latin America.

The history of these types of unification, or even before that of regional trade, has in many ways been similar to that of the European Union, which has inspired UNASUR. As in Europe, this process began with trade, starting from the coal and steel sectors, to prevent interstate frictions such as those that had led to world conflicts. In Latin America, in the contemporary age, we can also glimpse the process of rapprochement between states in its early stages in projects such as LAFTA, launched in 1960. This project took full advantage of the knowledge developed over the past few decades on the importance of economies of scale, a principle deeply studied in the era of Fordism and which had guided pre-war European conceptualizations on the need for a continental union. Another ancestor of MERCOSUR, contemporary to LAFTA, can be considered the Common Market of Central America. LAFTA subsequently evolved into LAIA, just as the European Coal and Steel Community changed into various subjects before reaching the European Union as we know it.

In this process, which promoted greater political cohesion through the liberation of market forces internal to the continent, as also suggested by the functionalist school for European integration, the pre-eminent role — together with that of Argentina — was that of Brazil. Relations between these two countries have begun to bind even more, as many scholars note, with the common return to democracy. This occurred in a transformed framework of the political models that were being proposed in Latin America, testifying to the importance of the element of cultural proximity and of the aims, if not exactly of ideological coincidence:

"In the first half of the 1980s, the commonality of perceptions in the two countries facilitated dialogue and understanding. These commonalities came from a varied set of political, economic, technological, and security factors, which displayed their effects and consequences on the internal as well as the international plane. In the political sphere, democratic consolidation and relations with the United States were prominent on the agenda. Reacquired democratic status was arguably the most powerful factor of convergence between Argentina and Brazil. […] Increasing competition on the world markets and the decline of the development models adopted under the military administrations provided Argentina and Brazil with additional reasons to look at each other as potentially close partners."

This clearly had as a compensation, in the same period, also certain global economic trends, which corresponded very specifically to those guidelines that established the need for south-south trade in a context of market transformation. This characterized the international scenario for a long time:

"The United States and the European Economic Community (EEC), two traditional markets for Argentine and Brazilian goods, increased protectionism, targeting both agricultural produce and manufactured goods. Furthermore, these industrialized countries accompanied protectionism with export incentives to facilitate national producers' competitiveness in third markets. This situation was a stimulus to forms of South-South cooperation in two ways. First, the search for new markets reinforced the Latin American orientation of Argentina and Brazil and induced them to look at each other's market. Second, suffering from the same setbacks and complications in the world trade, the two countries coalesced in defence of their common interests within multilateral economic arenas."

These trends were clearly consolidated with a changed system of international relations set by the end of the bipolar opposition between the US and the USSR, but the prodromes were clearly antecedent and could also be traced in the economic level. However, even the experience that Latin America had of the Cold War was reflected in the search for a common paradigm for a new world phase. These thrusts could not fail to be influential in the approach of regional state institutions. A whole series of pieces were forming in a framework that led, in the 21st century, to the founding of UNASUR. This framework is that of the BRICS project, which, from a meeting table between emerging economies, has been able to propose its own precise idea of coexistence and political concertation. This line also ran counter to the development model hypothesized by the West after the end of the Cold War, setting new working hypotheses. Once again, the economic structural outline and ideological synthesis met.

"Given that economic growth rates among emerging powers (principally China) have been consistently higher than those in the core over the past decade, it seems that we are witnessing a process of deconcentration of economic power. Applying this analysis to the BRICS, it is telling that what contributed to the success of the first meetings is a common discontent with the distribution of institutional power in the international system and interest in changing it and solving the "mismatch" between the distribution of institutional power and the distribution of actual power. The desire to revise the current distribution of power has thus been one of the powerful shapers of the BRICS identity and a key motivation for the grouping's creation."

Within this conceptual culture broth, a renewed interest in regional integrations has developed, following a first genetic phase (the Bolivarian one), a second in the second post-war period and a third due to changes in the economic paradigms of the eighties. To date, we are still in this phase in the face of a whole series of needs that are imposed by globalization and at the same time by new technologies.

UNASUR was the result of this type of approach, adding a fundamental political determinant to an area of economic exchange that seemed — at that point — to be no longer enough. One of the reasons for its genesis is indeed to be found in the fact that «China, India and other emerging economies are making profound changes in the international economic scenario, opening up new sources of development and opportunities for the countries of Latin America».

The countries that took part in this project were united by this neo-democratic, continentalist and counter-hegemonic dimension while being in opposition to the previous world para-subordination arrangements. From this came a solid relationship of collaboration. To better specify the mechanics of this type of aggregation we can think, for example, of ALBA, another body which on the one hand aims to bring together the socialist and social-democratic countries of Latin America. Its political neighbourhoods are self-evident, on the other proceeds to greater integration with UNASUR for the guiding principles previously stated.

"ALBA and Unasur have added a new dimension to South-South cooperation and post-hegemonic regionalism via the creation of stable channels for social movement participation in regionalism, alternative media outlets, anti-corporate development enterprises and autonomous pharmaceutical industries, development banks, and a mechanism of asymmetric military cooperation."

Clearly, this type of collaboration in order to move towards integration must also and above all consider the military dimension. This is favoured by the fact that Brazil is «the only major arms producer and exporter in Latin America [and therefore promoted] the development of its military industry, and greater cooperation and integration of companies in the sector throughout the region». In this regard, the South American Defense Council was designed. This body, which currently has a consultative value, was born under the tutelary deities of Brazil and Venezuela in 2008, and its purpose was — in addition to the exchange of information and consultations in the defence field — to create joint commands, on the model of what NATO is in Western Europe. Not surprisingly, this project has also been named South American NATO.

«The Brazilian initiative and the [...] creation of this South American Defense Council cannot be released from the proposal made by President Chavez in 2003 to create a South Atlantic Treaty Organization (OTAS) or "South American NATO", or to establish a military alliance based on ALBA [...]. Again, the initiatives of the South American Security Council seem to confirm the strategy followed by this country with relations with Venezuela, "regionalizing" and "South Americanizing" the proposals of President Chavez. That is, by bringing it back to forms that are compatible with Brazil's regional leadership strategy and promoting viable consensus by incorporating the interests of other countries, and by limiting the most radical edges of Chavismo. This also allows to achieve two objectives of Brazil which in another form would be incompatible: on the one hand, gradually remove the political and military influence of the United States in the region, and maintain cordial relations with the superpower, placing Brazil, as "moderate country", in the position of a mediator and preferential interlocutor for the external actors of the region.»

Moreover, this structure is located on a line of continuity with respect to the long process of South American integration. It has, as an ancestor the Congress of Panama of 1826 and, among other things, aims to organize a regional army of 60 000 people. However, if «from a geopolitical-economy perspective, defence and military cooperation is the sine qua non of multi-polarization», it must be said that this process of multi-polarization, which is taking place in these post-Cold War decades, is not entirely clear or unambiguous. Given that it would be correct to identify the current phase as a polycentric moment, in which the structures are being redefined in the light of a change in the power relations, it is, therefore, necessary to realize two very important elements. These elements allow us to understand the present with appropriate tools: the first is that, in this phase, it is not possible to compete or at least survive without the political and economic disposition of vast territorial spaces; the second is that the lines of demarcation are not as clear as many exponents of purely theoretical geopolitics based on ethnological or cultural aspects want us to believe. Add to this how several different narratives can be conflicting in relation to these phenomena.

We talked previously about Bolivar's dream, but this was not the only Pan-American unification project. Another direction, set by the United States of America on other bases, was that of the Monroe Doctrine. The latter envisaged not so much a federal unity of American states (on the model of what had been created by the Founding Fathers in North America itself), as the idea that the affairs of the western hemisphere were the affairs of the US. His motto was "America to Americans", and it was a way of excluding the powers of the Old Continent from that geographical space.

This concept, according to which there existed a western hemisphere which represented an area in itself with respect to Europe, in its essential foundation was no different from Bolivar's ideas. American republicanism (northern and southern) was often born on very similar cultural grounds and did not make a Simón Bolivar very different from a George Washington. Clearly, it was the historical turn dictated by some structures of the economy and the power relations that profoundly changed the aspect of the matter, in a century that produced, among other things, redistributions of power within North America, as evidenced by the Civil War. On the other hand, the other side of the Monroe Doctrine was the so-called "gunboat policy". This policy allowed North America to guarantee its interests by ingesting in the internal politics of Latin American countries through the use of coastal bombing.

All things considered, it is clear that the organization of differences through structures such as UNASUR, with its necessary military sector of the South American Security Council, is one of the folds that international politics could have taken, but not the only one. Still, it is the only one that has been investigated and attempted with some consistency so far.

To reorganize integrative projects of any kind, on any organizational basis, which is not UNASUR, however, it is clear that a different ideological discourse becomes necessary that can guarantee certain credibility for its purposes, or at least counterbalance the previous discourse. An image seems to have re-emerged in the last period, without having perfectly organized itself into a coherent discourse. This is due to the change in political orientation that many Latin American countries have experienced in the latter period.

If the forces that guided the integrative process were basically of a so-called "progressive" extraction, ranging from social democracy to Bolivarian nationalism, to indigenous socialism, a whole series of profound political changes brought to power heterogeneous political forces. However, these tend to be positioned on the right-wing. This is clearly an extremely reductionist description, which uses categories (such as right and left) whose sense in many ways is running out, as well as many issues (nationalism is one of them), are widely transversal in the political discourse of opposite fronts, although of course, they decline it differently. In addition, where some of these groups came to power through the representative democratic process, others — as in Bolivia — have obtained the levers of command in an unorthodox manner.

Nonetheless, these new command groups are demonstrating that they are pursuing other projects than those brought into play by previous administrations. Once again, the leading country for this transformation is Brazil. With the election of its new president, Jair Bolsonaro, many elements previously taken for granted in the country and in Latin America have been called into question.

Jair Bolsonaro was trained in the ranks of the army, and for this very reason, he understands how the military element can be, under certain conditions, an important driver of politics. Especially if, as mentioned in the lines above, this serves as the engine of the approach and integration processes. Bolsonaro, who previously distinguished himself for political campaigns marked by the opposition to the privatizations of sectors of the public economy, simultaneously transformed his political-economic ideas for the benefit of a neoliberal line in open conflict with the model of the previous governments of the Labor Party. It is implicit how certain economic schemes correspond to as many geopolitical positions, given the stormy past of the region during the Cold War, including guerrillas, coups, attempts at external interference such as Operation Condor.

If the intent of UNASUR was to fundamentally counter-hegemonic with respect to a certain type of dominance that the United States could exercise in the region, the intentions of the new South American governments seem to be different.

It is necessary to understand the reasons why Bolsonaro believes it is essential for Brazil, at this historical moment, to leave UNASUR, despite the country being the most important pivot of both the regional integration process and inter-state cooperation, thanks to its history and its specific weight. The path of UNASUR, which Bolsonaro has scaled down to an invention by Hugo Chavez, without clearly considering neither the role played by Brazil and Argentina within it nor the long previous integrative history, at the moment it is indeed in strong crisis. In 2019, in fact, under the aegis of Chile and Colombia, the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America, abbreviated as Prosur, was born. The latter, which was born in open competition with the institutions of UNASUR, adopts the cardinal principles of the free market and "liberal democracy". A slogan that even President Bolsonaro has rediscovered.

This rearrangement, however, is not only represented by Prosur, to which Brazil has not yet officially adhered: this arrangement has another face and itis not merely diplomatic. Jair Bolsonaro has, in fact, proposed an unusual and unexpected work hypothesis in the military. In a 2019 interview with STB, the President of Brazil said very clearly that he was interested in providing military bases to the United States of America, in relation to the new Brazilian primacy policy in Latin America and the fact that — apparently — the United States is developing the plan to position itself in more strategic points on the continent. For its part, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated how Brazil and other South American countries should join this alliance.

"Trump and the new Brazilian president went along very well when they first met in Washington, Bolsonaro repeating his offer for a strategic partnership with the US, Trump speaking about the advantages of Brazil joining NATO. […] An association of the country to NATO […] is an intriguing thought — and raises the question what could, or should, be done in this respect with Australia, New Zealand, or Japan."

In addition to having very important implications in the context of international relations, the possibility of extending NATO membership outside European borders, or that of being able to collaborate in providing the availability of one's own national territory, has a clear weight on the South American dimension. In a time of structural crisis of UNASUR, which was supported by more or less solid alliances and renewed military and strategic collaboration projects, an important alternative proposed by Brazil, with the support of the United States, could change the game. Specifically, the case of the European Union must once again be taken as an example. The latter institution owes much of its solidity to participation in NATO, which constituted its military backbone in the absence of a real European army. Moreover, this army never existed due to the absence of a clear political dimension, on the contrary to the level of free trade, that of freedom of movement, and precisely that of participation in NATO.

Jair Bolsonaro's vision in this sense seems more realistic than that of countries that simply want to join in the name of the "free market". If this project was to be continued, it certainly could guarantee the basis for a reformulation of some of the fundamental rules of MERCOSUR, and certainly, generate a change of specific weight of the regional actors within this group. Nonetheless, it is important to understand how Bolsonaro's hypothesis of collaboration with NATO, in whatever capacity it takes place, will certainly give greater weight to his country than to others in Latin America, precisely in the function of the role of geographical pre-eminence that Brazil plays always. This decision, which Bolsonaro consciously embraces in the intention of guaranteeing the primacy of Brazil, is, however, made in the specific perspective of the integrative need. A need which, even if we want to speak in terms of mere national interest, represents immediate outlets for Brazil on the internal markets of the region, the possibility of obtaining supplies favourably on the basis of the principle of comparative advantage, and undisputed recognition of a political primacy. For the United States, on the other hand, all this implies not only securing, in a rapidly changing world, very important assets, but also barricading itself once again behind the Atlantic Sea, and this time also behind the Pacific, in a revival for the 21st century of the Monroe Doctrine.

This epoch is ambivalent for the nation-states: on the one hand, they are largely deprived of their fundamental attributions by ever-increasing masses of power. On the other — if they manage to play their cards well — they are able to take advantage of those great conflicts between powers to obtain benefits that they will be able to maintain for an uncertain period. In this case, however, they exchange some small immediate advantages with longer-term planning, which considers a complete vision of the future and a weighted selection of alliances. This, however, is the case of Brazil, which as a proponent of a federative integration, proceeded to the South-South dialogue. It has tried to take advantage of other regional actors thanks to cooperation with the United States.

In any case, integration remains the future, in view of all the determinants at stake in the present phase of the history of the economy and production structures, as well as society and technical progress. It is only necessary to understand, at this point, which integrative vision — and which political and interest group that supports it — will prevail in Brazil and Latin America.

Xi says China will continue to support Africa in COVID-19 battle, capacity building (Си говорит, что Китай будет продолжать поддерживать Африку в битве COVID-19, наращивая потенциал) / China, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, xi_jinping, cooperation

BEIJING -- China stands ready to continue support for African countries in their battle against the COVID-19 epidemic and help Africa improve its capacity of disease prevention and control, President Xi Jinping said Wednesday in a phone call with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Xi recalled that after the epidemic broke out in China, the South African government and various sections of the South African society conveyed via multiple means their sympathies with and support for China.

"Comradeship plus brotherhood" marks the special friendship between the two countries and the two ruling parties, Xi said.

China firmly supports South Africa's endeavor in COVID-19 fight, Xi said, adding his country will continue to offer help within its capacity to South Africa in line with the latter's needs, share its experience in epidemic prevention and control, and strengthen cooperation in health care, Xi said.

Xi expressed confidence that under the leadership of Ramaphosa, the South African government will achieve positive outcomes from its anti-epidemic measures.

"We encourage Chinese nationals in South Africa to proactively support South Africa's anti-epidemic action and hope that the South African government attaches great importance to and protect their safety, health and legitimate rights and interests," Xi said.

China is willing to enhance political mutual trust with South Africa, understand and support each other on issues concerning the other side's core interests and major concerns, promote bilateral cooperation for more progress, and strengthen cooperation within such frameworks as the BRICS and the G20, Xi said.

Xi stressed that China and South Africa are good brothers who share weal and woe.

The Chinese side has been following the epidemic situation in Africa and provided batches of anti-epidemic assistance for the African Union and all African countries that have diplomatic ties with China, Xi said.

Experts from both sides have held video conferences for several times, and many Chinese enterprises, local and non-governmental organizations have also provided anti-epidemic supplies, Xi added.

Xi said that China stands ready to continue support for African countries, accelerate the building of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, enhance China-Africa cooperation on public health and disease prevention and control, and help Africa improve its capacity in this regard.

Xi called for the international community to uphold the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, strengthen solidarity, coordination and cooperation, and resolutely contain the spread of the epidemic, so as to protect people's safety and health.

China is willing to work with South Africa to implement the outcomes of the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit on COVID-19, promote international cooperation on epidemic prevention and control, and safeguard public health in Africa and around the world.

For his part, Ramaphosa said China has contained the epidemic through decisive and strong measures, which sets an example for other countries and provides valuable reference.

He said he appreciates China's support for South Africa and Africa over the years, especially the precious assistance provided at current difficult time for their fight against COVID-19, which is very important to them and boosts their confidence in beating the epidemic.

Ramaphosa said he stands ready to work with Xi to implement the consensus of the Extraordinary G20 Leaders' Summit and promote global solidarity and cooperation.

South Africa will continue to support China on issues concerning China's core interests, and steadfastly promote the development of relations between South Africa and China as well as relations between Africa and China, he added.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
SA to borrow R19bn from Brics bank to help fight Covid-19 (ЮАР одолжит 19 млрд рэндов у банка БРИКС, чтобы помочь бороться с Covid-19) / South Africa, April, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, covid-19
South Africa

The Treasury says it will take up a $1bn (about R19bn) loan from the New Development Bank (NDB) - formerly known as the Brics Development Bank - to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is expected to borrow another $1bn later this year to help stimulate the economy after the downturn caused by the pandemic and lockdown.

SA would be the second Brics country to tap the emergency assistance programme after China borrowed $1bn in March.

Here is everything you need to know about the loan.
OECD, BRICS Countries must mitigate Covid-19 fallout through targeted measures (ОЭСР и страны БРИКС должны смягчить последствия Covid-19 посредством целенаправленных мер) / India, April, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, covid-19, cooperation

No matter what approach we use to identify the potential impact on global and national economies from the Covid-19 pandemic, the prognoses are not optimistic. According to the OECD, with businesses temporarily shut down and various other containment measures in place, the most adversely affected sectors seem to be travel, retail, restaurants and cinemas, non-essential construction work, and, to a smaller extent, the manufacturing industry. The affected sectors account for between 30-40 percent of total output in most economies. Allowing for only partial shutdowns in some sectors, and assuming a similar extent of closures in all countries, the overall initial direct hit to GDP levels is expected to be between 20-25 percent in many advanced economies. For the BRICS countries, the OECD predicts a potential GDP decline at constant prices of over 20 percent in Brazil and India, 23 percent in Russia, about 19 percent in China, and 17 percent in South Africa as a result of the shutdowns. In China's case, however, the OECD estimates that the peak adverse impact on output has already past, with some shutdown measures now being eased. Nevertheless, such predictions call for all governments to take steps to prevent the most adverse and long-lasting consequences on their economies caused by current global epidemiologic circumstance.

Health systems' response

Arguably, health systems the world over are facing the most severe immediate challenges to contain and mitigate the spread and infection rate of Covid-19. Beyond containment, there is a critical need to provide additional measures, including but not limited to financial and R&D, to ensure proper treatment and efficiently reduce the pressure on healthcare systems.

The OECD has outlined four key measures that should be put into place in response to the pandemic: ensuring that the vulnerable have access to diagnostics and treatment; strengthening and optimising the capacity of health systems; providing the means to leverage digital solutions and data; and aiding improvements in R&D for the accelerated development of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. Countries must mobilise their national "sanitary reserves" to increase the supply of health workers by involving retired health professionals and students in medical and other health programs voluntarily, as has been done in France and Russia.

India has announced an emergency health fund of INR 150 billion (US$ 2 billion) to treat Covid-19 patients and strengthen the medical infrastructure, including rapidly ramping up the number of testing facilities, personal protective equipment, isolation beds, ICU beds and ventilators. Russia has adopted measures to encourage medical professionals by budgeting bonuses for working with infected patients, as well as allowing delivery options for over-the-counter medicines purchased online.

Taxation policies

The Covid-19 pandemic is putting pressure on businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The governments of the OECD and BRICS countries are looking for ways to protect their citizens and economies. It is essential to provide support to households and to improve the cash-flow for businesses. The OECD has prioritised work on a range of targeted and temporary tax policy and tax administration measures that governments could consider as part of their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the measures governments could consider are delaying the payment of taxes and introducing temporary VAT reductions or deferrals.

China has announced VAT exemptions for "lifestyle services," increasing loss carry-forward for severely affected businesses in specific sectors (transport, catering, accommodation, and tourism). Russia has also adopted tax incentives in respond to Covid-19, including a moratorium on SME tax audits; a deferral on the collection of tax payments for taxpayers from air transport, tourism, sports, art, culture, and cinema; a three-month delay in rental fees for SMEs that rent state and municipal premises; businesses can defer payments for all taxes except VAT; and micro-enterprises can delay their contributions to social funds.

SME-specific measures

Covid-19 will have an acute impact on SMEs in the OECD and BRICS countries, especially in comparison to larger companies, given their higher levels of vulnerability and lower resilience to volatility. For instance, reports from China showed that a third of SMEs only had enough cash to cover fixed expenses for a month, with another third running out within two months, putting millions at risk.

Governments must provide special support packages for SMEs, especially those in the services and tourism sectors. Some initiatives across the OECD and BRICS countries aim to provide information to SMEs on how to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Other measures aim to provide flexibility and relief for companies and workers from the reduction of working hours, temporary layoffs and sick leave. Several countries have included financial instruments to reduce the negative impact of the situation. Russia, for instance, has introduced financial instruments, including tax relief, to support SMEs, and will introduce a six-month moratorium on filing creditors' applications for bankruptcy of SMEs, and the collection of debts and fines.

Employment and social policy

The Covid-19 crisis has proved to be challenging, to say the least, for households and firms. Countries are taking emergency measures to achieve two vital goals in employment and social areas: to reduce workers' exposure to the virus in the workplace, and ensuring access to income support for sick and quarantined workers. According to the OECD, to do so, countries must help companies, especially SMEs, to quickly develop teleworking capacities through financial assistance to purchase equipment and by supporting the development of suitable teleworking policies, as Japan has done.

In Brazil, informal workers and the unemployed will receive, over three months, a temporary new benefit of US$ 120 per month (US$ 240 for single mothers), provided they earn less than half the minimum wage and are not covered by other social benefits. Additional spending of 0.04 percent of GDP on the Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer programme is aiming for a rapid reduction in the time required for registration, which could mean up to one million additional beneficiaries. Formal workers with salaries not exceeding two minimum wages and who have suffered cuts in wages or working hours are eligible for other public income support that will compensate around 15% of their average monthly earnings. Meanwhile, the Russian government has proposed compensating quarantined citizens, including freelancers and the self-employed, for lost income, and paying pensions and other public benefits in advance.

World of Work
CBSE to hold BRICS math online competition from April 22 to May 22 (CBSE проведет онлайн-конкурс BRICS по математике с 22 апреля по 22 мая) / India, April, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

With an aim to develop students' logical reasoning skills and cultivate their interest in math, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked the affiliated schools to make students of classes 1 to 12 to participate in the BRICS Math Online Competition to be held from April 22 to May 22.

It will be held for free on the website Students from seven countries–Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam–can take part .

The project will bring together the students from various backgrounds having a passion for math on one platform. The competition will consist of 10 interactive math tasks, designed in a child-friendly game form. The tasks on logical and spatial thinking do not require any prior knowledge of math and will enable the students to think outside the box.

Over 11,431 students from Punjab participated in the competition last year. Of them, 3,365 got winner certificates, 4,329 bagged certificates of appreciation and 3,737 received participation certificates.

Paramjit Kaur, principal of BCM Arya Model Senior Secondary School, Shastri Nagar, said, "Our students had participated in the competition last year and even reached the next level. We will send the details of the competition on students' profile on Monday so that those who are interested can participate."

A Class 8 student, Gurjit Singh, said, "I had participated in the competition last year. The level was tough but I was able to reach the second round. This time, I will practice more to enter the third round."

All students must be registered by their parents or teachers, who will need to select the country, language and class to register themselves on the website and then add the students to the class list. Individual login and password credentials will then be generated for every participant to log into their profiles and solve the tasks.

The competition will be held in two rounds. In the first month, the trial round will be held, and the main round will be held in the next month. As students can take unlimited attempts in the trial round to solve the tasks, it will enable them to practice well for the main round. The results of the trial round will not affect the student's entry into the main round.

However, students will have only one attempt to complete all tasks within 60 minutes in the main round.

BRICS CCI to Donate to PM CARES Fund (ТПП БРИКС пожертвует фонду PM CARES) / India, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, social_issues

The BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry has decided to contribute Rs one lakh to the PM CARES Fund in wake of COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the organisation's Director General Madhukar has said.

The newly elected executive body, headed by Mr Vishwas Tripathi has sanctioned this amount for the donation to the PM CARES fund, Mr Madhukar said.

Mr Madhukar also informed that Rs one lakh will be transferred to the said account at earliest.

The BRICS CCI is a parent organisation which promotes commerce and industry in the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa nations.

This trade organisation has been working to promote trade and commerce among the member countries.

BRICS CCI is credited with creating several platforms by organising various sector specific seminars, delegates meet involving members and stakeholders and members across nations.

Data protection frameworks emerging in the BRICS countries (Механизмы защиты данных, появляющиеся в странах БРИКС) / USA, April, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, digital

The members of the so-called BRICS grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have realized that digital transformation is an essential element for the future of their economies and societies. In this perspective, data protection becomes a key priority to foster thriving digital environments, where individuals enjoy protections and businesses benefit from legal certainty.

Given the remarkable economic and strategic value that personal data has acquired, the regulation of this "new asset class" becomes also an essential factor for the assertion of digital sovereignty. This is even more relevant considering these countries are home to approximately 42% of the global population and almost 40% of existing internet users, thus making the BRICS grouping the largest producer of "the world's most valuable resource."

At the CyberBRICS project, we have started the first initiative to develop comparative and systematized analyses of the digital policies developed by BRICS countries. This post briefly explores some of the results of our mapping exercise, regarding the data protection dimension. While the BRICS frameworks deserve in-depth analysis, this article aims at highlighting the most striking commonalities. The BRICS Data Protection Map developed by the CyberBRICS team may be a useful resource for readers interested in having a more detailed overview.

Increasing convergence Over the past five years, the pressing need to regulate personal data and the growing alignment in BRICS digital priorities have spurred the proposal, adoption and implementation of increasingly compatible data protection frameworks.

The grouping's willingness to cooperate on digital policies, norms and standards has become increasingly clear since the ninth BRICS Summit in 2017. Indeed, the main outcome of the summit, the Xiamen Declaration, explicitly recognized the countries' commitment to "advocate the establishment of internationally applicable rules for security of ICT infrastructure [and] data protection."

The research developed at the CyberBRICS project highlights that all BRICS countries undertook major regulatory developments regarding data protection, in recent years, elaborating on new legislation, updating existing ones or establishing new regulators. These evolutions include:

  • In August 2018, the adoption of a new Brazilian General Data Protection Law and, in August 2019, the approval of a new National Data Protection Authority (although this has not been established yet).
  • In December 2017, the update of the Russian data protection legislation, including data localization provisions.
  • In August 2017, the recognition of privacy as a fundamental right by the Indian Supreme Court and elaboration of a new Data Protection Bill, on which the Indian Parliament is expected to deliberate soon.
  • In June 2017, the introduction of a new right to the protection of personal data in the new General Provisions of the Civil Code, as well as data protection and data localization norms in the Chinese Cybersecurity Law, further specified by the recently updated Personal Information Security Specification.
  • In 2017, the establishment of a data protection regulator in South Africa, created by the 2013 Protection of Personal Information Act, which will be fully implemented in the upcoming months.
In a very condensed timeframe, BRICS has revolutionized data protection in its legal systems. Interestingly, despite the absence of any formal agreement on the substance of their domestic frameworks, several regulatory elements are extraordinarily similar. The main reason for such convergence is likely the common inspiration from existing frameworks, particularly the EU General Data Protection Regulation, as well as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines.

A shared data protection skeleton Based on the findings of the CyberBRICS project, we can identify a non-exhaustive but telling list of policy elements around which BRICS data protection frameworks are converging. A more detailed comparative analysis is possible, using our interactive BRICS Data Protection Map.

  1. Definitions
Due to the relatively recent development of the BRICS data protection framework, BRICS decision-makers have enjoyed the privilege of constructing their norms based on existing best practices.

A patent example is the definition of personal data, which all BRICS — with a slightly different formulation in China — considers as the information related to an identified or identifiable natural person. A very similar approach also underpins the definitions of sensitive data, data subject and data controller.

  1. Data protection principles
The core principles upon which the data protection architecture is erected are also commonly shared. The principles included in BRICS frameworks may be found in virtually all data protection regulations and allow identifying a global principle core that is usually common beyond BRICS, at least regarding the first four principles. The BRICS data protection principles include:

  • Consent.
  • Purpose limitation.
  • Fair and lawful treatment.
  • Necessity.
  • Data minimization.
  • Accountability.
  1. Core rights of the data subjects
BRICS legislators have included a very similar spectrum of rights although with different flavors. All BRICS frameworks embrace provisions establishing the individual rights to:

  • Access to data.
  • Correction of incomplete, inaccurate or outdated data.
  • Elimination of personal data processed with the consent of the data subject.
  • Revocation of consent.
  1. Obligations of controllers
BRICS data protection frameworks also present a very comparable set of obligations for data controllers and processors. Interestingly, while the definition of data controller is virtually the same in the five frameworks, the Chinese specification does not include the role of data processor.

The core obligations for data controllers in the BRICS include:

  • Abiding by data protection principles.
  • Obtaining a free and informed consent to process data.
  • Duly communicating information on the data processing.
  • Ensure the security of all personal data under their responsibility.
  1. International data transfers
Finally, yet importantly, all BRICS countries have considered the essential role of international data transfers for the (digital) economy. All BRICS favor data transfers but only as long as foreign third parties are deemed as providing an acceptable level of protection.

The evaluation of a sufficient level of protection is performed through quite heterogeneous mechanisms, spanning from the adoption of adequacy decisions on foreign legal frameworks, as foreseen in the GDPR, or specific administrative authorizations to transfer data for national service providers, or yet the use of corporate rules or binding agreements admitted by national authorities.

Toward a BRICS data protection dialogue The above-mentioned elements highlight that a shared data protection skeleton is emerging in the BRICS, spontaneously increasing the compatibility of national frameworks.

The reasons why these regulatory (r)evolutions happening in the BRICS may be heterogeneous, and the overall results are very positive.

First, the protection of personal data has finally entered national debates. This, by itself, is a tremendously important advancement in countries where there is near-to-zero data protection culture, but personal data is harvested at an industrial scale.

The rising relevance of data protection is due partly to the global policy tendencies, notably the adoption of the GDPR, as well as the numerous data-related scandals and the realization that data protection is an essential tussle of cybersecurity and digital sovereignty. In this context, the BRICS' willingness to enhance their cooperation and alignment regarding digital policymaking is patent, and the benefits of compatible regulations may be enormous for both users and businesses.

In fact, although in the majority of BRICS countries data protection frameworks still have to be finalized or properly enforced, the introduction of norms, based on which compliance can be planned, is providing greater juridical certainty to any entity processing data while also expanding individual rights.

As many things in BRICS countries, data protection is in an experimental phase, and there is still an ample margin for improvement. Multistakeholder discussions, aimed at providing diverse opinions on what could be done to strengthen BRICS data protection frameworks and how to do so, are vital.

For this reason, we decided to stimulate a BRICS multistakeholder dialogue on data protection, organizing the first BRICS Data Protection Summit, during the Latin American edition of the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection Conference, which will take place at FGV Rio de Janeiro in June 2021.

COVID-19 crisis: BRICS senior health officials to meet via video conference (Кризис COVID-19: высокопоставленные чиновники в области здравоохранения из стран БРИКС встретятся на видео-конференции) / India, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, top_level_meeting

Senior health officials of BRICS countries are all set to meet in next 15 days to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. The meet will happen via video conference and it is a Russia-led initiative given the fact that Russia is the Chair of the BRICS for the year 2020.

More and more multilateral organisations are now meeting via video conference as travel restrictions disable any movement. Last month, SAARC and G20 leaders met via video conference and on Thursday the UNSC will be meeting via video conference.

Both Russia and India, being close strategic partners and members of G20, SCO and BRICS, have been closely coordinating with each other regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken to each other on March 25 and discussed the global crisis.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov held a telephonic conversation to discuss the COVID challenge. According to sources, both sides decided to be in touch for monitoring and facilitating the emergent needs of medicines and equipment on both sides."

During the talks, both appreciated the close bilateral cooperation in ensuring the welfare of each other's citizens in their respective countries. There are about 15,000 Indian students in Russia and about 5,000 Russian tourists in India.
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