Timeline of the South American Wars of Liberation

A brief timeline for a South American Wars of Liberation.

Note, I have followed Fletcher (2005) in using the following terms for the protagonists:

  • Royalist = Those supporting Spanish Rule.
  • Patriots = Those advocating independence. Also called Republican or Liberal.

10 May 1808: King Ferdinand Abdicates

Napoleon forces King Ferdinand VII of Spain to abdicate (Gate, 1986).

25 May 1809: Royalist Junta Declare for Ferdinand

A junta in Chuquisaca Audiencia in Upper Peru declared for Ferdinand (Hooker, 1991). La Paz and Quito followed suit.

Jul 1809: First Patriot Junta Appears

In July 1809, at La Paz in Upper Peru, the first Patriot junta called for self rule (Fletcher, 2005). Other Patriot juntas also began to declare against Spain (Hooker, 1991):

  • Rio de la Plata: Buenos Aires in Argentina (25 May 1810), Asunción in Paraguay (24 Jul 1810), Montevideo in Uruguay.
  • Gran Colombia : Caracas (19 Apr 1810) in Venezuela, Bogota in Nueva Granada, (20 Jul 1810) Cartagena in Columbia
  • Chile: Santiago (18 Sep 1810).

1810-11: First Campaign of Upper Peru

In response to the declaration in La Paz, Jos Fernando Abascal y Sousa, the Viceroy of Peru, sent troops into Upper Peru to restore Royalist control (Fletcher, 2005). Brigadier General Jose Manuel de Goyeneche led the force from Peru and retook La Paz, while Brigadier General Vincente Nieto led the force from Rio de la Plata and retook Potosi. The Royalists drove the Patriots into the mountains. Then Radicals took control of Buenos Aires in May 1810 and on 9 Jul 1810 despatched the “Peruvian Auxiliary Army” (latter Northern Army) under General Antonio Gonzalez Balcarce to challenge the Royalists in Upper Peru. 1,500 men left Buenos Aires but the army grew to 5,000 through recruitment on the march. Among the volunteers was a group of gauchos lead by Martín Miguel de Güemes (Wikipedia: Battle of Suipacha). The Royalists won the Action at Cotagaita (27 Oct 1810) and lost the Battle of Suipacha (7 Nov 1810), allowing the Patriots to capture Potosi, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, La Paz (Apr 1811), and Oruro (Harvey, 2000); the Patriots also captured the two Royalist generals, Cordoba and Nieto. The remaining Royalists in the area retreated to the border of Peru under General Goyeneche. After a two month truce the reinforced Royalists defeated the Patriots at the Battle of Huaqui (20 Jun 1811) and forced them south. The Royalist won again at Sipé Sipé (13 Aug 1811). Brigadier General Domingo Pio Tristán pursued the shattered Patriots into northwest of present-day Argentina, whilst Goyeneche consolidated the Royalist position in Upper Peru. The Argentine General Pueyrredón secured an armistice, allowing the Northern Army to retreat across the Bolivian plateaux, via Jujuy and Tucuman, to the relative safety of Salta in the lowlands (Harvey, 2000).

27 Oct 1810: Action at Cotagaita

The first action in of the First Campaign in Upper Peru was near the town of Santiago de Cotagaita, about 560 km south of La Paz and 385 km north of San Salvador de Jujuy (Fletcher, 2005; Marley, 1998; Wikipedia: Battle of Cotagaita). The Royalist force at Cotagaita, under General José de Córdoba y Rojas1, was isolated from Royalist forces further north after the pronouncement of Cochabamba (14 Sep) and Oruro (24 Sep) in favour of the Junta in Buenos Aires. The Northern Army of the United Provinces approached under General Antonio González Balcarce. The Patriot vanguard attacked the Royalist positions in the early hours of the morning of 27 Oct 1810. The Royalists put up a stubborn resistance. About 2 pm, having failed to dislodge the Royalists from their trenches, Balcarce ordered a retreat. The Royalists rested for a few days then followed. The Patriots withdrew towards Tupiza, then to the southern bank of the River Suipacha where they awaited reinforcements (Wikipedia: Battle of Suipacha).

Order of Battle at Action at Cotagaita

from Wikipedia: Battle of Cotagaita and Marley (1998)

  • Royalists (General José de Córdoba y Rojas1)
    • Provincial battalion of Potosí (Indalecio González de Socasa)
    • Puno battalion
    • Veterans of Borbón
    • King’s Volunteers
    • Dragoons of Chichas
    • Lancers of Cinti
    • 2,000 men in total
  • Patriots (General Antonio González Balcarce)
    • First battalion (Gregorio Perdiel)
    • Sixth battalion (Carlos Forest)
    • Cazadore battalion (Manuel Dorrego)
    • Blandengues battalion2 (Abraham González)
    • Husars Regiment3 (Martín Miguel de Güemes)
    • 1,500 men in total


(1) Marley (1998) gives José de Córdoba y Rojas the rank of “General” whereas Wikipedia: Battle of Cotagaita describes him as a “Frigate Captain”. He might have been both.

(2) Despite the fact Wikipedia: Battle of Cotagaita calls this unit the “Blandengues battalion” I believe they were cavalry. The Blandengues de Buenos Aires where cavalry and had 100 men in the Northern Army at Cotagaita and Suipacha. On 3 November, along with some hussars and dragoons, they were organised into the Dragones Ligeros de la Patria (or Perú). Which ties in with the fact I already knew that Dragones de la Patria the fought at Suipacha (Painting Guide for the South American Wars of Liberation).

(3) Wikipedia: Battle of Cotagaita calls this a “Husars regiment” but, Martín Miguel de Güemes, they might just be Gauchos, perhaps the Infernals.

[I’m confused about the total Patriot strength in Upper Peru in Sep/Nov 1810. My sources give slightly conflicting information:

  • Fletcher (2005) says the Northern Army that left Buenos Aires had 1,500 men but swelled to 5,000 through recruitment on the march.
  • Marley (1998) says the Northern Army had 1,500 men at Cotagaita but, following their defeat, only 600 men and two guns at Suipacha
  • Wikipedia: Battle of Suipacha says that Balcarce had 600 men and 10 guns when he reached Upper Peru. It is possible that the Wikipedia is giving the number of men present in the first action, i.e. in the Patriot vanguard.

I can’t quite reconcile these figures. ]

7 Nov 1810: Battle of Suipacha

In only 30 minutes the Patriot Northern Army repulsed a reinforced Royalist army on the southern bank of the River Suipacha (Fletcher, 2005; Wikipedia: Battle of Suipacha). The Royalist vanguard attacked with 800 men. The vanguard was driven back when the Republicans counter-attacked on the Royalist left flank. The Patriots then attacked the Royalist camp and forced a general withdrawal. The victorious Northern Army captured General Cordoba and pursued northward to the river Desaguadero, capturing Nieto at Potosi. The Royalist leaders were executed. The remaining Royalists in the area retreated to the border of Peru under General Goyeneche.

1810-1811: Paraguay Campaign

A small Argentine army under Manuel Belgrano invaded the Intendency of Paraguay (18 Dec 1810) (Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence). The Argentine’s defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Campichuelo (??), but then lost at the Battle of Paraguarí (19 Jan 1811) and Battle of Tacuarí (9 Mar 1811). Despite the Patriot’s failure in this campaign, Paraguay subsequently broke with Spain and became independent.

18 Dec 1810

On 18 Dec 1810 an Argentine force landed at the Paraná River port of Encarnación (Scheina, 2003). General Belgrano had 950 men, half of them poorly equipped recruits. The Argentine’s defeated Velasco’s vanguard at Battle of Campichuelo (??) and Belgrano decided not to wait for reinforcements from Misiones (400 militia and two cannon).

19 Jan 1811: Battle of Paraguarí

At the about 100 km from Asunción, 2,000 Paraguayans defeated Belgrano’s Argentines. Belgrano lost 14 dead, 126 prisoners, and two guns, but the Paraguayans lost 70 dead and wounded.

2 Mar 1811: Battle of San Nicolás

12 Royalist Ships under defeated the small Argentine navy under Juan Bautista Azopardo after a bitter fight (Scheina, 2003). The Argentines had only three armed merchantmen: the 25 de Mayo (18 guns), Americana (3 guns), and Invincible (12 guns). 600 reinforcements for Belgrano were aboard.

9 Mar 1811: Battle of Tacuarí

Some 1,400 Paraguayans under Col Manuel Anastacio Cabaas defeated Belgrano’s Argentine Army at the River Tacuarí (Scheina, 2003). Belgrano had 550 infantry, 400 cavalry, and 50 gunners with six guns. The Paraguayans captured General Jose Machain, 150 men and three guns, but allow Belgrano and the rest to slip across the river.

20 Jun 1811: Battle of Huaqui

After receiving large reinforcements from Peru the Royalist army under General Goyeneche shattered the Argentine Northern army at Huaqui, on the River Desaguadero, next to Lake Titicaca (Fletcher, 2005; Harvey, 2000). Only 800 Patriots reached Potosi.

13 Aug 1811: Battle of Sipé Sipé

The Royalists under General Goyeneche defeated the Argentine Northern Army at Sipé Sipé near Cochabamba in Upper Peru (Fletcher, 2005). Balcarce had 9,00 men. Brigadier General Domingo Pio Tristán pursued the shattered Patriots south into northwest of present-day Argentina, whilst Goyeneche consolidated the Royalist position in Upper Peru.

1812-13: Second Campaign of Upper Peru

Brigadier General Pío Tristán led 3,000 Royalist south from Upper Peru into northwest of present-day Argentina (Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence; Wikipedia: Jujuy Exodus). Manuel Belgrano, the new commander of the Argentine Northern Army, had only 1,500 men in arms so used scorched-earth tactics to hinder the invaders. Belgrano evacuated the inhabitants of the city of San Salvador de Jujuy and the surrounding area and burnt everything left behind; “The Jujuy Exodus” occurred 23-29 Aug 1812. The Patriot’s repulsed the Royalist vanguard at Las Piedras River (3 Sep 1812), then defeated the Royalist army at the Battle of Tucuman (24 Sep 1812). Triston withdrew to Salta, while Belgrano remained at Tucuman to train his army. On 12 Jan 1813 Belgran headed north to win the Battle of Salta (20 Feb 1813). Belgrano captured the bulk of the royalist army although he then released Tristán and his men (a gentlemanly mistake). Belgrano headed north where Brigadier General Goyeneche was in the process of resigning. Brigadier General Joaquin Pezuela arrived from Lima with reinforcements and took command of the Royalist army at Oruro. Belgrano dawdled at Potosi and allowed Pezuela some months to prepare. The Royalists defeated the Northern Army at the Battle of Vilcapugio (1 Oct 1813) and the Battle of Ayohuma (14 Nov 1813) in Upper Peru. Belgrano retreated to Jujuy.

During this period José de San Martín arrived in Buenos Aires (Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence). The Junta recognised his rank of Lieutenant Colonel and instructed him to form his later famous cavalry unit, the Granaderos a Caballo. The men were recruited from the gauchos of the pampas and the officers from the best families in Buenos Aires (Harvey, 2000).

3 Sep 1812: Action at Las Piedras River

24 Sep 1812: Battle of Tucuman

3 Feb 1813: Action at San Lorenzo

On 31 Jan 1813 a Spanish fleet of 11 ships under General José Zavala departed from Montevideo and headed up the Parana river (Harvey, 2000; Wikipedia: Battle of San Lorenzo; Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence). San Martín, ordered to stop raids on the west bank of the river, decided to intervene. Dressed as a gaucho in white hat and poncho he took 120 men of his newly formed Granaderos a Caballo along the bank in the wake of the Spanish. San Martin passed Rosario (about 240 km from Buenos Aires) and on 3 Feb 1813 reached San Lorenzo in the Santa Fe province. At 0500 hours, from the tower of the Franciscan “San Carlos” monastery, San Martin saw the Spanish landing 250-300 men and at least two cannon. San Martin immediately attacked and despite enemy covering fire from the ships, his Granaderos had defeated the Spanish within 30 minutes. The Royalists lost 40 dead, 14 captured, at least 12 wounded, and two cannon. The Argentines lost 14 or 15 dead and 27 wounded. As a consequence San Martín was promoted to General. [Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence says the Spanish force was a company, but this might be used in the general sense of a group.]

20 Feb 1813: Battle of Salta

The reorganised Argentine Northern Army under General Belgrano defeated the Royalists under Brigadier General Pío Tristán at Salta (Fletcher, 2005). The Patriots approached Salta on 19 Feb 1813, and enveloped the Royalists, destroying them on 20 Feb. The Patriots captured nearly 3,000 men, including Tristán. Belgrano paroled most of the Royalist then advanced on La Paz.

[Marley (1998) has a map of the Battle of Salta.]

1 Oct 1813: Battle of Vilcapugio

Royalists under Joaquin de la Pezuela defeated Patriot Army of the North under General Manuel Belgrano on the prairie of Vilcapugio (Wikipedia: Battle of Vilcapugio). Vilcapugio is a plateau surrounded by tall mountains to the north of Potosí in Alto Peru. The government in Buenos Aires had three field forces: the Army of the North under Belgrano himself, and two other groups under Colonel Baltasar Cárdenas and Colonel Cornelio Zelaya. The Colonels were under instructions to rally the local population to the Patriot cause. Colonel Zelya was based in Cochabamba. Colonel Cárdenas had managed to raise 2,000 poorly trained men. Belgrano was facing Pezuela, but was suffering from malaria and had had to incorporate new recruits into his veteran army. The Royalists under Pezuela and Major Saturnino Castro were encamped at Condo-Condo between Belgrano and the Colonels, so Belgrano tried a pincer movement. Belgrano arrived on the prairie of Vilcapugio at the end of September 1813. Pezuela intercepted despatches between Cárdenas and Belgrano, seized the initiative, and attacked the Army of the North on 1 Oct 1813. The Patriot left and centre drove the Royalists back to Virrey de Lima. The Patriot right flank was, however, defeated by the attackers. When the Royalist cavalry arrived the remaining Patriots fled in panic. Eustaquio Dìaz Vèlez rallied the surviving Patriots at Potosí. Belgrano established his headquarters at Macha (Wikipedia: Battle of Ayohuma)

14 Nov 1813: Battle of Ayohuma

Royalists under Joaquin de la Pezuela defeated Patriot Army of the North under General Manuel Belgrano at the prairie of Ayohuma (Wikipedia: Battle of Ayohuma). After his loss at the Battle of Vilcapugio Belgrano established his headquarters at Macha and began to reorganise his forces. By the end of October 1813 he had 3,400 men in arms, including 1,000 veterans. Pezuela was still at Condo-Condo. The Royalists were short of horses and supplies but Pezuela decided to attack the Patriots before more enemy reinforcements arrived. The Royalists marched out of Condo-Condo on 29 Oct 1813 reaching Toquirí, a hill dominating the prairie of Ayohuma, on 12 Nov. The majority of the Patriot officers wanted to withdraw to Potosí, but Belgrano convinced them to fight and the army marched to Ayohuma. The Patriots had a two-to-one superiority in cavalry, but the Royalists had the same superiority in infantry, plus 18 heavy artillery pieces to Belgrano’s eight lighter pieces. The Royalists advanced at dawn on 14 Nov 1813, deployed on the Patriot’s right whilst the latter were in Mass, and attacked. Out manoeuvred and facing superior fire power the Patriots retreated. The Patriots lost 200 dead, 200 injured, 500 prisoners and almost all his artillery. Belgrano extracted 500 men from the debacle and retreated to Potosi but had to abandon the city as the Royalists approached. Belgrano then retreated to Tucumán.

[Marley (1998) has a map of the Battle of Ayohuma. Marley also has the battle on 13 Nov 1813.]

30 Jan 1814

Belgrano resigned command of the Northern Army to General San Martin (Wikipedia: Battle of Ayohuma).

14-17 May 1814: Argentine Navy defeats Spanish

The Argentine navy was formed on 1 Mar 1814 under Chief Commander William Brown (Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence). Brown’s tiny fleet engaged and defeated the Spanish off the coast of Montevideo between 14-17 May. This earnt William Brown the rank of Admiral.

Oct 1814: Battle of Rancagua

Bloody royalist victory at Rancagua (Fletcher, 2005). Many Chilean patriots fled to Argentina and specifically Mendoza where San Martin was building up his forces.

1813-14: The ‘Admirable’ Campaign

1815: Third Campaign of Upper Peru

1815-16: The Gaucho War


San Martin recruiting, training and equipping his forces at Mendoza (Fletcher, 2005).

1817-18: Chilean Campaign

See my 1817-18 Chilean Project

9 Jan 1817

San Martin’s “Army of the Andes” left Mendoza for Andean passes and Chile (Fletcher, 2005; Marley, 1998). Small detachments of patriots crossed at six Andean passes to obscure where the main army was crossing. San Martin and the main force crossed on the Los Patos and Uspallata Passes and descended into the Putaendo Valley. They defeated unwary Royalist outposts at Salala, Copiapó and Vega del Campeo (Chile). Once over the mountains the patriot army reunited at San Felipe.

11 Feb 1817

The Royalists began to concentrate their forces at Santiago and sent Brigadier General Maroto to slow up San Martin’s advance. On 11 Feb 1817 Maroto was taking up positions blocking the road through the hills just north of Chacabuco when the Patriot advance guard approached.

12 Feb 1817: Battle of Chacabuco

San Martin defeated the royalists under Brigadier General Maroto near Chacabuco (Fletcher, 2005).

At 0200 hours the Patriots advanced from Manantiales in two divisions. O’Higgins’s division was to feint on the left as Soler circled to the right to outflank the defenders. But O’Higgins charged without waiting for Soler. Soler’s arrival routed the Royalists.

As a consequence of their defeat the royalists abandoned Santiago and retreated to Talcahuano where they entrenched (Fletcher, 2005). The Patriots marched into Santiago and O’Higgins was declared the Supreme Director of Chile. The combined Argentine and Chilean forces under San Martin were renamed the United Liberation Army.

[Both Fletcher (2005) and Marley (1998) have maps of the Battle of Chacabuco.]


After hearing about the Battle of Chacabuco the 1,600 royalists in Valparaiso fled to Peru in four ships (Manly, 2008). The Peruvian viceroy, however, turned them away at Callao and sent them to Talcahuano (Chile).

3 Mar 1817

Colonel Juan Gregorio Las Heras led 1,300 patriots out of Santiago headed for the royalists at Talcahuano (Fletcher, 2005). Manly (2008) says this as an “Argentine” army, in contrast to the 800 Chileans that O’Higgins led south soon afterwards.

1 May 1817 

Colonel Ordonez’s royalist garrison at Talcahuano received 1,600 reinforcements – the men who had fled from Valparaiso to Peru but been turned away at Callao by the Peruvian viceroy (Manly, 2008).

5 May 1817: Battle of Gavilan 

Ordonez attempted to defeat Las Heras’s 1,300 patriots before O’Higgins could join with his Chilean forces (Manly, 2008). After leaving Talcaluano the royalists headed for the rebel redoubt on Gavilan Hill (northwest of Concepcion) in two columns. Colonel Morgado had 600 men and two field pieces on the Penco road whereas Ordonez approached from Chepe with 800 and three guns.

Nine royalist gun-boats opened fire on the insurgents within Conception at 0645 hours (Manly, 2008). Ordonez arrived at the insurgent lines first and immediately assaulted Las Heras’s left flank. Ordonez’s column was decimated storming the rebel lines. Morgado arrived an hour and a half later and launched his own attack but with no more success. When the advance guard of O’Higgins army arrived on the field, two Chilean companies, the royalists abandoned the assault and retreated behind the Talchuano trenches. They royalists lost 118 killed, 80 wounded, four guns, and 200 muskets. Patriot casualties were six dead and 62 injured. O’Higgins arrived by nightfall and assumed command over the siege operations, which were to last seven months (Fletcher, 2005).

15 May – 11 Jul 1817

From 15 May to 11 Jul 1817 the Argentine Lt. Col. Ramon Freyre, with 300 men from the insurgent siege works at Concepcion, conducted a sweep south of the Bio Bio River (Manly, 2008). He to captured isolated royalist posts thus preventing supplies from reaching the royalist garrison within Talcahuano.

12 Sep 1817 

To divert O’Higgin’s attention from the siege of nearby Talcahuano, a royalist force attacked the coastal post of Aruco and its 150-man garrison (Manly, 2008).

7 Dec 1817: Assault on Talcahuano

After seven months of siege O’Higgins tried to assault the royalist fortifications at Talcahuano (Fletcher, 2005). The assault failed and, with poor weather and rumours ,,,

16 Mar 1818: Battle of Cancha Rayada

On 16 Mar 1818, at the Surprise of Cancha Rayada (Second Battle of Cancha Rayada), a Royalist sortie inflicted a massive defeat on Patriots under San Martin (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada).

Earlier in March 1818 the Royalist Brigadier Mariano Osorio concentrated five thousand men in a fortified position at Talca (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). General José de San Martín assembled the Army of the Andes, around seven thousand men, about about 7 km away on the Cancha Rayada plains. Given the imbalance of forces Osorio was content to sit in his fortifications, however, Colonel José Ordóñez convinced the general to let him lead a surprise attack at night.

The Royalists attacked at 1930 hours on 16 Mar 1818 as the Patriots were in the process of redeploying to counter just such a move (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). Unfortunately the redeployment was not complete.

The attack landed on General O’Higgin’s Vanguard Division (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). The surprised troops quickly fled under enemy fire and the division dispersed. O’Higgin’s horse was shot dead and he was wounded in one arm.

San Martín initially ordered his army to hold their position but when he saw the Patriot force disintegrating he ordered a retreat (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada).

Colonel Hilarión de la Quintana’s reserve had assembled on it’s new position before the attack and now found itself fending off the Royalists (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). Unfortunately they were without their commander as, after the redeployment, Quintana had gone to headquarters for new orders. Colonel Juan Gregorio de Las Heras took command of the reserve and commanded it during the retreat, while trying to recover as much artillery and weapons as possible. The fleeing Patriots were closely followed by the Royalist.

The Patriot loss caused panic in Santiago (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). The public believed both San Martin and O’Higgins dead and an exodus began until San Martin calmed fears.

The battle was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for the Royalists (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). The Patriots lost 150 men killed, 200 men captured, several hundred deserters, all of its artillery, and considerable amounts of horses, mules and weapons. The Royalists lost 200 men killed, 300 captured, and 600 deserters; in total they lost more than half the 2,000 men involved in the attack. But by 21 Mar San Martin has assembled about 3,500 Patriots in San Fernando and this number grew quickly to 4,000.

5 Apr 1818: Battle of Maipo

1817-21: Bolivar’s Campaigns

1820-23: San Martin’s Campaign in Peru

1822-25: Brazilian War of Independence


Fletcher, J. (2005). Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Fletcher, J. (2006). Liberators! Supplement 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Gates, D. (1986). The Spanish Ulcer: A history of the Peninsular War. London: Guild Publishing.

Harvey, R. (2000). Liberators: South America’s Savage Wars of Freedom 1810-30. London: Robinson.

Hooker, T. (1991). The Armies of Bolivar and San Martin [Men-at-Arms 232]. Osprey.

Ian Fletcher: Bolivar’s British Legion

Luqui Lagleyze, J. M., and Manzano Lahoz, A. (1998). «Los Realistas» (1810-1826): Virreinatos del Perú y del Rio de la Plata, y Capitanía General de Chile [Hombres en Uniforme No 5]. Quiron Ediciones. [Spanish]

Marley, D. (1998). Wars of the Americas: a chronology of armed conflict in the New World, 1492-1997 [2nd ed.].

Miller, J. (1829). Memoirs of General Miller: In the Service of the Republic of Peru [2 volumes]. [Available on-line at google books]

Wikipedia: South American Wars of Independence

Wikipedia: Argentine War of Independence

Wikipedia: Battle of Ayohuma

Wikipedia: Blandengues de Buenos Aires

Wikipedia: Battle of Cotagaita

Wikipedia: Battle of Chacabuco

Wikipedia: Battle of Suipacha

Wikipedia: Battle of Vilcapugio

Wikipedia: Jujuy Exodus

Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada

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