Trinidad and Tobago

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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago (trĭnˈĭdăd, təbāˈgō), officially Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, republic (2015 est. pop. 1,222,000), 1,980 sq mi (5,129 sq km), West Indies. The capital is Port of Spain.

Land and People

The country consists of two main islands, Trinidad (1,864 sq mi/4,828 sq km) and Tobago (116 sq mi/300 sq km), and their small neighboring islands. Lying just north of the Orinoco River delta in Venezuela, Trinidad is largely flat or undulating except for a range of low mountains (the highest point is Mt. Aripo, 3,085 ft/940 m) in the north. Pitch Lake, in the southwest, is the world's largest (114 acres/46 hectares) basin of natural asphalt. Tobago, just NE of Trinidad, is the exposed top of a mountain ridge (maximum height 2,000 ft/610 m) that is densely forested with large reserves of hardwoods. The climate of both islands is warm and humid, and rainfall (from June to Dec.) is abundant, particularly where the trade winds sweep in over the eastern coasts. The population is mainly of South Asian or African descent (40% each), with a mixed-race minority. English is the official language, but Hindi, French, Spanish, and Chinese are also spoken. There are many religious groups, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Christian churches, Hindus and Muslims.


The most important exports are petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals, steel products, and fertilizer. Trinidad possesses sizable oil and gas reserves, and its prosperity is linked directly to the production of petroleum and petrochemicals. A peaking of petroleum production in the late 1970s and the decline in worldwide petroleum prices in the 1980s caused economic problems. However, increased exploitation of the country's natural gas reserves since the 1990s, as well as rising prices for oil, petrochemicals, and liquefied natural gas, have caused an economic boom. The islands also have a significant tourist industry. Agriculture employs a smaller proportion of the population than industry and services; agricultural products include cocoa, rice, coffee, citrus fruit, and flowers. The main trading partners are the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil.


Trinidad and Tobago is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1976. It has a bicameral Parliament made up of a 31-seat appointed Senate and a 36-seat elected House of Representatives; all members serve five-year terms. The government is headed by a prime minister. The head of state is the president, who is elected by the members of Parliament for a five-year term. Aministratively, the country is divided into 9 regional corporations, 2 city corporations, 3 borough corporations, and 1 ward (Tobago).


Trinidad was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1498 but was not colonized because of the lack of precious metals. It was raided by the Dutch (1640) and the French (1677, 1690) and by British sailors. Britain captured it in 1797 and received formal title in 1802. Tobago had been settled by the English in 1616, but the settlers were driven out by the indigenous Caribs. The island was held by the Dutch and the French before being acquired by the British in 1803. The islands were joined politically in 1888.

Before becoming an independent nation in 1962, the islands were part of the short-lived West Indies Federation (1958–62). In 1976 Trinidad and Tobago became a republic. In 1986 the People's National Movement (PNM), which had held power for three decades, was soundly defeated by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR); party leader A. N. R. Robinson became prime minister. He survived a 1990 coup attempt by Muslim extremists, but discontent with Robinson's economic austerity program helped return the PNM to power in 1991, under Prime Minister Patrick Manning. After the 1995 elections, Basdeo Panday, of the United National Congress (UNC), formed a coalition with the NAR and became Trinidad's first prime minister of Asian Indian descent. He and the UNC were returned to power in the 2000 elections, but corruption charges and a party split led to elections in 2001. When the UNC and PNM each won half the seats in the parliament, the president appointed Patrick Manning as prime minister, but the split control of parliament resulted in a deadlock that prevented that body from convening. New elections in 2002, however, resulted in a majority for the PNM.

In 2005, opposition leader Panday and his wife were arrested on corruption charges in connection with an airport development project; UNC officials denounced the charges as politically motivated. Panday was convicted in 2006, of failing to disclose a British bank account he held with his wife. The judge in the case subsequently accused the chief justice of attempting to influence his decision, but the charges against the chief justice were dropped (2007) when the judge refused to testify; impeachment proceedings were also brought against the chief justice, who was cleared later in the year. Panday's conviction was overturned (2007) on appeal on the grounds that the judge's actions were indicative of bias.

Manning and the PNM remained in power following the 2007 parliamentary elections. When Manning called snap elections for May, 2010, the PNM was defeated by the People's Partnership coalition, which benefited from corruption scandals involving the PNM. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who had succeeded Panday as UNC leader, became prime minister; she was the first woman to hold the post. Beginning in Aug., 2011, the government imposed several months of emergency rule in an attempt to halt a surge in violent crime connnected with the drug trade. In Sept., 2015, the PNM, now led by Keith Rowley, regained power after parliamentary elections, and they remained in power after the Aug., 2020, elections.


See G. Carmichael, The History of the West Indian Islands of Trinidad and Tobago, 1498–1900 (1961); J. K. Black et al., Area Handbook for Trinidad and Tobago (1976); S. B. MacDonald, Trinidad and Tobago: Democracy and Development in the Caribbean (1986).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Trinidad and Tobago


(Republic of Trinidad and Tobago), a state in the West Indies, consisting of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and five small neighboring islands, all of which are located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of South America. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Area, 5,100 sq km. Population, 1,162,000 (1975). The capital is Port-of-Spain, which is located on Trinidad. Administratively, Trinidad and Tobago is divided into 12 counties, including three cities that have the status of counties. It has been a republic since August 1976.

(For natural features, see and .)

Population. The population consists of three main groups: Negroes (43 percent), East Indians (40 percent), and those of mixed origin, mainly mulattoes (14 percent). There are also Europeans, Chinese, and other peoples. Most of the people are Christians (Catholics, Anglicans, and others), but the Indians are primarily Hindus. The official language is English, and the Gregorian calendar is used.

The average annual population increase for the period 1970–73 was 1.2 percent. The economically active population numbers 383,000, of whom 14.5 percent are employed in agriculture (1973). The average population density is 228 per sq km, and 54 percent of the population is urban (1975). The main cities are Port-of-Spain (population in 1974, 270,000, including suburbs), San Fernando, and Arima.

History. The islands of Trinidad and Tobago were discovered by Columbus in 1498. Spanish colonization, which began in the 16th century, quickly led to the near-extermination of the native population, with the result that the colonists imported African slaves. Great Britain seized Trinidad in 1797 and officially annexed the island in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens. The English colonists expanded the sugar plantations and increased the importation of slaves to work them.

From the late 16th century to the early 19th, the island of Tobago was an object of contention among the English, Spanish, Dutch, and French. In 1814 it became a permanent colony of Great Britain, and in 1899 it was placed under the administrative jurisdiction of Trinidad. After the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1834, the former Negro slaves left the plantations and settled on free lands that they had taken over; some of them moved to the cities. Until World War I, indentured workers from India were imported to replace the slaves; China, Portugal, and other countries also provided workers. When their contracts expired, the Indians usually remained and took up agriculture, business, or handicrafts. They were responsible for the introduction of the planting of rice on Trinidad. Even today the sugar plantations are worked mainly by Indians.

In 1866, oil was discovered in southwestern Trinidad; this gradually changed the structure of the economy, eventually giving rise to an industrial proletariat. The first workers’ organizations appeared in 1890, and a strike movement began in 1902. The Great October Socialist Revolution was echoed in disturbances in the army of Trinidad and Tobago in 1918 and strikes in the ports and on the plantations in 1919, in which former soldiers took an active part. In many instances the Negro and Indian workers acted in concert. The Labor Party was established in 1919; it was influential in the 1920’s and existed until 1933. After the general strike of 1937, which was suppressed by troops, trade unions were allowed to organize and the first labor legislation was enacted.

The rise of a national liberation movement during and after World War II (1939–45) enabled the people of Trinidad to gain universal suffrage in 1946. Subsequent struggle in the form of oil field strikes (1947) and other actions forced Great Britain to grant the people of both islands a constitution and the right to form a government (1950). The People’s National Movement (PNM), which appeared in 1956, demanded independence for the islands. The PNM won the first general elections, which were held in December 1961; in 1962, its convention passed a resolution demanding independence for Trinidad and Tobago. From 1958 to 1962 the islands were part of the Federation of the West Indies, which Great Britain had created in the hope of delaying independence for its Caribbean possessions. On Aug. 31, 1962, Trinidad and Tobago became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations, and in September it was admitted to the UN. In March 1967 it was admitted to the Organization of American States.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, social conflicts became more intense; in 1973,15 percent of the economically active population was unemployed. The people protested the hard economic and social conditions and the arbitrariness of the foreign monopolies with large-scale sugar plantation strikes in 1967 and a general strike in the spring of 1975. States of emergency were declared several times in 1970–71. The PNM survived a split in 1970 and went on to win again in the 1971 elections. In 1973, Trinidad and Tobago, along with other English-speaking countries in the West Indies, formed the Caribbean Common Market and Caribbean Community. Trinidad and Tobago established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1972 and with the Soviet Union in 1974. In the 1970’s the government of Trinidad and Tobago took steps to curtail foreign influence on the country’s economy by nationalizing the facilities of Dutch-and-English-controlled Shell Trinidad Ltd. in 1974 and the petroleum products retail network of US-controlled Texaco in 1975.

Trinidad and Tobago has been a republic since Aug. 1,1976. It promotes international cooperation based on the principle of peaceful coexistence, conducts an active anticolonial policy, and welcomes steps toward disarmament and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.


Political parties and trade unions. The ruling People’s National Movement, founded in 1956, includes mainly the Negro petite and middle bourgeoisie, part of the Negro intelligentsia, and a small percentage of the workers. The Democratic Labor Party, which is the main opposition party, was founded in 1956. It includes mainly the Indian middle and upper bourgeoisie and some workers. The Liberal Party was formed in 1965 after a split in the Democratic Labor Party.

The Trinidad and Tobago Labor Congress, founded in 1966 as a result of a merger of the Trinidad and Tobago National Trades Union Council (established 1957) and the National Federation of Labor, had 60,000 members in 1977; it belongs to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

Economy. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the more economically developed countries of the Caribbean area. The basis of the economy is the extraction and refining of petroleum and natural gas; together with the asphalt industry, these branches provided more than one-fifth of the 1975 gross national product. Fourfifths of the petroleum production (10 million tons in 1975) and almost all of the refining are carried out on the island of Trinidad, mainly at Pointe-à-Pierre and Point Fortin; the facilities are run by US companies and by the Trinidad and Tobago Oil Company. The facilities of Shell Trinidad, a Dutch-English company, were nationalized in 1974. Output of petroleum products was more than 17 million tons in 1974. In addition to local petroleum, Trinidad and Tobago’s refineries also process petroleum from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and several countries of the Near and Middle East (14 million tons in 1972). The Pitch Lake asphalt deposits produce about 175,000 tons a year. In 1975, natural gas production was 1.5 billion cu m. Production of electric power, mainly from steam power plants, was 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours.

Other branches of industry include the production of chemicals, textiles, and cement (241,000 tons in 1975). Sugar refining dominates the food processing industry (164,000 tons of raw sugar in 1975). The petroleum and sugar industries, air transportation, and banking are partially government-owned.

Large-scale landownership predominates in Trinidad and Tobago’s agriculture. About 72 percent of the peasant farms have allotments of less than 4 hectares (ha) each. About 25 percent of the land is cultivated, and about 45 percent is forested. The main commercial crop is sugarcane, with 38,000 ha producing 1.9 million tons in 1974; two-thirds of the harvest is produced by large plantations. Other crops include cacao (1974 harvest, 4,000 tons), coffee (1,800 tons), rice (12,000 tons), tobacco, bananas (5,000 tons), citrus fruits, and coconuts. Livestock raising is poorly developed. In 1974 there were 71,000 head of cattle, 54,000 hogs, and 6 million domestic fowl. The country has 175 km of railroads, managed by the state, and 6,700 km of roads (1972), of which 4,800 km are hard-surfaced. The main seaports are Pointe-à-Pierre (freight turnover, 28.2 million tons in 1972), Point Fortin (4.2 million tons), Tembladora (3.4 million tons), Chaguaramas (2.8 million tons), Brighton (2 million tons), and Port-of-Spain (1.6 million tons). There is an international airport near Port-of-Spain.

In 1974, exports were TT$4,158 million, and imports were TT$3,776 million. The deficit is partially offset by revenue from tourism, which was TT$48 million in 1973; 170,000 tourists visited the country in 1975. The main exports are as follows (figures in parentheses are percentages of total 1973 export value): petroleum (20), petroleum products (66), raw sugar (3), mineral fertilizers (3), rum, bananas, and oranges. Imports (figures in parentheses are percentages of total 1973 import value) include crude oil (51), machinery and transportation equipment (11), and meat and dairy products (3). Trinidad and Tobago’s main foreign trade partners are the USA (24 percent of exports and 12 percent of imports in 1975), Great Britain (23 and 22 percent), countries of the West Indies (12 and 3 percent), Saudi Arabia (24 percent of imports), and Venezuela (19 percent of imports.)

The monetary unit is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar; TT$1 = US$0.50.

Medicine and public health. In 1974, the birthrate was 26.5 per thousand population, and the death rate was 6.7 per thousand. Infant mortality was 26.2 per thousand live births. Infectious and parasitic diseases, particularly gastrointestinal and venereal diseases and leprosy, are widespread. Noninfectious diseases include cardiovascular ailments and diabetes mellitus. Trinidad and Tobago has 444 doctors, or one for every 2,600 inhabitants (1975); there are 62 dentists, 289 pharmacists, and 5,300 secondary medical personnel (1971). In 1972 there were 28 hospitals, with a total of 4,800 beds, or 4.6 beds per thousand inhabitants; 95.6 percent of the beds were in state-run hospitals. Health expenditures account for 9.1 percent of the national budget (1975).

Education. The 1970 literacy rate was 95 percent. The educational system is structured as follows. Education is compulsory for children from the ages of 6 to 12. The ten-year elementary school is free. The eight-year secondary school is open to those who have completed the first six grades of elementary school; it is divided into two levels, of six and two years, respectively. Instruction is in English. In addition to the approximately 600 government schools, there are about 300 private schools. In the 1970–71 school year, elementary school enrollment was about 234,000, and in the 1969–70 school year, secondary school enrollment was 50,200.

Vocational and technical training lasts one to four years and builds on the ten-year elementary school; enrollment in the 1969–70 school year was 2,700. Elementary school teachers are trained at teachers colleges, which accept graduates of incomplete secondary school.

The Trinidad branch of the University of the West Indies is located in Port-of-Spain; in the 1975–76 school year, enrollment was 2,200. San Fernando has a polytechnic institute. The country also has a technological institute and the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry. The largest libraries are the Central Library of Trinidad and Tobago, with more than 447,000 volumes; the university library, with more than 110,000 volumes; and the Trinidad Public Library (founded 1851), with more than 68,000 volumes. The National Museum and Art Gallery is located in Port-of-Spain.


Press, radio, and television. In 1977, Trinidad and Tobago had more than ten periodicals, with a total circulation of about 250,000. The most influential newspapers published in Port-of-Spain are the daily Trinidad Guardian (circulation, 56,000; founded 1917), the Evening News (circulation, more than 34,000; founded 1936), the Trinidad and Tobago Express (circulation, 53,000; founded 1967), the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette (the official government weekly; circulation, 2,700; founded 1882), The Nation (weekly organ of the PNM; circulation, 12,000; founded 1956), and the New Statesman (weekly organ of the Democratic Labor Party; circulation, 2,000). Radio broadcasting began in 1947, and a national radio service was established in 1957. Television broadcasting began in 1962.

Literature. The literature of Trinidad and Tobago is in English. Its appearance was associated with the rise of the national liberation movement after World War II. The absence of conditions promoting a national culture and the aftereffects of colonization compelled many writers to emigrate; however, they did not sever their creative ties to their homeland. R. de Boissiere has published works about the life and struggle of workers in the 1930’s and 1940’s, including Crown Jewel (1952) and Rum and Coca Cola (1956). S. Selvon (born 1923) is the author of the novels An Island Is a World (1955), The Housing Lark (1965), and The Plains ofCaroni (1970), which deal with the modern West Indies. The novels The Mystic Masseur (1957) and The Suffrage of Elvira (1958) by the outstanding prose writer V. S. Naipaul (born 1932) satirize West Indian life, whereas his novels A House for Mr. Biswas (1961) and Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion (1967) add a tragic note, and The Mimic Men (1967) contains biting sarcasm. Since the end of the 1960’s, Naipaul has devoted himself mainly to the sketch, the short story, and historical journalism, with such works as The Loss of El Dorado (1969) and The Overcrowded Barracoon (1973).

The novelists who came on the literary scene in the 1960’s have clearly been drawn to social problems and the lives of workers. Works by such authors include The Games Were Coming (1963), The Year in San Fernando (1965), and Green Days by the River (1967), by M. Anthony; While Gods Are Falling (1965) and The Schoolmaster (1969) by E. Lovelace (born 1935); and The Obeah Man (1964) by I Khan. C. Sealy, E. Carr, and C. Hope have written novellas.

Calypso songs, which are folk songs with themes from daily life, enjoy great popularity. The most outstanding professional poets are H. Telemaque (born 1911), J. Roach (born 1915), and D. Walcott (born 1930), who is also a playwright.


Architecture and art. Pottery, textiles, and ornaments of the Arawak Indians have been preserved in Trinidad and Tobago. Monuments from the colonial period were destroyed in fires. Low wooden buildings predominate in Port-of-Spain and San Fernando; each building has a gallery decorated with wood carving encircling the second story. Public buildings, private homes, and churches were built mainly in the early 19th century (in the classical style) and after the mid–19th century. There are few buildings rendered in the modern style. In the second half of the 19th century, J. M. Cazabon painted watercolor scenes of Trinidad. Twentieth-century folk life is depicted by the painters M. P. Alladin, J. Farrel, and C. Chang and by the sculptor K. Morris. In folk art, the traditional carnival costumes are noteworthy.


Williams, E. E. History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. Port-of-Spain, 1962.
Wood, D. Trinidad in Transition. London, 1968.
Vremia plameneiushchikh derev’ev [with introductory article by E. L. Gal’perina]. Moscow, 1961.
Gal’perina, E. “Buri i shtili Karibskogo moria.” Voprosy literatury, 1963, no. 10.
Karibskie rasskazy. Moscow, 1968.
Sovremennaia vest-indskaia novella. Moscow, 1973.
“Sobre una novela trinitaria: Momentos de poesia lírica trinitaria.” Islas, 1970, no. 3.
King, L., and M. Thorpe. “Literature in Trinidad and Tobago in the Sixties.” Inter-American Review of Bibliography, vol. 21, no. 2 (April-June 1971), pp. 161–81.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Trinidad and Tobago

Official name: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Capital city: Port-of-Spain

Internet country code: .tt

Flag description: Red with a white-edged black diagonal band from the upper hoist side to the lower fly side

National anthem: “Forged from the love of liberty” (first line) by Patrick S. Castagne

National birds: Scarlet Ibis (Tantalus Ruber) and Cocrico (Rufus Tailed Guan)

National flower: Chaconia, called “Wild Poinsettia” or “Pride of Trinidad and Tobago” (of the family Rubianceae)

National motto: “Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve”

National watchwords: Discipline, Production, Tolerance

Geographical description: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Venezuela

Total area: 1,980 sq. mi. (5,128 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; rainy season (June to December)

Nationality: noun: Trinidadian(s), Tobagonian(s); adjective: Trinidadian, Tobagonian

Population: 1,056,608 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Indian (South Asian) 40%, African 37.5%, mixed 20.5%, European 0.6%, Chinese 0.3%, other or unspecified 1.1%, unspecified 0.8%

Languages spoken: English (official), Caribbean Hindus­tani (a dialect of Hindi), French, Spanish, Chinese

Religions: Roman Catholic 26%, Hindu 22.5%, Anglican 7.8%, Baptist 7.2%, Pentecostal 6.8%, Muslim 5.8%, Sev­enth-Day Adventist 4%, other Christian 5.8%, other 10.8%, unspecified 1.4%, none 1.9%

Legal Holidays:

Boxing DayDec 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Emancipation DayAug 1
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayAug 31
Indian Arrival DayMay 30
Labour DayJun 19
New Year's DayJan 1
Republic DaySep 24
Spiritual Baptist Liberation Shouter DayMar 30
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Trinidad and Tobago

an independent republic in the Caribbean, occupying the two southernmost islands of the Lesser Antilles: became a British colony in 1888 and gained independence in 1962; became a republic in 1976; a member of the Commonwealth. Official language: English. Religion: Christian majority, with a large Hindu minority. Currency: Trinidad and Tobago dollar. Capital: Port of Spain. Pop.: 1 307 000 (2004 est.). Area: 5128 sq. km (1980 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Trinidad and Tobago does not have a significant offshore banking sector.
The conclusions from the factual findings were that the Minister conducts much of the financial, fiscal and administrative functions of Trinidad and Tobago and the Ministry; that the Minister is responsible for holding and administering Trinidad and Tobago's property; and that the Minister is appointed by the President in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission has now authorised the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange to delist the company's shares from its official list.
Government provides technical assistance to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago through a number of existing agreements.
Author Farrell (the Institute of Banking and Finance of Trinidad and Tobago) analyzes the outcomes of economic and development policies in the oil-rich Caribbean island state of Trinidad and Tobago over the past 50 years (from 1958 to 2008), seeking to understand why the country has not had the expected success in crucial areas such as education, healthcare, and standard of living.
Mr Nicholas said: "The City of Liverpool and the government of Trinidad and Tobago share much in common with regard to our mutual emphasis on new business development.
The National Eye Survey of Trinidad and Tobago (NESTT) will see Anglia Ruskin staff working in partnership with the University of West Indies to complete the study over a two-year period, with the initial phase focusing on a population survey investigating eye disease involving 7,000 subjects chosen at random.
Trinidad and Tobago is highly dependent on the energy sector, which contributes close to 40 per cent of GDP, 40 per cent of revenues and is the largest source of foreign direct investment.
Reflecting on her visit, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago said she was touched by the warm response given to her in India.
The Project Ignite evaluation: Tribes in Trinidad and Tobago and Shuga in Kenya and Zambia.
George Maxwell Richards of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the anniversary of his country's National Day.
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