On the death of Hugo Blanco, historic Peruvian revolutionary and peasant leader

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Following is a statement by the Partido Socialismo y Libertad (PSL) of Argentina on the death of Peruvian revolutionary and peasant leader Hugo Blanco. Together with the Freedom Socialist Party, the PSL is one of the members of the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment.

He had beaten death several times. In peasant struggles, his life was spared in 1963 because his captors did not agree to kill him. In 2003 Hugo Blanco suffered a stroke from which he was able to recover, although it left sequels in his body. On Sunday, June 25, at the age of 88, he died in Sweden, where his children had managed to transfer him for a highly complex and expensive medical treatment, for which they asked for solidarity support. This time the disease won.

He was the undisputed leader of the Peruvian agrarian revolution, which had its center in La Convención, unleashed in the 1960s.

Born on November 15, 1934 in the southern Andean region of Cusco, he used to say that, when he was very young, he saw how a landowner marked his initials on a farmer with the hot iron that he used to brand his cattle with, which aroused in him feelings of solidarity and rebellion. His father was a peasant defense lawyer, which allowed him, from an early age, to know their miseries and learn the Quechua language, through contact with old peasant and indigenous leaders who visited his father.

In 1954, at the age of 20, he came to La Plata, Argentina, to study Agronomy. There he joined the organization led by Nahuel Moreno, known by the name of his newspaper “Palabra Obrera” (Peasant Word), from whose historical current our organization derives.

Hugo Blanco and other Peruvian colleagues left the university and went to work in factories in the area. Hugo did it in Berisso’s Swift cold factory. When the dictatorship fell in Peru, he and other comrades returned, already with the idea of strengthening the construction of the revolutionary party in Peru. For this reason he joined to the Peruvian POR on this return.

Blanco joined the Departmental Federation of Workers of Cusco as a delegate of the Single Union of Newspaper Sellers. He then joined the Chaupimayo Farmers Union, part of the Provincial Federation of Farmers of the Convention and Lares, as a farmer.

After the creation of the peasant union organization, he became the great leader of the agrarian uprising that broke out in 1961, which had its center in the Province of La Convención.

The cry of Ota allpa otac huañuy! (land or death) would travel through the valleys in the mouths of tens of thousands of peasants. Upon arriving in Cuzco, Blanco found only six organized unions. When his campaign ends, one hundred and forty-eight remain standing.

The peasants organize into self-defense brigades to complain to the landowners for the alleged abuses committed. The government responded to this process with repression throughout the area. Faced with the repressive escalation, several unions chose to defend themselves and appointed Blanco to organize and lead an armed self-defense.

Despite the repression, the struggle of the peasant masses forced the military to consider the demand for agrarian reform under the government of General Velasco Alvarado. Hugo was captured, tried and, although the death penalty was requested, he was sentenced to 25 years, of which he spent seven in prison. Velasco offered him to work for “his” agrarian reform, he refused and proposed an agrarian reform that would have popular consultation, which was dismissed by the general… Finally he is amnestied but deported to Mexico.

He was elected to the leadership of the Federation of peasants during all the years that he was imprisoned. When he was persecuted, in every peasant house in La Convención there was an extra bed: it was the bed for Hugo Blanco.

After his exile in Mexico he traveled to Argentina, where the military government imprisoned him and expelled him to Chile. There, under the government of Salvador Allende, Blanco collaborated in the organization of the “Industrial Cordons”. Following Augusto Pinochet’s coup, he was rescued by the Swedish ambassador, who helped him obtain political asylum in that country.

In 1978 he was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly by the Workers, Peasants, Students and Popular Front (FOCEP), whose mission was to elaborate a new General Charter to replace the 1933 Constitution.

After that, from 1980 to 1985 he was a deputy for the Partido Revolucionario de los Trabajadores (PRT) and in 1990 he managed to be elected senator for the United Left, but his term was interrupted in 1992 after the self-coup by former president Fujimori.

Hugo Blanco, although he had moved away from Trotskyism in his last years, continued the fight against imperialism and capitalism, now from an indigenous vision, always defending the interests of the exploited and oppressed.

On more than one occasion, Peruvian authorities accused him of being a terrorist. They were right. He sowed terror among the owners of the land and the people. The man who led the peasant struggle in Peru, the organizer of the rural unions, the one who promoted an agrarian reform born from below and fought from below.

Hugo Blanco, until socialism!

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