Latin America sows a great soul, who defended the rights of the peasantry, indigenous peoples and Mother Earth, founded the National Agrarian Confederation (CNA) and made the long-awaited Agrarian Reform in Peru a reality.
(Bagnonet, June 26, 2023) La Vía Campesina recognizes the enormous political, social and humanist legacy of our comrade Hugo Blanco, a Peruvian and internationalist, who died yesterday in Sweden. His militancy and commitment marked the organization of peasant farmers for agrarian reform in the 20th century, not only in Peru, but also throughout Latin America.
Hugo participated in the fight for the first agrarian reform in Peru, organizing peasants and indigenous people in the early 1960s in the semi-tropical zone of the department of Cusco, more specifically in the province called La Convención and in the district of Lares to the south of the country, where coffee, tea and cocoa are grown. He denounced the exploitation and slave labor experienced by the peasantry, who were forced to work free in days of up to more than 12 hours a day, including women and children.
He was sentenced by the Peruvian justice to the death penalty, which he managed to avoid due to a strong international campaign of solidarity, but he spent nearly 7 years in prison and had to live several years in exile as well. “When I entered the room to be judged, and saw my comrades after three years in prison, I yelled: Earth or Death! That was our slogan. They responded: We will win!” He commented in an interview conducted in 2018, and added, “some said that it was Hugo Blanco’s agrarian reform, but it was not Hugo Blanco’s agrarian reform, because when it happened I was already in prison, it was the peasantry in struggle as a whole that conquered the land.”
Throughout his militancy, Hugo understood that the struggle and the need for the organization was even broader, not only against the latifundio, but against neoliberalism, capitalism and transnationals. So he became a tireless defender and staunch critic of extractivism and the depredation of Mother Earth. He accompanied marches, walks, crossed and toured the entire country defending the rights and dignity of the peoples of the countryside and cities.
“In the past, the struggle was to have land, work and farm. Now that neoliberalism acts and fiercely attacks nature, our fight has changed to the defense of mother earth, of pacha mama, that is the fundamental fight of now. Before I fought to socialize the land, today I have to fight for the maintenance of the human species” he commented.
For La Vía Campesina, Hugo Blanco is today a native seed, with an enormous potential for life, which inspired and will continue to inspire many generations in Peru and in the world. His legacy and commitment will endure in the struggle, in the organization and in the collective memory, because ideas do not die, like seeds multiply, grow and bear fruit.
“There are men that fight one day and are good. There are others that fight for a year and are better. Some fight for many years and are very good. But there are those who fight all their lives: those are the essentials» Bertolt Brecht