As of June 30, Peru is reporting 282,365 confirmed coronavirus infections and 9,504 Covid-19 deaths, placing it in the pandemic’s global top ten and second behind only Brazil in Latin America. This number includes at least twenty journalists who have died covering the contagion. Although President Martín Vizcarra initially earned praise for ordering social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses (in sharp contrast to neighboring Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro), the reality is that decades of neoliberal assault has left Peruvians vulnerable. As Peruvian doctor Elma Huerta told The Guardian, “Despite having Latin America’s lowest debt-to-GDP ratio before the pandemic began, Peru has long had one of the region’s lowest levels of public investment in education and healthcare, which has fatally undermined its ability to respond to the pandemic.”
In the midst of the disaster, right-wing forces have attempted to scape goat social movements and the left. Among these targets has been Hugo Blanco. Alborada describes Blanco’s work and life in a recent interview:
Hugo Blanco’s long life has been committed to revolutionary struggle. Now 84, he became politicised at just ten years old, after learning of indigenous struggles in his native Peru. He became a student leader and joined the Trotskyist Revolutionary Workers Party at the age of 24. He mobilised campesino and indigenous uprisings against the repressive state and national bourgeoisie, which brought him under scrutiny from security forces. Establishing solidarity and practical links between workers and indigenous movements, he founded a peasant trade union with thousands of previously non-unionised members. After entering armed struggle, in 1961 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, sparking a major international campaign for his release.
In 1971, Hugo Blanco was deported to Chile, then under the government of socialist president Salvador Allende. During the 1973 military coup d’état that overthrew Allende, he sought refuge in the Swedish embassy and was smuggled out of Chile. He then returned to Peru in 1978 to stand as a presidential candidate for the recently-founded Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1980 election. He came fourth and entered the Peruvian senate, where he remained until threats forced him into exile, this time in Mexico, in 1992.
Hugo Blanco still lives in Mexico today, where he works closely with indigenous and rural movements based in revolutionary socialist and ecological principles. A new biography, Hugo Blanco: A Revolutionary Life by Derek Wall, charts his lifetime of resistance to capitalism and environmental destruction.
Intellectuals, social activists and public officials in Europe and Latin America have expressed their support for Hugo Blanco in the face of attacks by the extreme right in Peru. In less than 48 hours, more than two thousand people have signed a Manifesto in support of one of the historical leaders of the peasant, indigenous and environmental movement in Peru and Latin America, the legendary left-wing political activist Hugo Blanco, who has been vilified, defamed and reviled by sectors of the far right in the Peruvian army, police force, press and politicians.
Among the signatories are the renowned and prestigious Argentine anthropologist and feminist, Rita Segato, the technical secretary of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Wampis People, Shapiom Noningo, MEP Miguel Urbán, Uruguayan intellectual Raúl Zibechi, Alberto Acosta, President of the 2007 Ecuador Constituent Assembly; Bo Lindblom, ex-president of the Swedish section of Amnesty International, the current Mayor of Cádiz, José María González Santos, the Asháninca leader, Ketty Marcelo López, and the full Council of the Maya People (Guatemala).
Other signatories included the intellectual, Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Portugal), Maristella Svampa (Argentina), Edgardo Lander (Venezuela), Joan Martinez-Alier (Catalonia, Spain), Alberto Chirif (Peru), Jaime Pastor, political scientist and editor of Viento Sur (Spain), Peruvian congress members Rocío Silva Santisteban, Mirtha Vásquez, Lenin Checco Chauca, former congress members Indira Huilca, María Elena Foronda, Marisa Glave, Rodrigo Arce and Marco Arana, Spanish deputies Gerardo Pisarello and Maria Dantas, deputy Mireia Vehi of the CUP, the former deputies of the Madrid Assembly, Raúl Camargo, Carmen San José and David Llorente from Castilla La Mancha among others, as well as journalist Pepe Mejía, economist and ecosocialist Manuel Garí, Swiss economist Charles-André Udry and writer and UAM lecturer Jorge Riechman.
The manifesto responds to a statement issued by the Association of General Officers and Admirals of Peru (ADOGEN-PERU), an association aligned with the Fujimori coup that dissolved Congress on 5 April 1992. When many high-ranking officers from the Peruvian Armed Forces were accused of corruption, the aforementioned ADOGEN did not issue any condemnation. It also spoke out against the final Report of the Truth Commission where the involvement of the military in the violation of human rights, disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions is verified. Later, when the involvement of high-ranking military officers with drug trafficking was denounced, information endorsed by the United States embassy in Lima, ADOGEN did not issue any press release.
The ADOGEN statement, signed by its president, the Brigadier General, Raúl O’Connor, says: “We express our total indignation and rejection of the documentary sponsored and broadcast by the Ministry of Culture, in which the figure of the guerrilla Hugo Blanco, an individual who murdered and tortured members of the Peruvian National Police and Peruvian peasants, in a clear uprising against the Nation and the rule of law, blatantly violating the Constitution and the laws of the Republic …”
Later, several politicians located on the Peruvian far right, such as Ántero Flores-Aráoz and Javier Villa Stein, expressed their rejection of the documentary and the legendary peasant leader Hugo Blanco. Another far rightist, Luis Giampietri, also condemned “in a categorical way the publication of the propaganda: ‘Hugo Blanco Río Profundo’, a film that under the mask of a documentary apologizes for terrorism and praises the murderous and criminal terrorist Hugo Blanco, who executed and murdered in cold blood courageous members of the police who were fulfilling their constitutional work. ”
Luis Alejandro Giampietri Rojas, as vice-admiral and specialist in naval intelligence, demolitions and special operations, participated, on 18 June 1986, in the deaths of more than 300 prisoners. On the island of Fronton, off the coast of Callao, the Blue Pavilion, where the inmates had taken cover, was shot down. Many were crushed to death by the collapse of the building’s heavy walls, but many others were killed by bullets fired by the Marine Corps. In 2006 Giampietri occupied the first vice-presidency with the social democrat Alan García.
In addition to retired military and politicians, far-right journalists have spread defamation against the former senator, deputy and member of the 1979 Constituent Assembly, Hugo Blanco Galdós, in relation to the documentary “Hubo Blanco: Río Profundo”, directed by Malena Martínez. The documentary, which has won international awards, shows in its official trailer a few words from the Cusco-based leader, where he remarks that “I am completely against terrorism, I believe that people must be convinced with words … now, when a people decides to arm itself to defend itself, it is self-defence.”
The first two thousand signatories in support of Hugo Blanco maintain that: “The undersigned, citizens of Latin America and other continents, repudiate the accusation that, fifty-seven years after the events that raised up the impoverished peasants of the Valle de La Convention and Lares, intends to criminalize and discredit the politician, former deputy, former senator and longstanding activist for the rights of nature. Today, at 86 years old, Hugo Blanco Galdós is considered one of the pioneering leaders of the struggles of agrarian reform, and against the extractivism that pierces the entrails of our territories. ”
“Hugo is an example for his tireless commitment to justice and to the people, be it in Pucallpa, Cajamarca, La Convencion, or Cauca. Also because he is one of the few left-wing leaders who today has been able to take a significant turn, without losing his convictions, towards another struggle: for the environment. Blanco summarizes it relentlessly: before he fought for socialism, today it is about the fight for the survival of the species.”
[For international news and analysis in translation, read No Borders News.]