Caracas, September 20, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan communist poet, journalist, and ex-guerrilla Olga Luzardo died Monday at age 100.
Born on February 29, 1916 in Paraguaipoa in the western border state of Zulia, Luzardo got her political start organizing the first Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) cells among oil workers, following the death of the long time dictator Juan Vicente Gomez in 1935.
At the same time, Luzardo launched her pioneering career as a journalist, writing her first opinion articles for the Maracaibo-based daily Panorama. In subsequent years, she would go on to write for the newspapers Últimas Noticias and Ahora, in addition to forming part of the founding commission of the PCV’s Tribuna Popular.
In these years, Luzardo also made her name as an up-and-coming poet, publishing Cactus Flower (1942), a collection of poems written between 1935 and 1942, including several written while in prison. She would continue writing poetry her entire life, publishing Fresh Footprints in 1993.
A committed feminist, she was active in the struggle for women’s suffrage, organizing alongside the Feminine Cultural Group.
During the dictatorship of Marco Pérez Jiménez (1952-1958), Luzardo was active in the Union of Venezuelan Women (UMV), participating in the resistance under the pseudonym Jorge. For her role in the struggle, she was imprisoned in the infamous San Carlos Penitentiary in Cojedes state.
Following the advent of Venezuela’s pacted Fourth Republic in 1958, Luzardo joined the guerrilla struggle under the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN).
In 1963, she led the high-profile El Encanto Train Raid that was known informally as “Operation Olga Luzardo”, in which FALN guerrillas attacked a train between El Encanto and Los Teques, provoking increased government repression.
Serving on the PCV’s central committee, Luzardo also headed the party’s Ho Chi Minh Cadre School, in addition to representing the organization in international conferences in the USSR, Cuba, Chile, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
For George Ciccariello-Maher, author of We Created Chávez, the egalitarian social and political gains made by Venezuela over the past seventeen years would be impossible without the struggle of the ex-guerrilla and countless other revolutionaries.
“A member of the armed underground, Luzardo suffered repression and imprisonment fighting two dictatorships and a corrupt, two-party democracy, and without her efforts and those of thousands like her, Venezuela would not be what it is today,” he told Venezuelanalysis.
Earlier this year, Luzardo was awarded the Order of the Liberators Medal First Class by President Nicolas Maduro in recognition of her lifelong contributions.
Following the news of her death, Olga Luzardo was honored across Venezuela at the highest levels.
“Honor and glory for Olga Luzardo, heroine of the working class, example of a woman committed to socialism and the motherland,” declared Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro via his official Twitter account on Monday.
“Honor and glory to Olga Luzardo. One who lived for the people fighting does not die, she will be a living thought in the consciousness of the workers,” tweeted congressman and former vice-president Elias Jaua.
“Olga Luzardo departed for eternity with 100 years of life and tireless revolutionary combat. Honor and glory,” stated longtime journalist and ex-communications minister Ernesto Villegas.