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Laura Rodríguez, Humanist Deputy, exemplified a new way of doing politics in Chile characterized by a direct relationship with the people, by its coherence and ethical style in politics, by its capacity for teamwork and pluralism. She stood out for her fight for the rights of discriminated groups, especially women, HIV patients and carriers, young people and the elderly, and for her direct and uncompromising style in giving her opinion.
The enterprising, struggling, courageous woman who inspires these lines, led us and leads us to walk for the sense of justice for all, where the human being is the centre of our projects, not only of life, but also of integrating us to be part of this society where we all have space to say Here we are to work together for a better world. Not only do we want to express our nostalgia because Laura Rodriguez R. is no longer with us, but rather, we want to say that each one of us carries her within as the inspiration for her fruitful work as we are participants in our country from now on. Our life project is based on its essential postulate which is to work together for those who need us most, without violence, with justice and equity; to fight for the discriminated, the dispossessed, in short, to be the voice of all those who have no voice.
On April 1, 1957, on the eve of a revolution called “the Revolution of the bean” (it will perhaps be the reason why Laura decided to be a fighter for the causes of the weakest), Laura Fiora Rodríguez Riccomini, daughter of Livia María Riccomini Cianelli and Edgardo Luis Rodríguez Paolinelli, arrived in the world at the San Juan de Dios Hospital.
She attended primary and secondary school at the Scuola Italiana; soon she became very well known for her leadership qualities and for her direct way of acting.
Since she was a girl, she wrote poetry and at the age of 9 she won the prize for poetry with her “Natale a Roma”, she participated in student literary contests, she was very creative and skillful with her hands.
She began to study Architecture with the maximum score and soon realized that it was not what she wanted and decided to enter Industrial Civil Engineering where she would receive in 1983 with maximum qualifications.
On May 19, 1978, she married Dario Ergas Benmayor who was the companion of all her life and who initiated her first in the ideas of the Humanist Movement and then in the Humanist party.
While still a university student, she participated and became president of the social and cultural organisation of the Community for Human Development, from where she promoted work in different regions and communes of the country, promoting grassroots organisation around the methodology of active nonviolence.
In 1983, her son Simón was born, who was a much awaited and desired child and to whom she dedicated the best moments of her life.
In 1984, she promoted the foundation of the Humanist Party, where she held different positions from grassroots activist, until she was 32 years old to be president of the Party, having merged the Humanist Party with the Green Party, to give rise to the Green Humanist Alliance, she continued to serve as its president, being the only woman in Chile who headed a political conglomerate.
In 1985, a mammogram revealed a tumor and she underwent surgery in Boston. This operation was without a doubt something tremendous for Laura from the physical and moral point of view and exerted a great change in her, developing a great force that would later be the motor that would impel her to be the great woman she was… “When I am able to desire immortality both to my family and those I do not know, I will have reconciled myself” or “the problem is not overcoming cancer but overcoming death” she used to say….
As soon as she felt recovered, she continued with her political work; the Humanist Party took shape, the awareness of the importance of women as protagonists of Chilean politics was born and Laura began to intervene more and more in national events, each day more with new projects, each day more determined to change what she thought was unfair…At one point the idea of launching her as a presidential candidate came up. Her name was proposed to the presidential pre-candidacy within the scope of the agreement of parties for democracy which makes her the first woman pre-candidate to the presidency of Chile.
She was responsible for coordinating and implementing the legalisation activities of the Humanist Party, whose action was a political reference that later allowed the formation of a network of proxies that defended the triumph of the “No” [against Pinochet] on October 5, 1988.
Laura was elected vice-president of the international Humanist in Florence; her great contribution to the conquest of democracy in Chile was internationally recognised.
At the end of 1989, there were elections and her door-to-door campaign with an ant’s work, like all humanist campaigns, culminated with the election of Laura Rodriguez as Deputy [to the National Assembly] for the district of Peñalolen and la Reina.
Since March 1990, Laura was a member of parliament, carrying out both legislative and grassroots activities, referring mainly to the area of women, the family, and discriminated minorities.
She was President of the Health Commission; as such, she fought alongside the workers and professionals, working together with the government to reach an agreement on the bill for the improvement of this sector; she proposed several legal modifications referring to reproductive rights, which protect maternity in its different aspects, as well as modifications to the Isapres law, so that they cover different situations that today are unprotected, especially in the case of the elderly.
An indefatigable worker, with her sights set on the defense of the dispossessed and discriminated against, she studied in depth the needs of the people and sponsored a great number of projects; unfortunately most of them, even after 10 years sleep in some office and momentarily wake up when someone becomes aware that something should be done about it.
AIDS was also a topic of concern. She worked together with various institutions to disseminate and study legislative proposals to help face such a difficult situation.
She presented to Parliament a law of political responsibility, seeking to establish the obligation of the elected representatives to fulfill the promises made to the people during the electoral campaign.
Other initiatives taken to Parliament respond to needs raised by social organisations, such as the bill prepared for domestic workers in private homes, the request for a bill that would allow the state to buy land in the Quinquen Valley, the investigation of prison problems, the filiation project that sought to end the hateful discrimination that existed between legitimate, illegitimate and natural children, and so on.
One of the projects in which she made the greatest commitment was to promote a divorce law, which was drafted with the participation of various women’s organisations, students, unions and academics, which was presented to the Chamber of Deputies in May 1991, seeking to provide a legal solution to many marital separations that exist in our country and that, today in the absence of a legal formula that regulates the conflict, leaves numerous families without protection.
As a parliamentarian, she stood out for her work on women’s rights, the environment and for a new way of doing politics characterized by a direct relationship with people. Consistent with district 24 (Peñalolen and la Reina), it was one of close and permanent communication, collecting suggestions and initiatives from the organised social base to take them to Congress and responding to its voters periodically through massive assemblies where she gave a public account of its management.
Words from Diputado Señor Andrés Aylwin at The launch of her book “The Heights Virus” ( “Virus de Altura”), Valparaíso, November 9, 1993
“As a parliamentarian she was not reached by the heights virus because her commitment to life and to human beings led her to express herself clearly and openly against all injustice, regardless of the angry reactions she might provoke in the circles of power.
“Laura Rodriguez continues to teach us that it is better and more just to fight for peace and the dignity of men from the place of the humble and marginalized. That is her message, her permanent message that we claim, with her joy of living and fighting! That is what makes his ephemeral passage through this Chamber of Deputies eternal”.
On December 18, 1991, Laura had to be operated again; this time an invasive tumor was detected in her brain she took the news bravely, always instilling courage to those around her and with the desire to take advantage of her last days fighting against her illness, against the injustices she saw around her, fighting for the district that had chosen her.
She said: “What happens is that there are beliefs that have loaded the theme of death as drama. But I have realized that life is not in the body, I don’t know where it is. When I die, my limbs will die. My left side is paralyzed and I’m still me. And if my body stopped working, why couldn’t it still be me? And so began her struggle that would last until the end of her days with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, rehabilitation at the Hospital del Trabajador where she encouraged people and encouraged them to continue working for their recovery.
In the month of May she wanted to go to the opening of the Congress and read a speech that she had prepared, but it was impossible for her to do so and she had to return to Santiago. She realized that it would no longer be possible for her to move and so she decided to continue her work from her home, receiving her people, attending to the Pehuenche, giving courage and the desire to work to her loved ones because at that moment there was a municipal campaign going on.
Her husband Dario, always at her side, gave her the strength to continue, to fight, to continue living with her son Simon, who accompanied her, helped her, and she pampered him, waited for him on his return from school, he lay down next to her and talked for a long time while she was able to do so.
She died on July 18 at 7.05 p.m. at the age of 35.
Words of Dario Ergas on the day of her funeral:
“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
“Human beings are not isolated, we are not islands in the immense ocean. When we look at the sea we see an island, another island, but beneath it there is a great mountain chain that unites them all.
Today I want to talk to the Lala who is in each one of us here: Lala, you was entrusted with a mission, unique on the planet. You had to become a social leader, to become the voice of the people. You had to face the people and turn your back on Parliament. I want to tell you today: It was brilliant, brilliant! It was very good!”