Philippine Activists Hear Cuban Youth

By Aaron Ruby and Marnie Kennedy, The Militant, Vol.59 no.26, 3 July 1995

MANILA, Philippines—Cuban youth leader Alejandro Herrera Agete addressed dozens of workers and students here during a seven-day tour. Three Philippine groups—SANLAKAS, the League of Filipino Students (LFS), and Amistad, a solidarity group with the Cuban revolution—invited the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of Cuba leader.

Herrera spoke to 50 students and teachers at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila at a public meeting during the first leg of his tour hosted by Kamalayan, a youth group associated with SANLAKAS. I don't think that capitalism has been reestablished in the former Soviet Union, Herrera stated in response to a professor's question. There is not a defined bourgeois layer in power, which is symptomatic of capitalist society.

The youth leader answered questions on the U.S. embargo against Cuba, why thousands of Cubans left the island last summer, and how it is possible that Cuba survives after the collapse of the Soviet Union. I think to challenge the West and build a socialist system is not to be on the defensive, Herrera said. He also spoke to students at the University of the Philippines.

Herrera met with labor and women's rights activists and addressed a meeting of leaders of organizations of the urban poor. A number of meetings and discussions were trilingual, in English, Spanish, and Tagalog, the main language of the Philippines.

The young Cuban visited Tambakan—a trash dump in Pasig City, Manila, where 193 families, illegally squatting, make a living sorting trash for P25 a day (25 Philippine pesos = US$1). Gregorio Boyel Corre, the elected leader of the camp, said they occupied the land starting in 1975. Almost all had been farmers who had their land stolen or foreclosed for debts and were forced to move to Manila to make a living. Many came from other islands in the Philippines. We are fighting to legalize our status here, Corre said. The owner wants them to buy the land for P4,000 per square meter. They are fighting threats of demolition by the government. If we can reach our objective by legal struggle and protest we will. If not we are open to other methods, like a revolution like they made in Nicaragua, stated Mario Ulbata, also a leader at the camp.

There were a number of questions about the 35,000 people who left Cuba in August 1994. It would be an error to think all those who left are enemies of the revolution, Herrera said. The main thing that weighs on them is the economic situation. When a country is confronted by such a sharp crisis, for some people this creates a situation they can't stand.