HAVANA, Oct. 19, 2004 -- -- A multitude of unlikely volunteers is working the phones for Sen. John Kerry in the swing state of Florida. His campaign is unaware of the support, as the volunteers do not live in the United States, but in Communist-run Cuba.
Cubans, angered by a recent Bush administration measure restricting visits home by Cuban-Americans, say they are lobbying relatives hard to vote against the president just two weeks before Election Day. Early voting has already begun in Florida.
"My family in Miami never votes. They are not interested. I told them they had to get rid of Bush, and they all promised to go vote against him," housewife Amilia said, as she leaned over her third-floor balcony in a dilapidated Havana housing project. Amilia, like the other Cubans interviewed, did not want her last name used.
Cubans have not voted for a president since before Fidel Castro swept into power in a 1959 revolution, replacing dictator Fulgencio Batista. Nevertheless, they want their relatives to take full advantage of the opportunity, despite government propaganda labeling U.S. elections a sham.
"I told my brother in Miami you have to be crazy to vote for Bush and he said he would vote for the other guy this time," Roberto, a Santiago de Cuba hotel worker, said in a telephone interview. "Who knows, maybe his vote will make a difference."
The official Cuban government position is that it makes little difference if Bush or Kerry sits in the White House.
"Both candidates support the U.S. blockade of our country, it will be more of the same whomever wins," National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon said last week.
But just about everyone on this Caribbean island has a mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt or cousin in the United States and most say they disagree with Alarcon.
The phone traffic is always thick between Cuba's 11.2 million residents and the 800,000 Cuban-Americans who have sought a better life in Florida, and never more than now as the election draws near, a local telephone operator said.