18 Jun 2003

Cuba's Castro apparent victim of prank

By Frances Kerry

MIAMI (Reuters) - Cuban President Fidel Castro or someone sounding very much like
him has fallen for a trap laid by Miami radio pranksters, thinking he was talking on the
phone to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and abusing the callers when he
realised he was being duped.

The radio station, Spanish-language station El Zol 95.7, delightedly and repeatedly
broadcast the recording from its popular program "El Vacilon de la Manana" (Morning
Joker) in a city that is home to many anti-Castro exiles.

There was no immediate way of telling whether it really was Castro on the line, but to
Spanish speakers familiar with the Cuban leader's well-known voice it seemed to be
him. There was no immediate reaction from government officials in Havana.

The Vacilon hosts, Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero, used the same technique they
used in January to catch Chavez on the program, when they cobbled together real
phrases spoken by Castro to make the Venezuelan leader think he was talking to his
Cuban ally.

This time, they used phrases spoken in a speech by Chavez.

A presenter posing as a Chavez aide wound his way through a series of Cuban
official switchboards -- receptive because Chavez is a strong Castro admirer -- with
a story that Chavez needed to speak to Castro because he had lost a suitcase with
sensitive documents on a recent trip both leaders made to Argentina.

Finally, Castro came on the line and listened to the story of the suitcase, apparently
taken in by the brief "Fidel"s and "How are you?"s from Chavez, and thinking the
connection was too bad to hear much more from the Venezuelan leader.

The Chavez "aide" asked Castro if he agreed to help by getting his security detail hunt
down the suitcase and the Cuban leader said, "I absolutely agree."

"Do you agree with the shit on the island (Cuba), killer?" the Chavez "aide" asked,
quickly adding, "You fell for it" and announcing he was on the Miami radio program.

"What did I fall for, you shit?" said Castro. "What did I fall for, bastard?," he said. He
added a few more words of strong abuse before hanging up, as whoops of joy
erupted at the Miami end of the call.

© Copyright Reuters 2002.