Miami DJs fool Venezuela's Chavez with tapes of Castro

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

MIAMI -- Two radio hosts known for playing pranks on the air called Venezuela's president and used tape recordings of Fidel Castro to get him to believe he was talking to the Cuban leader.

Venezuelan Information Minister Nora Uribe confirmed Tuesday that the call occurred. She said President Hugo Chavez "caught on and hung up."

But a recording provided by the Cuban-American radio announcers has Chavez, who is struggling to end a month-old national strike by opponents, talking for about two minutes. He happily answered what he thought would be a friendly call Monday morning from Castro, one of his closest allies.

On the other end of the line were WXDJ-FM disc jockeys Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos, who ended the conversation by calling Chavez "terrorist" and "animal," along with a few expletives.

During the call, they played disjointed snippets of a private conversation between Castro and Mexican President Vicente Fox, which the Cuban leader released last year.

"We never thought that we would be able to talk to Chavez," Ferrero said. "We thought maybe we'd be able to talk to a secretary."

He said they had tried about 10 times since Friday to bluff their way past Chavez's aides at the Venezuelan presidential palace.

On Monday, Ferrero said, he and a woman posed as telephone operators and told a Chavez secretary that they needed the president's personal phone number to connect him with Castro, who supposedly was in a hidden location and could not receive calls. A recording of Castro's voice was heard in the background.

Ferrero said the station was inundated with congratulatory phone calls, but Santos said WXDJ owner Raul Alarcon Jr. was "not very happy."

"He was a little bit upset that my partner began blowing off the president of Venezuela," Ferrero said.

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