Thursday, June 19, 2003

Cuba’s Fidel Castro sprayed South Florida with a barrage of unprintable expletives yesterday after discovering that he was having a live radio conversation with two disc jockeys from that area who had called pretending to be Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s aides.

While on the air, Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero of the WXDJ-FM Spanish-language station in Coral Gables persuaded Mr. Castro to help track down a lost briefcase that contained sensitive documents.

The two, who have gained international notoriety by using ruses to ring up Latin American presidents and South Florida dignitaries, used pre-recorded phrases that can be replayed at the touch of a button to engage Mr. Castro in a four-minute conversation.

At one point, they asked Mr. Castro whether he would direct Cuban state security to help locate the missing briefcase.

Mr. Castro promised assistance, saying he’d been informed and was “satisfied.”

Mr. Santos revealed the ruse by replying:

“Are you satisfied with [what] you have done on the island, assassin?”

“You fell for it just like Hugo Chavez,” Mr. Santos told Mr. Castro, referring to a show in which the disc jockeys had called Mr. Chavez, pretending to be Mr. Castro.

“Fell for what? I haven’t said [expletive]. Go to [expletive],” Mr. Castro said.

Infuriated that he had been tricked, Mr. Castro went off on a tirade.

The Cuban leader hurled profanities at Mr. Santos and his mother and questioned her marital status at the time of Mr. Santos’ birth. Mr. Castro also questioned the disc jockey’s sexual orientation.

The telephone call ended with whoops of joy in the WXDJ newsroom.

The disc jockeys had found the telephone number to Mr. Castro’s government office on the Internet, Mr. Santos said.

He said the station, delighted with the coup, had been rebroadcasting the tape all morning, and the disc jockeys had been doing radio and television interviews with reporters from around the globe.

Asked whether he was sure it had been Mr. Castro on the phone, Mr. Santos said, “Definitely. One hundred percent.”

The Cuban government has not confirmed this. But after hearing the tape, Cuban-Americans in Miami familiar with Mr. Castro’s voice said they are certain that the man on the other end of the phone was the Cuban dictator.

Mr. Santos and Mr. Ferrero have developed a reputation in South Florida for their prank phone calls on their 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. show, which targets 25- to 54-year-olds.

They run a regular segment named “Fidel Is Calling,” in which they telephone Miami-Fort Lauderdale area residents and trick them into believing that they are being called by Mr. Castro.

Before yesterday, the pair’s biggest success was in January, when they had got Mr. Chavez on the line.

Mr. Santos said yesterday that they had been plotting for months on how to top the Chavez call, but had convinced themselves that penetrating Cuban security and duping Mr. Castro would be impossible.

“I don’t know what we can do to top this,” Mr. Ferrero said. “Maybe we can go after Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden.”

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