The ‘Lula’ hoaxer

When Brazil’s notoriously interview-shy president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, offered journalists from Angolan state radio an exclusive telephone chat, they should probably have smelled a rat.

When Lula appeared on air claiming to be speaking live and direct from one of Rio’s most notorious slums, they might also have wondered what was going on.

And when the rattle of machine-gun fire began pounding down the phone line, they should surely have realised something was wrong. They didn’t.

Instead the Brazilian government was starting on Saturday a formal investigation after a Sao Paulo radio comedian pretending to be the leftist leader took to the airwaves across Africa in a supposed attempt to improve Rio’s overseas reputation.

Talking to Angolan National Radio, the impostor claimed to be speaking “direct” from a Rio favela that is at the centre of a drug turf war that has left dozens dead.

“Everything they have invented is nonsense,” the satirist, from Sao Paulo’s Metropolitana FM station, said, claiming the violence was the result of a dispute between competing sweetshop owners. The chirp of singing parrots could be heard in the background.

“You can bring your laptops, bring your cameras, you can bring what ever you want [to Rio]. You can leave it all on the floor,” the comedian added, imitating Lula’s raspy north-eastern accent. “Rio is one of the calmest places on earth. Not even [those from] the Gaza Strip will believe how peaceful it is,” he added.

At one point the comedian interrupts the interview, asking an aide for a shot of Brazilian rum: “Bring me a little dose ... to wet my throat.”

After tricking Angola, the prankster moved on to Mozambique and Cape Verde, where Lula said developing nations were chasing economic success like “rabbits running after spiders.”

The hoaxer also unveiled plans to build a pink, bulletproof motorway in Rio and suggested hiring monkeys to beef up security during the Olympics.

“Any part of the city where there is a problem will always have a monkey looking down from a tree,” the comedian told the bemused interviewer, adding: “If there are any problems during Rio’s Olympics, my name isn’t ‘Lula.’”

The prank finally unravelled on Saturday morning, when a journalist from Australia's SBS radio network sent an official complaint to the Brazilian government.

“As a result of ... the seriousness of this fraud and the possibility of serious diplomatic repercussions ... I believe that the case requires a police investigation,” the journalist wrote, according to one political blog.

The investigation will be led by Brazil’s Office for Institutional Security. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 4:31:46 PM |

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