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Spain furious over church radio station hoax

Spain protested to the Vatican on Thursday after a comic from a church-controlled radio station made a phone call to Bolivia’s president-elect pretending to be the Spanish prime minister.
/ Source: Reuters

Spain protested to the Vatican on Thursday after a comic from a church-controlled radio station made a spoof phone call to Bolivia’s president-elect pretending to be the Spanish prime minister.

Cope radio embarrassed the government this week when the comic, posing as Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, telephoned Evo Morales to congratulate him on winning last weekend’s Bolivian election.

Cope, owned by the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, is strongly critical of the policies of Spain’s Socialist government.

The hoax phone call revived tensions between Spain and the Vatican, which has sharply criticized Madrid for policies such as legalizing gay marriage.

It is also sensitive because Spanish oil company Repsol YPF has interests in Bolivia, where Morales has pledged to renegotiate contracts under a new energy policy that revokes rights to natural gas at the wellhead.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos called in the Vatican’s ambassador to Madrid, Manuel Monteiro, to convey the Bolivian government’s protest and Spain’s rejection of the radio station’s hoax, the Foreign Ministry said.

Moratinos urged the Vatican representative to prevent “deplorable events of this kind happening again, because of the harm they cause to Spain’s political and economic interests.”

Spokesmen for Cope and the Bishops Conference could not immediately be reached for comment, but Spanish news agency Europa Press quoted sources at the Bishops Conference as saying the organization’s Secretary-General Juan Antonio Martinez Camino thought the spoof call was “an unacceptable joke” and that the radio station should apologize.

Europa Press said Cope had sent the Bolivian Embassy in Madrid a note saying it was sorry for the annoyance caused by the hoax, but that the Bolivian embassy was not satisfied.

Spain’s Ambassador to La Paz, Francisco Montalban, apologized to the Bolivian government on Thursday over the incident, state radio said.