Sheynnis Palacios, a past critic of Daniel Ortega’s government, was crowned as Miss Universe last month in El Salvador
Nicaraguan police have accused the owner of the country’s Miss Universe franchise of rigging a beauty pageant to ensure that an anti-government activist wins in what authorities claim was part of a plot to overthrow the Central American country’s government.
Police said in a statement on Friday that Karen Celebertti, director of the Miss Nicaragua event, had engaged in a conspiracy designed to overthrow the political establishment by selecting a government critic as its winner to advance to the Miss Universe competition.
The reigning Miss Nicaragua, Sheynnis Palacios, was crowned last month as Miss Universe in the 72nd iteration of the event, this time held in El Salvador. The 23-year-old communicologist defeated 83 other beauty queens to claim the accolade, triumphing after various events, including in-depth interviews, and evening gown and swimwear modelling.
Palacios’ win was swiftly hailed by Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, who said her victory had brought “legitimate joy and pride” to the nation. However, the celebration was short-lived after it soon emerged that Palacios had participated in mass anti-government protests in 2018.
Human rights officials say that government forces killed some 355 people in the demonstrations, which Ortega’s government claimed was part of an attempted coup backed by foreign interests. His critics, though, said the protests were in response to what they claimed was the president’s autocratic governance and his extended rule over the country. Ortega has been in power since 2007.
According to Nicaraguan authorities, Celebertti orchestrated the crowning of Palacios as Miss Nicaragua to “turn pageants into political traps and political ambushes, financed by foreign agents.” The National Police also said that Celebertti had previously “participated actively, on the internet and in the streets, in the terrorist actions of a failed coup.”
Police added that she, her husband, and her son face charges of “treason to the motherland.”
Palacios’ victory was widely celebrated on the streets of Nicaragua, where public protests have been banned since the events of 2018. Police say that the pageant organizers attempted to arrange further anti-government protests.
Palacios – the first Nicaraguan to wear the Miss Universe crown – has yet to comment on the situation but has not returned to the country since her win and now resides in New York.
Celebertti was barred from entering Nicaragua in October, while her husband and son are currently detained in the country, Reuters said. The news agency also stated that it could not contact Celebertti for comment.
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