Nicaragua’s Miss Universe Win Highlights Political Tensions

by Gabriel Martinez
Nicaragua Miss Universe Controversy

Nicaragua’s authoritarian government, increasingly distant from global norms, perceived a moment of positive attention with Sheynnis Palacios, Miss Nicaragua, clinching the Miss Universe title. However, this fleeting sense of triumph for President Daniel Ortega’s administration was marred by controversy. Revelations that Palacios was an alumnus of a university central to the anti-regime protests in 2018, and her participation in these demonstrations, sparked widespread criticism.

The win was embraced by the common people in Nicaragua, who face strict prohibitions against protesting or displaying the national flag in demonstrations. They seized the opportunity to publicly celebrate, prominently featuring the national flag instead of the government’s Sandinista emblem, to the government’s displeasure.

Palacios’ triumph, coupled with images from her 2018 protest involvement shared on Facebook, was celebrated by the opposition. Prominent exiled priest Roman Catholic Rev. Silvio Báez expressed gratitude to Palacios for instilling hope and joy in the beleaguered nation.

Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo, employing rhetoric likened to North Korea’s, vehemently attacked opposition-run social media platforms for portraying Palacios’ victory as an opposition triumph. Murillo accused these platforms of exploiting the victory for subversive purposes.

Since 2018’s harsh suppression of widespread anti-government protests by Nicaraguan security forces, thousands have sought refuge abroad. The Ortega administration has condemned these protests as a foreign-backed coup attempt. The regime has also targeted the Jesuit University of Central America in Nicaragua, a focal point of the 2018 protests, along with numerous other educational institutions.

Additionally, the government has banned or shut down over 3,000 civic and non-governmental organizations, persecuted and exiled critics, revoked their citizenship, and seized their properties.

Palacios, the first Nicaraguan to win the Miss Universe title, remains silent on the matter. During the competition, the 23-year-old emphasized her commitment to mental health advocacy and gender pay equity. In a now-deleted Facebook post, Palacios shared her initial fears about joining the protests, reflecting the danger involved.

Eyewitnesses recall spotting Palacios, a prominent figure, at the protests, which were swiftly suppressed. Human rights groups report that government forces killed 355 people in these crackdowns.

For further updates on Latin America and the Caribbean, visit AP’s dedicated coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nicaragua Miss Universe Controversy

Who won the Miss Universe title from Nicaragua?

Sheynnis Palacios, representing Nicaragua, won the Miss Universe competition.

How did the Nicaraguan government react to Sheynnis Palacios’s win?

Initially, the Nicaraguan government expressed pride and joy, but this turned to anger when it was revealed that Palacios had participated in anti-government protests.

What significance did the Miss Universe win hold for ordinary Nicaraguans?

For ordinary Nicaraguans, who are largely restricted from protesting, the win provided a rare opportunity to celebrate and express dissent by using the national flag instead of the government’s banner.

What connection does Sheynnis Palacios have with the 2018 protests against the Nicaraguan government?

Palacios graduated from a college that was central to the 2018 protests against the Nicaraguan regime and had participated in the marches.

How did Vice President Rosario Murillo respond to the celebration of Palacios’s win by opposition groups?

Vice President Rosario Murillo criticized opposition social media sites, accusing them of turning Palacios’s win into a platform for destructive, coup-mongering rhetoric.

What actions has the Nicaraguan government taken against its opponents and civic groups?

The government has closed universities, banned over 3,000 civic groups, arrested and exiled opponents, stripped them of citizenship, and confiscated their assets.

What did Sheynnis Palacios say about her goals during the Miss Universe contest?

During the contest, Palacios expressed her desire to work on mental health promotion and closing the gender salary gap.

Were there any casualties during the 2018 anti-government protests in Nicaragua?

Human rights officials report that 355 people were killed by government forces during the 2018 protests.

More about Nicaragua Miss Universe Controversy

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Mike Johnson November 24, 2023 - 5:37 am

isn’t it strange how a pageant can reveal so much about a country’s politics?? makes you think

Alex Kim November 24, 2023 - 5:56 am

I heard about the protests in Nicaragua, but didn’t know it was this bad. thanks for sharing.

Emily Smith November 24, 2023 - 8:43 am

This is really sad to see, a beauty queen’s win overshadowed by political drama 🙁

John Doe November 24, 2023 - 9:07 am

wow, didn’t realize the political situation in Nicaragua was so tense, thanks for the info!

Sarah Lee November 24, 2023 - 10:24 am

the government’s reaction seems way over the top just for a Miss Universe win, don’t you think?


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