Police charge director of Miss Nicaragua pageant with running ‘beauty queen coup’ plot

by Ethan Kim
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Nicaragua Miss Universe Scandal

The Nicaraguan police have announced their intention to apprehend Karen Celebertti, the director of the Miss Nicaragua pageant, on charges of orchestrating a scheme to manipulate beauty contests to favor anti-government beauty queens, as part of a plot to destabilize the government. These allegations have a cinematic quality reminiscent of a vintage James Bond movie, involving a repressive government, coup conspiracies, foreign involvement, and beauty queens.

The incident unfolded on November 18 when Sheynnis Palacios, Miss Nicaragua, clinched victory in the Miss Universe competition. Initially, President Daniel Ortega’s government celebrated this win as a rare public relations triumph, describing it as a moment of “legitimate joy and pride.” However, the situation took a sour turn the following day when it was revealed that Palacios had shared photos on Facebook of her participation in one of the mass anti-government protests that occurred in 2018.

These protests were met with brutal suppression, resulting in the reported deaths of 355 individuals at the hands of government forces. President Ortega characterized the demonstrations as an attempted coup with foreign backing aimed at overthrowing him. In contrast, his opponents argued that Nicaraguans were protesting against his increasingly oppressive rule and his persistent grip on power.

In a statement issued by the National Police, Karen Celebertti is accused of actively participating in “terrorist actions of a failed coup” through online and street activities, likely referring to her involvement in the 2018 protests. Although reports suggest that Celebertti managed to elude the police after being denied entry to the country a few days ago, her son and husband were reportedly taken into custody. All three now face charges of “treason to the motherland,” but they have not publicly commented on the allegations against them.

According to the statement, Celebertti maintained contact with individuals deemed traitors and offered to use the platforms and spaces associated with “innocent” beauty pageants to advance a conspiracy financed by foreign agents, turning these contests into political traps and ambushes.

The situation was further exacerbated when many ordinary Nicaraguans, who are generally restricted from protesting or displaying the national flag in marches, took advantage of the Miss Universe victory as a rare opportunity to celebrate openly. Their use of the blue-and-white national flag, in contrast to Ortega’s red-and-black Sandinista banner, added to the government’s ire. Authorities warned of potential street demonstrations in December, equating them to a dark chapter in history.

Just five days after Palacios’ victory, Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo criticized opposition social media sites, many of which operate from exile, for celebrating Palacios’ win as a triumph for the opposition. She condemned their attempts to transform what should be a moment of pride into “destructive coup-mongering.”

Under President Ortega’s administration, numerous measures have been taken to stifle dissent, including the closure of the Jesuit University of Central America and the banning or closure of over 3,000 civic groups and non-governmental organizations. Opposition figures have been arrested, expelled, had their citizenship revoked, and assets confiscated, leading thousands to seek refuge in exile.

Meanwhile, Sheynnis Palacios, the first Nicaraguan to win Miss Universe, has not commented on the unfolding situation. During the pageant, Palacios expressed her desire to work on promoting mental health and narrowing the gender salary gap. However, on her since-deleted Facebook account, she shared her initial fears about participating in the protest, stating, “I didn’t know whether to go, I was afraid of what might happen.” Some witnesses recall seeing Palacios, a tall and striking figure, at the march that day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nicaragua Miss Universe Scandal

What are the charges against Karen Celebertti?

Karen Celebertti, the director of the Miss Nicaragua pageant, faces charges of intentionally rigging beauty contests to favor anti-government beauty queens as part of a plot to overthrow the government.

Why did the Miss Universe win by Sheynnis Palacios become controversial?

Sheynnis Palacios’ victory in the Miss Universe competition became controversial because it was revealed that she had posted photos on Facebook of herself participating in one of the mass anti-government protests in Nicaragua in 2018.

What were the 2018 protests in Nicaragua about?

The 2018 protests in Nicaragua were largely a response to President Daniel Ortega’s increasingly repressive rule and his perceived desire to hold onto power. The protests were met with violent repression, resulting in casualties and a political crisis.

What charges do Karen Celebertti, her husband, and son face?

Karen Celebertti, her husband, and son face charges of “treason to the motherland” for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to use beauty pageants as political traps financed by foreign agents.

How has the Nicaraguan government responded to dissent?

The Nicaraguan government, under President Ortega’s administration, has responded to dissent by implementing measures such as the closure of universities, the banning of civic groups, arrests and expulsions of opposition figures, revocation of citizenship, and asset confiscation. Many individuals have sought refuge in exile as a result.

What was the significance of the blue-and-white national flag in this context?

The use of the blue-and-white national flag by celebrants of Sheynnis Palacios’ Miss Universe win, instead of President Ortega’s red-and-black Sandinista banner, added to the government’s displeasure and was seen as a symbol of opposition. Authorities warned of potential further protests in response.

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