Nicaraguan authorities have announced their intent to apprehend Karen Celebertti, the director of the Miss Nicaragua pageant, on charges of orchestrating a scheme dubbed the ‘beauty queen coup.’ Allegations suggest she manipulated pageant outcomes to favor contestants critical of the government, with the ultimate goal of undermining the administration.
The saga began on November 18 when Sheynnis Palacios, representing Nicaragua, won the Miss Universe title. Initially hailed as a public relations triumph for President Daniel Ortega’s government, the mood soured when it was revealed that Palacios had previously participated in anti-government protests in 2018. Those demonstrations, met with violent repression, led to accusations of a coup attempt by the government.
In a move reminiscent of a Cold War-era espionage plot, authorities claim Celebertti actively engaged in online and street activities supporting the alleged coup during the 2018 protests. Despite reports that she was denied entry into the country recently, Celebertti managed to evade arrest, while local media suggested that her son and husband were taken into custody.
Facing charges of “treason to the motherland,” Celebertti and her family have not publicly addressed the allegations. The National Police released a statement accusing her of collaborating with “traitors” and using beauty pageants as a cover for political subversion financed by foreign agents.
The situation worsened as ordinary Nicaraguans, restricted from expressing dissent, seized the Miss Universe victory as a rare opportunity to celebrate publicly. Their use of the national flag, different from the government’s banner, further infuriated authorities, who warned of potential unrest in December.
Vice President Rosario Murillo condemned opposition social media sites for celebrating Palacios’ win, accusing them of attempting to turn a moment of national pride into a “destructive coup-mongering” campaign. In response to perceived opposition, the government shut down the Jesuit University of Central America, a focal point of 2018 protests, along with numerous other universities.
President Ortega’s administration has systematically targeted dissent by outlawing civic groups, NGOs, and universities, leading to arrests, expulsions, and asset confiscations. Thousands have sought refuge in exile. Despite the escalating tensions, Palacios, the first Nicaraguan to win Miss Universe, has refrained from commenting on the unfolding situation. In contrast to her public advocacy during the contest, her past participation in protests has added a layer of complexity to the controversy.
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