Nicaragua bars pageant head after critic wins Miss Universe
SAN JOSE — Nicaraguan authorities have barred the director of the national beauty pageant from reentering the country after a Nicaraguan woman, seen as a symbol of opposition to the government, was crowned Miss Universe, media reports and exiled opposition members said.
Karen Celebertti and her daughter were detained upon their arrival at the Managua airport—days after seeing 23-year-old Sheynnis Palacios crowned as the first Miss Universe from Nicaragua—and placed on a flight to Mexico, the opposition-linked La Prensa newspaper reported.
The government “blocked Karen Celebertti, owner of the Miss Nicaragua franchise, and her daughter from entering the country,” the Costa Rica-based Nicaraguan daily said on its website.
It was unclear on what grounds Celebertti, a Nicaraguan national, was barred entry. The government has made no comment on the matter.
The writer Gioconda Belli, who lives in Spain after being stripped of her Nicaraguan nationality by the government, contended that Celebertti was blocked at the orders of President Daniel Ortega’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, despite her success in helping a Nicaraguan win the prestigious contest.
Opposition media also reported that Celebertti’s Managua home had been searched on Friday and her husband, Martin Arguello, briefly detained.
In a statement to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Miss Universe Organization called on the Nicaraguan government to “guarantee” the safety of those associated with the local affiliates of the pageant.
“We are working to guarantee the safety of all members of the organization, and we call on the government of Nicaragua to guarantee their safety,” it said.
Since Palacios was crowned Miss Universe on Nov. 18 in San Salvador, she has been widely portrayed as a symbol of opposition to Ortega.
Photos showing her waving the Nicaraguan flag at antigovernment protests in 2018 have gone viral, and her victory brought joyful crowds into Nicaragua’s streets in the biggest public displays since such gatherings were banned five years ago.
Murillo on Wednesday blasted the publication of such photos as “malicious [and] terrorist communications that aim to transform a beautiful moment of pride and well-deserved celebration into a destructive coup.”
The Nicaraguan opposition has portrayed Palacios’ victory as a sign of hope. Some in the celebratory crowds waved the blue and white national flag, seen as a symbol of opposition, unlike the partisan red and black flag of the ruling Sandinista Front.
Opposition sources said that on Tuesday, government officials barred two artists from completing a mural of the new Miss Universe in the northern city of Esteli. Photos of the unfinished fresco have circulated on social media.
“It is impossible to view this inoffensive contest without considering the political and social reality. She has become a national and emotional symbol who has restored hope. And the government understands this,” prize-winning Nicaraguan journalist Wilfredo Miranda, who lives in exile in Costa Rica, told AFP.
Many exiles even viewed the outfit in which Palacios was crowned — a flowing white dress with a blue cape resembling images of Nicaragua’s patron saint, the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception — as symbolic amid a government crackdown on the Catholic Church. AFP