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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Nicaragua pageant head, family accused of ‘treason’

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The director of Nicaragua’s national beauty pageant and two family members were accused of “treason” on Friday, two weeks after a Nicaraguan woman seen as a symbol of opposition to the government was crowned Miss Universe.

A police statement said Karen Celebertti, her husband and her son — all owners of the Miss Nicaragua pageant — had actively participated “in the terrorist actions of the failed coup attempt,” a reference to the 2018 mass protests against President Daniel Ortega.

Sheynnis Palacios, 23, has been widely portrayed as a symbol of opposition to the longtime president since she was crowned as the first Miss Universe from Nicaragua last month.

Photos showing her waving the Nicaraguan flag at anti-government protests in 2018 have gone viral, and her victory brought joyful crowds into Nicaragua’s streets in the biggest public gatherings since demonstrations were banned five years ago.

A government clampdown on the protests left more than 350 dead and more than 100,000 in exile.

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The government has since jailed hundreds of critics, claiming they were part of an attempted coup against Ortega.

Friday’s police statement said Celebertti, her son and husband “remained in communication with exponents of treason to the homeland, preparing to use their franchises, platforms… in a conspiracy to turn the contests into traps and political ambushes, financed by foreign agents.”

Media reports not yet confirmed by police said that her husband and son had been detained.

Last week, opposition media in exile reported that Celebertti and her daughter had been barred from returning to the country.

The writer Gioconda Belli, who lives in Spain after being stripped of her Nicaraguan nationality by the government, contended last Saturday that Celebertti had been blocked from reentering the country at the orders of Ortega’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

The Miss Universe Organization called in a statement last week for the Nicaraguan government to “ensure” the safety of those associated with the local affiliates of the pageant.

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