Police hunt pageant director over alleged ‘beauty queen coup’

Entertainment

The director of the Miss Nicaragua beauty pageant is facing conspiracy charges after allegedly rigging events to help anti-government contestants win.

Karen Celebertti is wanted for “promoting ‘innocent’ beauty pageants, in a conspiracy orchestrated to convert the contests into traps and political ambushes financed by foreign agents”.

She is also charged with money laundering and spreading fake news, the national police said.

Ms Celebertti was banned from entering the country on 21 October, and her husband and son have been detained in Nicaragua on accusations of conspiracy dating back five years.

It comes after Sheynnis Palacios, 23, won the Miss Universe competition on 18 November.

She is the first woman from Nicaragua to have claimed the title, and President Daniel Ortega called her win a moment of “legitimate joy and pride”.

Image:
Sheynnis Palacios; and below, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and wife vice president Rosario Murillo. Pics: AP

Nicaragua’s violent clampdown on protests

But the tone quickly changed when it emerged Ms Palacios had posted photos of herself on Facebook participating in one of the mass anti-government protests in 2018.

Demonstrations were violently repressed, with Mr Ortega claiming it was an attempted coup with foreign backing.

Protesters argued the action was against the president’s repressive rule and urge to hold on to power.

More than 320 were killed by government forces, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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Image:
Riot police try to detain protesters during clash in 2018

‘Destructive coup-mongering’

Police claimed Ms Celebertti “participated actively” in organising anti-government protests, including in 2018.

They said she “remained in contact with the traitors” and offered to employ the companies and venues involved in hosting pageants.

The government had banned protests, but after Ms Palacios’ pageant victory, many took to the streets to celebrate.

Some carried the blue and white national flag instead of the president’s red and black Sandinista banner, which was met with anger from his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo.

“In these days of a new victory, we are seeing the evil, terrorist commentators making a clumsy and insulting attempt to turn what should be a beautiful and well-deserved moment of pride into destructive coup-mongering,” she said.

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