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MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe 2023 Sheynnis Palacios’ win has turned out to be a politically contentious affair in her home country of Nicaragua.
According to Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, national pageant director Karen Celebertti and her daughter were barred by authorities from entering the country on Thursday, November 23. They had just arrived at the Augusto C. Sandino International Airport in Managua but were then placed on a flight back to Mexico, where they had spent several days for Miss Universe-related activities.
Writer Gioconda Belli, who was exiled from Nicaragua for her criticism of current president Daniel Ortega, claimed that Celebertti had been barred by President Ortega’s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. Celebertti’s Managua home had also been searched and her husband briefly detained on Friday, November 24, according to opposition media.
“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,” the Miss Universe Organization said to Agence France-Presse.
The Nicaraguan government, however, has yet to make a statement on the actions against Celebertti.
Symbol of the opposition
Nicaraguans have touted Palacios’ Miss Universe win as a jab at the current administration, with photos of Palacios attending anti-government protests in 2018 going viral. Vice President Murillo on Wednesday, November 22 said the photos were “malicious [and] terrorist communications that aim to transform a beautiful moment of pride and well-deserved celebration into a destructive coup.”
Palacios’ blue and white evening gown on coronation night also carried extra meaning among Nicaraguans – the country’s blue and white national flag is seen as a symbol of the opposition, in contrast to the red and black flag of the militant left-wing Sandinista National Liberation Front, which was headed by President Ortega.
According to opposition sources, two artists creating a mural of Palacios on Tuesday, November 21 in the city of Esteli were barred by officials from finishing their piece. Photos of the unfinished work have since gone viral.
“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,” said exiled Nicaraguan journalist Wilfredo Miranda.
Palacios was crowned Miss Universe 2023 at the pageant’s finals night held in El Salvador on November 19. She bested 83 candidates to succeed USA’s R’Bonney Gabriel, and is the first ever representative from Nicaragua to win the Miss Universe title. – Rappler.com