Skip to main content

Human Rights

Miss Nicaragua pageant director quits after Ortega accuses her of conspiring with pro-democracy opposition

After Sheynnis Palacios was announced as the winner and Nicaragua rejoiced in her victory, pictures emerged of her at an anti-government protest in 2018, sparking a fury within the Ortega regime

Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios who won the 2023 Miss Universe title
Miss Nicaragua Sheynnis Palacios who won the 2023 Miss Universe title | EFE

December 12, 2023 9:00am

Updated: December 12, 2023 12:57pm

Karen Celebertti, the director of the Miss Nicaragua beauty pageant resigned from her post 10 days after she was accused of conspiracy, according to a statement she released on social media.

“The time has come for my retirement,” Celebertti wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I know that there will always be more opportunities for us.”

The Ortega regime has accused Celebertti of rigging the pageant so anti-regime beauty queens would win.

The regime’s accusations surfaced after it first congratulated Sheynnis Palacios, who is also Miss Nicaragua, for winning the Miss Universe title.

After Palacios was announced as the winner and Nicaragua rejoiced in her victory, pictures emerged of her at an anti-government protest in 2018, sparking a fury within the Ortega regime. 

Palacios’ victory initially drew thousands of Nicaraguans to the streets where they celebrated her global victory at winning the  Miss Universe title.

It was the first time in Nicaraguan history that the Central American country has won the pageant. 

Nicaraguans flooded the streets and proudly waved the country's official blue-and-white national flag, which has of late become a symbol of anti-regime sentiment. The flag was increasingly used in 2018 when at anti-regime rallies erupted throughout the nation.

Those protests led to the Ortega regime reacting with deadly force, forcing protestors to take shelter in Catholic churches, man of which are now under siege by Ortega’s agents for purportedly aiding and abetting what it has described as an unlawful resistance movement aimed at its overthrow.

Hundreds were killed throughout the country as the Ortega regime, which took power again in 2007, cracked down on anti-regime sentiment.

Ortega’s regime initially released a statement welcoming Palacios' victory with “pride and joy” but then lashed out against her after the photos of her waving the national flag during a 2018 rally surfaced.

Celebertti has not returned to Nicaragua since she accepted the crown on behalf of her home country. Media reports have indicated that the Miss Universe pageant director and her daughter were denied entry when they tried to fly home and instead had to reroute their journey to Mexico.

While Celebertti and her daughter were both denied entry, her husband and son who co-own the local Miss Universe franchise, were not so lucky.

The pair were reportedly arrested and all three have been charged with treason.

A Nicaraguan police statement accused the three of participating “in the terrorist actions of the failed coup attempt,” a reference to the sweeping 2018 anti-regime demonstrations.

The Ortega regime’s statement also accused the family of other acts, saying it “remained in communication with exponents of treason to the homeland, preparing to use their franchises and platforms allegedly devoted to 'innocent' beauty contests in a conspiracy to turn the contests into traps and political ambushes, financed by foreign agents.”

It strangely suggested adds that the three “must serve their sentence according to Nicaraguan law,” even though no trial has been scheduled and Karen Celebertti was turned away from reentering the country. 

Celebertti has since the beauty pageants she has organized are apolitical and have nothing to do with the status of the Nicaraguan government or electorate.

Miguel Mendoza, a Nicaraguan journalist who was one of the 222 regime critics deported to the U.S. earlier this year, said that he hoped the regime would lead to the release Celebertti's husband and son now that she’s resigned.

The Ortega regime has targeted Catholics risen since the nationwide wave of anti-Ortega demonstrations, which started in 2014 and culminated in 2018.

That month, after the government said it was raising taxes and lowering benefits, the Ortega regime faced the sweeping demonstrations. After five days of unrest, Mr. Ortega cancelled the tax and benefit reforms, but not before his agents killed dozens of demonstrators and injured 160 others with gunfire.

During their attacks on civilians, some Catholic churches gave shelter to demonstrators and Ortega reached out to Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

By September, Ortega outlawed all political protests and treated Catholics as if they were a threat to his power.

Anti-regime sentiment has arisen during the past since 2022.

To send a message to Catholics throughout his country, Ortega accused the Church of inciting the opposition to overthrow the regime, arrested priests, shut down three Catholic television stations and taken 12 Catholic radio stations off the air.

Since then, the Ortega regime has begun waging war against its purported enemies by engaging in collective punishment and prosecution of family members.

Executive Editor

Gelet Martínez Fragela

Gelet Martínez Fragela is the founder and editor-in-chief of ADN America. She is a Cuban journalist, television producer, and political refugee who also founded ADN Cuba.