The director of the Miss Nicaragua beauty pageant has been charged with treason for an alleged plot to take down the Nicaraguan government.
Karen Celebertti, who has directed Nicaragua’s beauty pageant since 2001, was charged with conspiracy against the government.
Authorities said on Friday they wanted to arrest Ms Celebertti for allegedly fixing the competition to favour anti-government beauty queens and turning “pageants into political traps and political ambushes, financed by foreign agents.”
Ms Celebertti, a former beauty queen, was also charged with money laundering and spreading fake news.
Her husband and son have also been detained on conspiracy charges dating back five years, after being arrested at their home in the capital Managua.
The charges come after photos emerged of Sheynnis Palacio, who last month became the first Miss Nicaragua to win Miss Universe, participating in mass anti-government protests in 2018.
Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega initially celebrated her win as a moment of “legitimate joy and pride” but has reportedly since turned on the 23-year-old since the photos went viral on social media.
The photos, which were posted on Ms Palacio’s personal Facebook page, are said to have enraged Mr Ortega, who, it is claimed, then decided to press charges against Ms Celebertti.
Police claimed Ms Celebertti “actively participated” in organising the 2018 protests and had “remained in contact with the traitors” employing them in hosting pageants.
The right to protest was outlawed in Nicaragua following the 2018 protests, which lasted for three months and which authorities blamed on foreign interference.
The protests saw more than 320 people killed by government forces, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Despite violent suppression of protestors by the government, many defied the ban following Ms Palacios’ win in November, with protesters taking to the streets to celebrate, waving the national blue and white flag, a symbol of protest and a jailable offence, instead of Mr Ortega’s red and black Sandinista banner.
Ms Palacios was also seen wearing a white dress and blue cape during the Miss Universe ceremony, which some interpreted as a reference to the banned flag.
“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,” said Mr Ortega’s wife and vice president Rosario Murillo.
Ms Palacios has not been named in any charges and is currently living in New York, according to reports.
She has not made any public statement about Nicaraguan politics since moving and her Facebook page has also been taken down.
Meanwhile, Ms Celebertti is also believed to be abroad right now after flying to Mexico following the Miss Universe pageant in November.
She has now been banned from entering Nicaragua.
Mr Ortega has been accused of using extrajudicial killings and torture to cement his rule, according to Freedom House.
He has jailed opposition leaders, imprisoned Catholic clergy and cracked down on media freedoms since he became president in 2007.
In January last year, he won a fourth consecutive term in a vote the United States branded a “pantomime election.”
The Independent has contacted Ms Palacio for comment. Ms Celebertti was unable to be reached.
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