Police charge director of Miss Nicaragua pageant with running 'beauty queen coup' plot

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Nicaraguan police said Friday they want to arrest the director of the Miss Nicaragua pageant, accusing her of intentionally rigging contests so that anti-government beauty queens would win the pageants as part of a plot to overthrow the government.

The charges against pageant director Karen Celebertti would not be out of place in a vintage James Bond movie with a repressive, closed off government, coup-plotting claims, foreign agents and beauty queens.

It all started Nov. 18, when Miss Nicaragua, Nicaragua’s Sheynnis Palacios . The government of President Daniel Ortega briefly thought it had scored a rare public relations victory, calling her win a moment of “legitimate joy and pride.”

But the tone quickly soured the day after the win when it emerged that Palacios had posted photos of herself on Facebook participating in one of the mass anti-government protests in 2018.

The protests were violently repressed, and human rights officials say 355 people were killed by government forces. Ortega claimed the protests were an attempted coup with foreign backing, aiming for his overthrow. His opponents said Nicaraguans were protesting his increasingly repressive rule and seemingly endless urge to hold on to power.