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The Abduction of Miss Nicaragua: Ortega's New Hostage

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo will never be able to confiscate the joy and hope of the people, or their freedom of conscience

5 de diciembre 2023

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The delirious accusations that the regime’s Police have launched against the director of the Miss Nicaragua franchise, Karen Celebertti, who was expelled from the country last week, and against her husband Martin Argüello Leiva and her son Bernardo Argüello Celebertti, who were kidnapped and are facing a forced disappearance, have provoked shock and a resounding condemnation among Nicaraguans and international public opinion.

These three citizens were part of the organization that promoted the coronation of Sheynnis Palacios, Miss Nicaragua, in the Miss Universe pageant, and who are therefore co-participants in that great national triumph. Without any evidence, they are charged with the crimes of “conspiracy, treason, terrorism, incitement to hatred, organized crime, and money laundering,” among other fabrications invented in the El Carmen [presidential residence] bunker in Managua.


In reality, the only thing they are guilty of is having worked with impartiality and professionalism to organize the Miss Nicaragua contest, and then supporting Sheynnis Palacios with her preparation for the Miss Universe event two weeks ago in San Salvador, where her excess of beauty, talent and charisma led to her victory.

A beauty queen who is also threatened by this long list of insane accusations. Her only crime has been to restore some joy and hope to Nicaraguans, and to have been crowned Miss Universe by her own efforts, and not “thanks to Commander Daniel and Comrade Rosario”, as the official propaganda demands.

The police statement written in Murillo’s own handwriting is an act that dishonors the National Police itself, and that, without being a criminal accusation, already issues a guilty sentence and describes the accused as “stateless”. However, deep down, it reveals the paranoia, fear, and desperation of a family dictatorship that seeks to control everything but cannot silence the explosion of joy that Miss Universe has caused, in the streets and on the social networks. Just like it has been unable to crush the freedom of conscience of Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, the bishop of Matagalpa, who for 10 months has been locked up in a maximum-security cell in the Modelo prison.

Integrity and decency, added to solidarity and the capacity for indignation, were values practiced and preached by that great jurist and human being, Dr. Roberto Argüello Hurtado (1930-2016). The former president of the Supreme Court, father, grandfather, and father-in-law of the three victims, today joins them spiritually as their only defense against infamous accusations in a country without laws.

We Nicaraguans have never lost our capacity to condemn the dictatorship’s crimes against humanity, even though they are increasingly irrational. First, they massacred hundreds in 2018. They imprisoned thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands of families into exile. They stripped us of the right to elect and be elected in 2021. Then they eliminated all civic spaces and civil society organizations. They confiscated universities and independent media. They unleashed fierce persecution against the Catholic Church and religious freedom. And now, they are trying to politicize a beauty pageant to criminalize it, presenting it as an alleged coup d’état.

The crazy assault against Miss Nicaragua and Miss Universe is already part of the past because it is part of the legacy of chaos and disaster that Daniel Ortega intends to inherit to Nicaraguan society: a family dynasty with a more totalitarian dictatorship, without legitimacy or popular support. All of his accomplices know this perfectly well: the generals of the Army and the Police, the new economic ministers, the political operators of the regime, and its figureheads and paramilitaries. They know that the dynasty is destined to fail, because they will also never be able to confiscate the joy and hope of the people, and the freedom of conscience.

Despite having lived for five years under a de facto police state that has violated all freedoms, Nicaraguans continue denouncing the injustice in silence. The civic resistance, in jail and in exile, is more powerful than the guns and slander of the dictatorship in its current state of total moral degradation.

It is possible that in the mafia mentality of the dictators, Martín and Bernardo Arguello are seen as mere bargaining chips, as hostages to try to silence Miss Universe, Sheynnis Palacios. However, it is a wasted effort. Sheynnis is not and does not pretend to be a political actor. Meanwhile, the joy that her victory is unleashing is already part of a new wave of change that, sooner or later, will end up burying a decrepit dictatorship.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.

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Carlos F. Chamorro

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Fundador y director de Confidencial y Esta Semana. Miembro del Consejo Rector de la Fundación Gabo. Ha sido Knight Fellow en la Universidad de Stanford (1997-1998) y profesor visitante en la Maestría de Periodismo de la Universidad de Berkeley, California (1998-1999). En mayo 2009, obtuvo el Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en Iberoamérica, de Casa América Cataluña (España). En octubre de 2010 recibió el Premio Maria Moors Cabot de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. En 2021 obtuvo el Premio Ortega y Gasset por su trayectoria periodística.

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